- "Ronald Reagan?!? The actor?!? Then who's vice-president?!? Jerry Lewis?!?"
- —Doc's response to Marty telling him who the President is in 1985.
- "Welcome to the Cafe 80's, where it's always morning in America, even in the afternoo-noo-noon."
- —Video waiter of Ronald Reagan
His public life started in 1937 as an actor in motion pictures, and later, television. His growing involvement in politics eventually surpassed his acting career, and he was elected the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). He later became the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989), succeeding Jimmy Carter.
Reagan was a successful and well-known motion picture actor with over 50 screen credits by the 1950s. He married actress Jane Wyman on January 26, 1940, and divorced on June 28, 1948. After serving several terms as the President of the Screen Actors' Guild (1947-1952), he married actress Nancy Davis on March 4, 1952.
Reagan moved to television as the host of the Sunday evening television show, General Electric Theater from 1954-1962. The show's popularity kept it in the top ten of the Nielsen ratings, usually higher than I Love Lucy in the 9:00-9:30 p.m. time slot.
On November 5th, 1955, Hill Valley's air conditioned Essex Theater was showing his 1954 Western film Cattle Queen of Montana, in which he was a supporting co-star to Barbara Stanwyck in the title role.
When Marty McFly told Dr. Emmett Brown that the President of the United States in 1985 would be Ronald Reagan, Doc scoffed at the idea that such a famous actor would hold a government office, and sarcastically asked if the Vice-President was Jerry Lewis, continuing by suggesting that Jane Wyman was First Lady; and Jack Benny the Secretary of the Treasury. Later, however, when Marty demonstrated a camcorder, Doc mused that since there were what he termed "portable television studios" in the future, it was appropriate for the President to be an actor, since he had to look good on television.
Doc Brown was apparently not aware that by 1955, Reagan and Wyman had divorced and that Reagan was remarried to Nancy Davis Reagan. However, considering the fact he was mockingly suggesting Jerry Lewis as Vice-President and Jack Benny being the Treasury Secretary, he could have been jokingly suggesting Reagan would go back to Jane Wyman to be his First Lady as part of his mocking the idea of a Reagan Presidency.
Having been re-elected to a second four-year term as president in 1984, Reagan began serving his term on January 20, 1985.
In the alternate 1985, the newspaper dated May 23, 1983 that had the story about Doc being declared insane also had an article titled "Nixon to Seek Fifth Term; Vows End to Vietnam War by 1985". When the original 1985 was restored, Doc was featured as being commended (instead of committed) and the Nixon article was changed to "Reagan to Seek Second Term; No Republican Challengers Expected". Reagan's photo was on the front page of the newspaper on Mr. Strickland's doorstep on October 26 of 1985A, with the headline "Reagan Goes for Surgery". Marty only had time to read the date before being accused by a pump-action shotgun-wielding Strickland of being "the son of a bitch who keeps stealing my newspapers". He is reset in 1985 B after destroying the almanac in 1955.
Among the elements of 1980s nostalgia in the Cafe 80's restaurant are the Max Headroom-style video simulacrum used as waiters, which depicted Ronald Reagan with Ayatollah Khomeini. Reagan greeted customers with his "it's always morning in America" slogan, laughing at his own joke. A Ronald Reagan picture disc record, titled The President's Album, could also be seen in the display window of the antique/memorabilia store Blast from the Past.
It is unknown if it was hinted Reagan would be alive at this time, though his vice-president, George H. W. Bush, had just succeeded him as president when the movie came out. In real life, he died in 2004.
Behind the scenes
When Ronald Reagan first watched Back to the Future at the movie theater in the White House, he reportedly was so amused that Emmett Brown could not believe an actor like him could become president, he had the projectionist stop and rewind the film to replay the scene.
He later referred to the movie in his 1986 State of the Union address when he said, "Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film Back to the Future, 'Where we're going, we don't need roads.'"
Knowing that Reagan was a fan of Back to the Future, and since he was no longer president by 1989, Robert Zemeckis thought it would be a great joke to get Reagan to play the role of the 1885 mayor of Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part III. It would have been just one scene in which he greets the townspeople and starts the clock. Zemeckis called up Lew Wasserman, the chairman of Universal Studios, who had been Reagan's agent, and asked him to call Reagan to offer him the part. Reportedly, Reagan actually considered it, but eventually decided against it.
President Reagan actually waited several months after May 22, 1983, to announce that he would seek a second term. His announcement wasn't made until January 29, 1984. There were no Republican challengers, and Reagan was re-elected on November 6, 1984. President Reagan gave the commencement address at Seton Hall University on May 21, 1983, and used the opportunity to comment that "We just haven't been getting our money's worth" from tax dollars spent on education, a minor event reported the following day. As for Richard Nixon, he had been in the news earlier in the week for making a surprise visit to a banquet for journalism students at North Miami High School.
- Back to the Future (First mentioned)
- Back to the Future novelization (Mentioned only)
- Back to the Future Part II (Mentioned only)
- Back to the Future Part II novelization (Mentioned only)
- Back to the Future (IDW Publishing)
- Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines 4
- Emmett Brown Visits the Future (Reagan/Bush '84 poster and T-shirt)
- Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines 4
Notes and references
- Ronald Reagan on Wikipedia
- General Electric Theater on Wikipedia
- Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), Back to the Future, Trivia.
- Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union (February 4, 1986).
- Back to the Future Part III, audio commentary by Bob Gale and Neil Canton
- "'I'll finish work,' Reagan says", The Daily Herald, (Chicago) January 30, 1984, p1
- "Reagan: Schools not making grade," Syracuse Herald-American, May 22, 1983, pA-1
- "Nixon spontaneously charming at press gig," The Daily Herald, (Chicago) May 21, 1983, p4