HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of The Day Reagan Was Shot; The Reagans;  Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered


Title: The Day Reagan Was Shot

Release Date:  2001

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  R

Distributor and Production Company: Paramount/Showtime

Director; Writer:

Producer: Oliver Stone

Cast:  Richard Crenna, Richard Dreyfuss, Christian Lloyd, Holland Taylor

Technical: TV cable

Relevance to HPPUB site: history, national security crisis

Review: Here is another welcome history film, brief crisis at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s term that we sometimes overlook today. On Monday, March 30, 1981, John Warnock Hinckley, Jr. tried to assassinate President Reagan at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue. About Dupont Circle in Washington.


Others were wounded, notably James Brady whose head wound would severly affect his speech and demeanor permanently, and lead to the (gun control) Brady bill. Hinckley had already been arrested for carrying weapons at an airport where Reagan was landing. The press actually misreported Brady’s condition as a death at one point.


The clinical details of the weaponry and of the president’s wounds were interesting, but other details were inaccurate.  (Sorry, there should have been no chest hair … but those scrub down scenes in the OR were brutal).  Washington would not normally be covered with mounds of snow that late in the season.


There was a lot of drama surrounding the difficulty Reagan’s staff had in getting organized, and in the national security crisis that apparently has not been widely reported. We were closer to MADD than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  There was also a lot of misinformation regarding the ability of the president to continue his duties.  The screenplay refers to the relatively little discussed (today) 25th Amendment (1965-1967) concerning assumption of presidential duties. Some of the partisan talk about “Republicans” was a bit silly.


As for Hinckley’s sociopathy, and his stalking of Taxi Driver star Jodie Foster, and permanent incarceration in St. Elizabeth’s – there would soon be a national debate on the insanity defense (“insanity” is a legal term – Hinckley was both guilty and crazy). . But I can remember a comment that evening by Bill Nelson of the Dallas Gay Alliance, to the effect that he was relieved that Hinckley was not gay.


In 2003, CBS created controversy with its 3 hour film The Reagans, with James Brolin as Ronald Reagan and Judy Davis as Nancy Reagan. Both conservatives and liberals were offended by the portrayal of President Reagan as buffoonish and certain passages, such as when the president supposedly castigated gay male AIDS victims. In fact, it seems as if the president never did this, and was very slow to mention AIDS in public. Showtime bought the film and presented an abridged version (mine ran 1 hr 27 min when I taped it, although there may have been technical problems) with offending passages deleted. Some scenes are a bit effective, as the “Just Say No” green balloons (No to drugs). But the president still came across almost as limpwristed himself, and the film seemed to me to be a bit of a caricature of both Ronald and Nancy. The assassination attempt scene at the Washington Hilton was hasty. As early as 1985, however, Reagan, given Nancy’s concerns to his doctors, was already showing memory problems that would lead to Alzheimer’s disease.


Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered (2002, History Channel, 95 min) is available on a DVD along with a 45 minute Biography segment. There are many black-and-white stills of earlier days and clips of earlier speeches.  A lot of attention is given to the assassination attempt and the onset of Alzheimers, which seems to have started late in office. There is some attention to the defense buildup, but not as much as there might have been to his contribution to ending the Cold War.

Related reviews: The Men Who Killed Kennedy; 13 Days


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Email me at Jboushka@aol.com