Modern Screen, July 1948
After a week's reconciliation, the Reagans decided on divorce. Jane (star of Johnny Belinda) charged "extreme cruelty". First separation lasted five months, during which Jane "cleared her mind."
Only a few months to go: The Reagan quartet was Hollywood's model for happiness when this photo was taken. Little did they suspect that seven years of marriage would very soon be threatened.
I'm not the most convivial guy in the world. I can take movie stars or leave them alone, and movie stars have always reciprocated in kind. But the Reagans -- they were different; they were my friends. We used to swap pictures of our kids, we used to stay at each other's houses -- to me, the Reagans symbolized all that was pleasant and honest in Hollywood. Now that they've split up, I feel I've lost something which was important. We've all lost something. Because the Reagans were pets of Modern Screen readers. You loved them; you adopted them; you're going to miss them, I know.
Jane and Ronnie were already separated when I made my last trip to Hollywood, and maybe that had something to do with the fact that I wasn't in any rush to get there. Anyhow, I stopped off for a few days at the Flamingo Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada, on my way out. The Flamingo's one of those fabulous playgrounds -- it cost six million dollars, and after you've lain in the sun for a while, you're almost convinced it's worth it.
I said as much to the press agent for the place. He laughed. "Did you know Jane Wyman checked in here this morning?" he said casually. "Rumor says she's establishing residence for a divorce." I stopped listening then, and I went back in my mind to the beginning. I reviewed all I'd ever known about the Reagans. Little things, big things, the beginning, the end. . . .
Jane was born Sarah Jane Fulks in St. Joseph, Missouri. She was
a pretty kid, high-strung, with a certain quality I call perkiness. Twice, Hollywood
had turned its back on her; the third time it did a double-take.
Ronnie and Jane were both under contract to Warners when they met. They worked together in Brother Rat; they fell in love; they were two of the happiest of kids in the world as bride and groom.
You remember when Maureen Elizabeth was born in January, 1941, and later, when Michael was adopted. For six years, Modern Screen pointed to the Reagans proudly. "See?" we'd say. "Who claims a Hollywood marriage can't be successful?" We ran story after story on the Reagans, and the more we featured them, the more you asked for. You remember Ronnie going off to war, saying good-bye to Button-Nose (that was Jane) and little Button-Nose (that was Maureen) . . . You remember Jane's adjustments -- learning to run a house by herself, to bring up the baby, to get so she'd stop looking for Ronnie to pop out of the corners of the house. . . . You remember the bond-selling job she did; you remember how she taught 16-month-old Maureen to say "Da-da" so Lieutenant Reagan would get a proper welcome when he came home on leave. . . .
There was the time Maureen was twenty-one months old and broke her leg; you sweated that one out right along with Jane. There was the way Jane refused to be seen in public even with old friends, while Ronnie was away because "You know this town, and Ronnie's got enough to face without worrying over gossip!"
Bijou Menu ~ 40s Post-War Features