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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Sports > Biopic > Ronald Reagan - The Signature Collection (Knute Rockne - All American/Kings Row/The Hasty Heart/Storm Warning/The Winning Team//Warner Bros.)

Ronald Reagan – The Signature Collection (Warner Bros.)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: C     Films: B-



Ronald Reagan’s status as an actor is always in question and being debated, but he was given some of the best treatment possible at Warner Bros., where he lasted for years before he was eclipsed by Humphrey Bogart and moved on to other studios.  Five of his films there, including three lesser known or discussed have been included in the new Ronald Reagan – The Signature Collection.  There are classics King’s Row and Knute Rockne – All American, but you also get Hasty Heart, Storm Warning and The Winning Team.


King’s Row (1942) is an early melodrama with Ann Sheridan, Claude Rains and Robert Cummings that is one of the better “woman’s films/soap operas” done in such a way with such flow that it was a then-new model for how to make such a fluff piece work.  People in a small middle-American town stabbing each other in the back was much newer then, and became a hit.


Knute Rockne – All American (1940) is the now infamous biopic about the title football player, which is pretty heavy handed, but best known for the catchphrase about “winning” one for “the Gipper” that became one of Reagan’s political touchstone phrases.  Otherwise, it is a pretty formulaic, silly biopic and sports film that never ages well.


Hasty Heart (1949) is a war drama with Reagan as a Scottish soldier fighting with the Allies in 1945 at Burma.  Richard Todd got good marks for his performance and the early Patricia Neil performance is a plus, but even the efficient directing of Vincent Sherman cannot stop this from being muddy and dragging on.


Storm Warning (1950) is the surprise hoot in this set, with the soon-to-be gutsy director Richard Brooks co-writing this wild drama about the evils of the Klu Klux Klan.  In a role the Left still climbs the walls over, Reagan is the D.A. who intends to nail the Klan over murder.  This begins with a brutal murder witness by a woman (no less than Ginger Rogers) that could put a real dent in the organization if she could successfully testify.  Doris Day is her sister and Ned Glass also stars in this one-of-a-kind film that never ceases to shock with its ideas of reality and the amusing ways in which the film tries to approach them.  You have to see it to believe it!


The Winning Team (1952) is another biopic with Reagan and Day competing with his baseball team for the title of the film as he plays Hall Of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.  It is cornball al the way with the ending visible many miles away, but it is also Warner’s attempt to expand Reagan’s appeal, again with mixed results.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on all five films are not bad, though King’s Row is a bit softer than expected.  The Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono on the films either has more background hiss than expected or is more harsh and shrill than it should be at this point in the digital remastering game.  Extras include trailers on all five films, but Knute adds the Lux Radio Theater version with the same cast, the Technicolor short Teddy, The Rough Rider and Porky Pig in the monochrome Porky’s Baseball Broadcast animated short.  Row has a U.S Marines Marching Band live-action short and animated short Fox Pop.  Heart has the most extras with Hasty Hare Bugs Bunny cartoon, Joe McDoakes short So You Want To Be In Pictures and audio commentary track with director Vincent Sherman and Reagan biographer John Meroney.  The result is a set that shows Reagan in some of his lesser-known work before he took a John Wayne-like route that offered mixed cinematic results.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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