Long before he met Nancy, long before he became President, Ronald Reagan was a movie star and in a shaky marriage to Jane Wyman. Was he ever suicidal?
According to British sex symbol Patricia Roc (pictured above), who died in 2003, he was.
Roc’s life is chronicled in a biography, Patricia Roc: The Goddess of the Odeons, by Michael Hodgson.
When his marriage to Wyman fell apart in 1948, Reagan (37 at the time) was dismayed and bewildered, and he turned to the warm, earthy and sexually inviting Roc.
Roc, though, was seriously alarmed by Reagan’s mental state.
He was just wretched and miserable, she said. He adored his wife and family (the marriage to Wyman produced two children, the late Maureen Reagan and author-broadcaster Michael Reagan), and just couldn’t understand why or how she had completely lost interest in him. Had I been older, I suppose I would have realized that he was suffering a sort of breakdown, as he was quite often in tears and dangerously depressed.
He several times told me: ‘Life just isn’t worth living any more. I just don’t see the point of going on.’
According to Roc: If I went to dinner with another man, he would tip the waiters to get a table next to mine, where he would sit alone and stare at me.
She claims, We became lovers because, quite frankly, I was scared and lonely on my arrival in Hollywood, and sex seemed the only thing to alleviate his utter misery. I was seriously concerned that he might do something to himself if I didn’t make him feel that somebody wanted him, because his wife sure as hell didn’t.
In her autobiography Roc also states: Of course, we had to be extremely careful how and where we met, especially as he was still locked into one of the highest-profile marriages in Hollywood. We could both have lost our contracts had we been caught out.
Patricia Roc only made one film in Hollywood — Jaques Tourneur’s off beat western, 1946’s Canyon Passage costarring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy and Susan Hayward — then returned to London. Wyman and Reagan divorced, and then Reagan went to England to so-star in 1949’s The Hasty Heart with Patricia Neal and Richard Todd.
By this time Roc was one of Britain’s top ten box-office stars. At the Royal Command Film Performance at the Odeon, Leicester Square, in November 1948, Roc and Reagan both appeared on stage. Supposedly their affair was reignited.
Ronnie seemed heartbroken and bitterly hurt, said Roc. His wife had told him: ‘You’re a bore! Get out! I want a divorce.’ He was so damaged that often he was drinking and not able to perform sexually. He spent a lot of time at my London flat in Hallam Street, and repeatedly asked me to marry him.
But Roc ended the affair, and Reagan returned to Hollywood. A few years later he met a 28-year-old aspiring actress, Nancy Davis, and wed her in March of 1952.
The rest, as they say, is history.