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Nancy Davis Reagan (born Anne Frances Robbins; July 6, 1921 – March 6, 2016) was an American film actress and the wife of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. She served as the First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Davis' film career began with small supporting roles in two films that were released in 1949, The Doctor and the Girl with Glenn Ford and East Side, West Side starring Barbara Stanwyck. She played a child psychiatrist in the film noir Shadow on the Wall (1950) with Ann Sothern and Zachary Scott; her performance was called "beautiful and convincing" by New York Times critic A. H. Weiler. She co-starred in 1950's The Next Voice You Hear..., playing a pregnant housewife who hears the voice of God from her radio. Influential reviewer Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that "Nancy Davis [is] delightful as [a] gentle, plain, and understanding wife." In 1951, Davis appeared in Night into Morning, her favorite screen role, a study of bereavement starring Ray Milland. Crowther said that Davis "does nicely as the fiancée who is widowed herself and knows the loneliness of grief," while another noted critic, The Washington Post's Richard L. Coe, said Davis "is splendid as the understanding widow." MGM released Davis from her contract in 1952; she sought a broader range of parts, but also married Reagan, keeping her professional name as Davis, and had her first child that year. She soon starred in the science fiction film Donovan's Brain (1953); Crowther said that Davis, playing the role of a possessed scientist's "sadly baffled wife," "walked through it all in stark confusion" in an "utterly silly" film. In her next-to-last movie, Hellcats of the Navy (1957), she played nurse Lieutenant Helen Blair, and appeared in a film for the only time with her husband, playing what one critic called "a housewife who came along for the ride." Another reviewer, however, stated that Davis plays her part satisfactorily, and "does well with what she has to work with."
Author Garry Wills has said that Davis was generally underrated as an actress because her constrained part in Hellcats was her most widely seen performance. In addition, Davis downplayed her Hollywood goals: promotional material from MGM in 1949 said that her "greatest ambition" was to have a "successful happy marriage"; decades later, in 1975, she would say, "I was never really a career woman but [became one] only because I hadn't found the man I wanted to marry. I couldn't sit around and do nothing, so I became an actress." Ronald Reagan biographer Lou Cannon nevertheless characterized her as a "reliable" and "solid" performer who held her own in performances with better-known actors. After her final film, Crash Landing (1958), Davis appeared for a brief time as a guest star in television dramas, such as the Zane Grey Theatre episode "The Long Shadow" (1961), where she played opposite Ronald Reagan, as well as Wagon Train and The Tall Man, until she retired as an actress in 1962.