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Lot 157: Reagan, Ronald. Remarkable archive. Over 350 candid photographs (majority unpublished),128 letters.
April 18, 2016
Calabasas, CA, USALive Auction
157. Reagan, Ronald. Remarkable archive of over 350 candid photographs (majority unpublished) and 128 letters – 93 autograph letters signed and 35 typed letters signed – (“Ronald Reagan,” “Ron” and “Dutch”), approx. 170 pages total, of various sizes ranging from 3.5 x 2 in. to 8.5 x 11 in. (89 x 51 mm. to 216 x 279 mm.), from various places including Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington, DC, 1940s-1990s, to Zelda Multz, president of the Ronald Reagan International Fan Club. Some of the earlier letters are secretarial (written by Ronald’s mom, Nelle Reagan), and some of the typed letters are secretarial or autopen. Perhaps most extraordinary are the over 350 vintage candid snapshots of Reagan and family, many unpublished. These include family pictures from his residence on Phyllis Dr. in Hollywood, CA, and a number of informal snapshots taken by Multz during Reagan’s sensational return to Dixon, Illinois in 1952.
Also included are over 300 vintage publicity stills of Ronald Reagan (mostly 8 x 10 in.); over 35 signed photographs of Reagan (some secretarial), 7 signed Ronald Reagan Fan Club cards (six featuring lenghthy notes on verso by Reagan), Christmas Cards from Reagan and family, some signed and inscribed. Present also are 10 letters from Nancy Reagan, 3 letters from Nelle Reagan (Reagan’s mother), and 5 letters from Jane Wyman. Collection also includes 40 years of ephemera (clippings, magazines, promotional and political flyers, etc.) following Reagan’s career from actor to SAG president to California Governor to President. Condition on correspondence is good throughout; photos with some oxidation; ephemera exhibits some chipping and wear. Interested bidders are strongly encouraged to view this fascinating archive in person.
Zelda Multz joined the Ronald Reagan fan club in 1944, and began a correspondence with the actor that would last for nearly 50 years. Always a great communicator, Reagan writes candidly about his life, discussing his marriage, the adoption of his son Michael (which he wishes the press would not publicize), his divorce, and his work (including a particularly humiliating conversation with Jack Warner, who told him he wasn’t a “draw”). By the 1950s and 1960s, his letters deal more with his political awakening, discussing Communism in Hollywood, his gradual conversion to the Republican Party, and his own political ambitions. From 5 January 1965: Last night we listened to the State of the Union address and I had a cold feeling of fear. The promises listened so good and of course they represent goals that had been in all our dreams. It comes down to the method of achieving those goals, and underneath all the rosy promise was the sound of more and more government and less and less freedom. It reminded me of the old Willy Howard Vaudeville joke. Willy would appear on stage making a revolutionary speech, and at each promise his partner would cheer. Finally he promises strawberries and cake for everyone and gets no cheer, and when he asks why not his partner says he doesn’t like strawberries and cake, to which Willy replies, “Come the revolution, damn it, you’ve got to like strawberries and cake”. He keeps Multz abreast of his plans to run for Governor, and once elected, answers her questions about the major crises of his administration, including the campus riots at Berkeley. Once Reagan begins his campaign for the Presidency and is elected, the correspondence is less frequent, but picks up with warmth and frequency in his early retirement years.
One of the highlights is a touching letter in which Reagan discusses the traumatic breakup of his marriage to Jane Wyman: Just keep your fingers crossed & pray that Jane will realize she loves me, and don’t believe the wild tales in the Press or heard by radio.
Another is a heartfelt letter describing the friendship he shared with a crippled young girl in Iowa, whom he called his “little Sis”, and her sudden death in 1948: Dear Friends, A long time ago I received a letter from a girl in a small town in Iowa. Her letter was to tell me she had been a listener to my baseball broadcasts and would miss them now that I was out of Radio & in Pictures. It was a pleasant letter and very kind in its reference to my efforts, but beyond that it asked nothing, not even a reply. For some time the letter didn’t receive a reply but it didn’t go into the waste basket either. Then one day for some reason I couldn’t explain I sat down and wrote the girl in Iowa thanking her for the kindness which had prompted her letter. A short time later she answered my letter with another cheerful, kindly and very interesting letter. This time my response was a little more prompt & with it I enclosed a picture telling her she could use it to scare mice away. Several letters had been exchanged when one day a letter arrived from the same Iowa town; it was from a neighbor who wrote ‘I might be interested to know more about the young lady who, she said, enjoyed corresponding with me. A snapshot was enclosed, showing all too plainly the great physical handicap of my Iowa friend. The letter was a story of this girl’s courage and heart – but it really wasn’t necessary. The pictures and the bright cheerful letters I had enjoyed reading were proof enough that here was a spirit greater than any physical distress. I don’t have to tell you friends any more, because now most of you have felt the great kindness and beauty of the soul of our Lulamae Imhoff. I met her later in Des Moines when back on a tour and it was then I asked if I might call her my ‘little sis’. I just thought you might like to know how she came into all of our lives and by so doing made all of us a little richer. This edition, a labor of love in her memory expresses our loss but I am sure our grief will be less if we realize that now, our Lulamae is living where dreams come true. She must be having a wonderful time walking through fields, dancing and running, free at last to keep up with her bright spirit. It was nice that she stopped with us for a while. Our Lulamae lives on forever. Let us remember her loved ones there in Knierim Iowa, who so unselfishly shared with us their sweet daughter’s love. Their loss, our loss is Heaven’s gain. Ronnie
In another letter, Reagan describes his elation after MGM restructured his contract in 1949, which allowed him greater flexibility in hand-picking his acting roles: Warner’s gave me a script to read over. Well I sent it back for it was another slap happy one on the order of ‘John Loves Mary’ and I’m sick of doing the likes. My agent and I decided it was time to do something about it, so we faced the boss, Jack Warner himself, he said he was afraid to risk me in a big picture as I wasn’t a big drawing card, my pictures didn’t raw the crowds for weeks at the theatres, the agent told him that it wasn’t Reagan’s fault but because the pictures weren’t any good – well the whole thing wound up with a new contract – at Warner’s doing only one picture a year for them, at $75,000, and I am free to ‘free lance’, so the clipping is one of the outside jobs I have, and more request are coming in from M.G.M. and other studios so I haven’t a thing to worry about, and think it’s one of the best things that ever happened to yours truly, don’t you? Anyway I’m up in the clouds, but the same old Dutch whose made up his mind he’s going to prove he can do big stuff in movies so his Club won’t lose faith in the one they are promoting, Stick with me and I’ll make you all proud yet.
There are a number of letters that display his political awakening in the 1950s and 60s: I was disappointed in the outcome of the Election, but am not disheartened. I think a great many more people are now alerted and better informed than they were. We’ll start from there. Probably the hardest thing to bear was the dishonest campaign leveled against Barry. He is a close friend and contrary to the pictures painted by Humphrey particularly whose shrill voice of hatred I found almost unrecognizable, Barry is a truly humble and kindly man of deep religious convictions. No one enjoys seeing a friend pilloried the way he was but we’ll carry on.
Far too much to list in detail, one must review the contents of this important archive in person to gather the broad scope of visual images and content. $100,000 - $150,000