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Ronald Reagan’s first wife Jane Wyman attempted suicide in desperate bid to secure a proposal

EXCLUSIVE: Jane Wyman set her sights on Ronald Reagan's because he was 'perfect manhood personified' and when the actor hesitated about marriage she attempted suicide, new book reveals

  • Jane Wyman attempted suicide in a desperate bid to get the reluctant Ronald Reagan to propose to her, according to new book Reagan: An American Journey
  • The future president met Wyman in 1938 as a 27-year-old working on B-movies for Warner and she was a 21-year-old aspiring star already on her second divorce
  • They were cast together in the film Brother Rat and a Baby, and Wyman became the 'aggressor' in their relationship but Reagan felt they were moving too fast
  • In a desperate attempt to get Reagan to propose, Wyman took a stash of pills and left a suicide note to explain', which had the desired effect and Reagan proposed
  • The couple were married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan
  • Adding to the tension was that Reagan became jealous of his wife when she won an Oscar nomination for 'The Yearling' in 1946
  • Wyman, who was married five times, was 'infuriated by Reagan's chatter, calling him 'diarrhea of the mouth' and telling him to shut up
  • Author Bob Spitz also claims Reagan may have had a secret child whose adoption was covered up by the religious college he and his girlfriend attended

By Daniel Bates For Dailymail.com

Published: 10:16 EDT, 5 October 2018 | Updated: 11:17 EDT, 5 October 2018

Ronald Reagan's first wife Jane Wyman attempted suicide in a desperate bid to get the reluctant movie star to propose. a new book claims.

The future president met the aspiring star in 1938 as a 27-year-old working on B-movies for Warner and she was six years younger, heading for her second divorce.

They were cast together in the film Brother Rat and a Baby and Wyman became the 'aggressor' in their relationship, viewing Reagan as 'true, perfect manhood personified', according to a new biography of Reagan.

However Reagan delayed getting married because it was all happening too fast for him, so in desperation Wyman threatened to kill herself if Reagan did not marry her.

The young actress 'followed through by taking a stash of pills and leaving a suicide note to explain', the book says.

At the hospital Wyman refused to see Reagan. This tactic 'had the desired effect and the next day he returned and demanded entry to her room. By the time he left, they were officially engaged.'

Ronald Reagan's first wife Jane Wyman attempted suicide in a desperate bid to get the reluctant movie star to propose to her, a new book claims

The couple were married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan, in part because he was heavily involved in the Screen Actors Guild as its President

The couple were married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan, in part because he was heavily involved in the Screen Actors Guild as its President

At the time when the future president met the actress in 1938, he was a 27-year-old working on B-movies for Warner and she was six years younger, an aspiring star and heading for her second divorce

At the time when the future president met the actress in 1938, he was a 27-year-old working on B-movies for Warner and she was six years younger, an aspiring star and heading for her second divorce

The extraordinary claim appears in Reagan: An American Journey by Bob Spitz, an authoritative biography which traces Reagan's life from small town Illinois to the White House.

The couple were married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan, in part because he was heavily involved in the Screen Actors Guild as its President.

Reagan 'neglected' Wyman and their relationship suffered further with the death of their prematurely born daughter, Christine, in 1947.

The bombshell was revealed according to new biography of Reagan, An American Journey by Bob Spitz

The bombshell was revealed according to new biography of Reagan, An American Journey by Bob Spitz

Adding to the tension was that Reagan became jealous of his wife when she won an Oscar nomination for 'The Yearling' in 1946 before taking home the Best Actress gong in 1948 for 'Johnny Belinda'.

In frustration Wyman 'ambushed' Reagan and demanded a divorce but the truth was he had been 'too damned distracted' to give their relationship the time it needed.

Spitz writes: 'His incessant chatter infuriated her. Day and night it never stopped'. She called him 'diarrhea of the mouth' and told him to shut up.

A friend said: 'Ronnie talked all the time. He was the authority on everything under the sun – you name it'.

After nine years and two more children, Maureen and an adopted son, Michael, they divorced.

Reagan's second marriage to Nancy Davis lasted until his death in 2004, but their remoteness damaged his relationship with their children and Michael and Maureen.

When Patti was born in 1952, Michael and Maureen felt 'rejected' and 'shunted aside' by his father. Spitz writes that Michael felt like 'interlopers in the Reagan family picture.

Patti was born eight weeks premature and was 'difficult right out the gate, a mode that would stalk them through her adolescence and beyond'.

Spitz says Patti was 'headstrong' and a demanding baby who 'cut into the couple's close knit relationship and sowed resentment'.

Michael described how his father and Nancy became a 'family unto themselves after Patti was born', pushing him further out.

They married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan, in part because he was heavily involved in the Screen Actors Guild as its President.

They married in 1940 but Wyman soon became 'bored' with Reagan, in part because he was heavily involved in the Screen Actors Guild as its President.

After nine years and two more children, Maureen and an adopted son, Michael, they divorced. Pictured: A young Reagan with his daughter Maureen Elizabeth Reagan in the 1940s 

After nine years and two more children, Maureen and an adopted son, Michael, they divorced. Pictured: A young Reagan with his daughter Maureen Elizabeth Reagan in the 1940s

As far as Reagan's children saw it, while he and Nancy had been busy socializing and advancing his career he had 'rarely been there for the kids when they needed him'

As far as Reagan's children saw it, while he and Nancy had been busy socializing and advancing his career he had 'rarely been there for the kids when they needed him'

Reagan preferred to spend time riding at his Malibu ranch than with his family where he felt the 'kinship between man and animal you find on the back of a horse' was a substitute for being with his children.

All of this led to uncomfortable scenes when Reagan was inaugurated as President in 1981 and Patti was not even sure if she would attend.

She told Spitz: 'I disagreed with my father's politics across the board. I did not want him to be president, for every reason imaginable'.

Arriving in New York ahead of the ceremony, she told her friend, the singer Paul Simon: 'It's like every political disagreement I have ever had with my parents is now going to be played out in front of the whole country'.

Ultimately she showed up, as did her brother Ron, who was 'estranged a bit' from his father and was 'starved for attention from his parents'.

Spitz writes: 'Every parent was expected to parade his children before the public to demonstrate that he was a family man, but for Ronald Reagan this took some doing.

'His family wasn't a warm and fuzzy clan. For the Reagans, public life always superseded their private life'.

As far as Reagan's children saw it, while he and Nancy had been busy socializing and advancing his career he had 'rarely been there for the kids when they needed him'.

Despite their misgivings they appeared on stage with him and allowed him his Kodak moment.

Reagan's second marriage to Nancy Davis lasted until his death in 2004, but their remoteness damaged his relationship with their children and Michael and Maureen

Reagan's second marriage to Nancy Davis lasted until his death in 2004, but their remoteness damaged his relationship with their children and Michael and Maureen

At the time, Reagan would have been 19 years old and having a child could have dramatically altered his political career before it even began

At the time, Reagan would have been 19 years old and having a child could have dramatically altered his political career before it even began

Reagan and Cleaver dated for eight years before breaking up with each other because she 'didn't want to bring up children in Hollywood', she later said. By then, Reagan had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he was becoming a sports radio host (pictured in the 1930s)

Reagan and Cleaver dated for eight years before breaking up with each other because she 'didn't want to bring up children in Hollywood', she later said. By then, Reagan had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he was becoming a sports radio host (pictured in the 1930s)

An American Journey has frank details about how Reagan was brought up so poor that his family ate 'oatmeal meat', a stodgy mixture of oatmeal and hamburger meat.

Alcoholism scarred Reagan's youth and when it came to his father Jack, 'alcohol was in his blood', Spitz writes.

Jack Reagan moved the family around the Midwest almost every year because he kept being fired, in part due to his drinking.

Reagan's brother Neil recalled that 'there were times when he didn't open the screen door, he just walked through it'.

Neil said: 'I can remember overhearing my father after one of those (binges) say to my mother: ''If you ever smell a drop on my breath, lock me in the bedroom if you have to. Don't let me get out, because there is no way I can stop''.'

Reagan himself has told the anecdote of how when he was 11 years old he found his father on the floor at home, spread out 'as if he were crucified'.

As Reagan told it, he grabbed fistfuls of his coat in his hand and hauled him to bed.

The effect was damaging on the boy and Reagan 'certainly didn't learn intimacy within his family', Spitz writes, a dynamic that would play out in his own relationships.

Another bombshell the book reveals is that Reagan may have had a secret child whose adoption was covered up by the religious college he and his girlfriend attended.

Ronald Reagan may have gotten his girlfriend Margaret Cleaver pregnant in 1930 while they both attended Eureka College in Illinois

Ronald Reagan may have gotten his girlfriend Margaret Cleaver pregnant in 1930 while they both attended Eureka College in Illinois

The child would be around 88 years old today - but may never have known who their birth father was. After the couple broke up, Cleaver went on to marry James Waddell Gordon and became Margret 'Mugs' Gordon and lived in Richmond, Virginia before dying in 2001 

The child would be around 88 years old today – but may never have known who their birth father was. After the couple broke up, Cleaver went on to marry James Waddell Gordon and became Margret 'Mugs' Gordon and lived in Richmond, Virginia before dying in 2001

The former president could have gotten his high school sweetheart Margaret Cleaver pregnant in 1930, leading to her mysterious disappearance for the fall semester at Eureka College in Illinois.

At the time, Reagan would have been 19 years old and having a child could have dramatically altered his political career before it even began.

According to the biography, Cleaver's records at the Christian institution could have been doctored to 'preserve her reputation' and conceal the truth.

The child would be around 88 years old today – but may never have known who their birth father was.

Another possibility is that Cleaver had an abortion and that Reagan was never aware she was expecting.

Spitz says Reagan was so enamored with Cleaver that he proposed to her by pinning his fraternity pin on her.

Eureka College was a very conservative school, going as far as in banning dancing, but the couple was known to take part in 'kegging' – trips to the local cemetery where they became intimate.

In 1930 Cleaver was absent from September to Spring of 1931 under mysterious circumstances, Spitz writes.

According to most accounts, Cleaver decided to take a semester or two at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But the college was 90 miles away and was not as academically rigorous as other options, which would have made sense for Cleaver, who was a straight-A student.

Pictured: Reagan, standing far right, with other members of the student senate at Eureka College in 1931

Pictured: Reagan, standing far right, with other members of the student senate at Eureka College in 1931

Spitz, who has previously written biographies of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, says Reagan (pictured in the front row fourth from right with the Eureka College football team) was so enamored with Cleaver that he proposed to her by pinning his fraternity pin on her

Spitz, who has previously written biographies of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, says Reagan (pictured in the front row fourth from right with the Eureka College football team) was so enamored with Cleaver that he proposed to her by pinning his fraternity pin on her

Spitz writes that after an exhaustive search of the archives at the University of Illinois, he found no record of her having enrolled there at all.

Spitz says that it is possible that Cleaver's parents ran out of money to pay for her tuition but during his research a college official speculated that she 'could have gone away to have a child – or an abortion'.

Nearby was a facility called the Baby Fold in Bloomington-Normal, a town halfway between Eureka and Urbana-Champaign that was noted for 'taking on and finding homes for adopted babies from sorority girls from Northwestern and some smaller Illinois schools'.

Spitz questions in his book: 'Was a dummy transcript placed in her Eureka file to preserve her reputation? It remains a possibility'.

Reagan and Cleaver dated for eight years before breaking up with each other because she 'didn't want to bring up children in Hollywood', she later said.

By then, Reagan had moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he was becoming a sports radio host and leaving his hardscrabble past behind him.

Among the women Reagan dated was Jeanne Tesdell, a student who Spitz calls 'tall and sophisticated and an accomplished equestrian'.

But she was turned off by the future president because she 'always had the feeling that I was with him but he wasn't with me', she later said.

She disliked how in the company of others Reagan shifted into 'celebrity mode' and that he was a 'people pleaser'.

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