I haven't been doing these for a while, mostly because I just haven't been watching a lot of political movies lately. Not sure why...part of it is what I've been re-watching with the kids (I suppose you could do a political analysis of Vertigo or Clueless, and I'm certain you could with Chinatown, but I didn't have much interest). I did just re-watch Branagh's As You Like It (which I absolutely love), and it sort of has politics in it, but...well, not especially, I don't think.
At any rate, I did get around to watching a couple of Reagan movies, fortunately -- the second and third of the four Brass Bancroft efforts. First, "Code of the Secret Service," and then "Smashing the Money Ring," both from 1939.
There's hardly anything to "Code" (among other things, it clocks in at just under 60 minutes), but if you want a sense of what the studios saw in Reagan, it's as good as anything. It's pretty clear what Reagan has going for him: he's extremely charming and likable. As a tough guy -- and he has several chases and fights -- he's...well, he's up to it, and throws himself into it as much as he can, but he's mostly charming and likable. "Smashing" is a bit less fun. As far as Reagan, what this one has going for it is that he goes undercover and has to pass as a hardened criminal. Fortunately for him, crooks in 1939 were easily fooled by a scowl and...well, that's about it; Reagan doesn't have much more than that as far as passing for a thug.
Really, the Brass Bancroft movie that you want to see is the final one, Murder in the Air, which was a war picture about a super-scientific death ray. Not because it's the best; I think "Code" was probably a bit better. But because, c'mon, Reagan and a super-scientific death ray. But if you want to know what Reagan the actor was all about and you're flipping past Turner and it's on, I'd say Code of the Secret Service is about as good as anything.
Oh, plus he's in Mexico for almost all of it, so you get to enjoy Hollywood's 1939 version of Mexicans.
Both of these are actually the same year as "Brother Rat," which I've talked about before, but in these Reagan's the star, and he pulls it off perfectly well. Is "Code of the Secret Service" a great movie? Not even close. But, again, if you want to get to know Reagan the youngish actor, it's not a bad choice. And it certainly is better than the one where he played Grover Cleveland Alexander.