Nancy Reagan - Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family

During her Hollywood career Davis dated many actors, including Clark Gable, Robert Stack, and Peter Lawford; she later called Gable the nicest of the stars she had met. On November 15, 1949, she met Ronald Reagan, who was then president of the Screen Actors Guild. Nancy had noticed that her name had appeared on the Hollywood blacklist and sought Reagan's help to maintain her employment as a guild actress in Hollywood, and for assistance in having her name removed from the list. Reagan informed her that she had been confused with another actress of the same name. The two began dating and their relationship was the subject of many gossip columns; one Hollywood press account described their nightclub-free times together as "the romance of a couple who have no vices". Ronald Reagan was skeptical about marriage, however, following his painful 1948 divorce from Jane Wyman, and he still saw other women. After three years of dating, he eventually proposed to Davis in the couple's favorite booth at the Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen's. They married on March 4, 1952 in a simple ceremony designed to avoid the press at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The only people in attendance were actor William Holden, the best man, and his wife, actress Brenda Marshall, the matron of honor. The couple's first child, Patricia Ann Reagan (better known by her professional name, Patti Davis), was born on October 21, 1952. Their son, Ronald Prescott Reagan, was born six years later on May 20, 1958. Nancy Reagan also became stepmother to Maureen Reagan (1941–2001) and Michael Reagan (born 1945), the children of her husband's first marriage to Jane Wyman.

Observers described Ronald and Nancy Reagan's relationship as intimate. As President and First Lady, the Reagans were reported to display their affection frequently, with one press secretary noting, "They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting." Ronald often called Nancy "Mommy"; she called him "Ronnie". While the President was recuperating in the hospital after the 1981 assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan wrote in her diary, "Nothing can happen to my Ronnie. My life would be over." In a letter to Nancy, Ronald wrote, "whatever I treasure and enjoy ... all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you." In 1998, while her husband was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, Nancy told Vanity Fair, "Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him." Nancy was known for the focused and attentive look, termed "the Gaze", that she fastened upon her husband during his speeches and appearances. President Reagan's death in June 2004 ended what Charlton Heston called "the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency."

Nancy's relationship with her children was not always as close as that with her husband. She frequently quarreled with her biological children and her stepchildren. Her relationship with Patti was the most contentious; Patti flouted American conservatism and rebelled against her parents by joining the nuclear freeze movement and authoring many anti-Reagan books. The nearly 20 years of family feuding left her very much estranged from both her mother and father. Soon after her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Patti and her mother reconciled and began to speak on a daily basis. Nancy's disagreements with Michael were also public matters; in 1984, she was quoted as saying that the two were in an "estrangement right now". Michael responded that Nancy was trying to cover up for the fact she had not met his daughter, Ashley, who had been born nearly a year earlier. They too eventually made peace. Nancy was thought to be closest to her stepdaughter Maureen during the White House years, but each of the Reagan children experienced periods of estrangement from their parents.

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