Nancy Reagan Reflects on Her Life in New Documentary

Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime airs on the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth

Sunday, February 6, 2011 on PBS — 10 pm EST (check local listings)

Friends, family, historians, members of Ronald Reagan’s inner circle, and Nancy Reagan herself, reflect on the life of one of the nation’s most iconic first ladies, in Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, a one-hour biography timed to coincide with the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth. It airs Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 10 pm (EST) on PBS.

Produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the documentary explores the life of a first lady whose power and influence were often underestimated. Criticized for taking a seemingly traditional role as first lady during an era focused on women’s rights, those within Ronald Reagan’s inner circle recognized Mrs. Reagan’s role as much more than the stylish spouse who redecorated the White House.

The documentary features interviews with historians and biographers who, after extensive research into Ronald Reagan’s political career, have now concluded that Nancy Reagan was one of the most influential first ladies in modern times, with far-reaching impact on personnel and policy issues. Nancy Reagan is credited with moving President Reagan to more moderate positions, in particular his stance toward the Soviet Union, and with getting her husband to publicly admit his involvement in Iran-Contra, a move that likely saved his presidency. To this day, she continues to use her statue and influence as she guards her husband’s legacy and champions stem cell research.

In a rare, extended interview with Judy Woodruff, Nancy Reagan reflects on her childhood, her life as an actress, her marriage to Ronald Reagan, their lifelong romance, and her role as his most trusted adviser in a political career that would take them from the back lots of Hollywood to the California governor’s mansion and then to the White House.

Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime features never-before-seen photos made available by the Reagan Foundation, rare film footage, plus interviews with members of Ronald Reagan’s political inner circle, including Jim Baker and Ken Duberstein, who both served as Reagan’s White House chief of staff; and Stuart Spencer, Reagan’s long time political strategist. Other features include interviews with Nancy’s son Ronald Reagan, family friends, and historians, including Lou Cannon, one of the most prolific authors on the Reagans, who has followed their lives since his days as a political reporter for the Sacramento Bee in the early days of Reagan’s political career.

A companion web site, pbs.org/newshour/nancy-reagan features photo galleries of the Reagan’s early years in Hollywood to their life in the White House including State dinners and foreign travels, plus much more.

To request a DVD screener of the full program, contact Anne Bell at ABell@NewsHour.org or at 703.998.2175.

Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in association with KLRU. Funding for Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime is provided by: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The Annenberg Foundation; The Lux Foundation; John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn; The Albert & Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation; George P. Shultz; and Alan Greenspan & Andrea Mitchell.

Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime is the most recent profile in the Modern First Ladies series being produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions produces the PBS NEWSHOUR, which airs weeknights on more than 300 local PBS stations, as well as other programs for public, commercial and cable television. MLP also produced complete broadcast coverage of the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions for PBS. Other recent television programs produced by MLP include: Debating our Destiny, a critically acclaimed two-part series during which Jim Lehrer interviews former presidential and vice-presidential candidates about their debate triumphs and failures; Generation Next, Judy Woodruff’s travels across the country to explore the unique perspectives of Americans ages 16 – 25; the award-winning Do You Speak American?, Robert MacNeil’s cross-country trek to discover why Americans speak the way we do; The First Lady: Public Expectations, Private Lives, a look at the expectations of the role of the modern first lady; Betty Ford: The Real Deal; and LadyBird, a profile of former First Lady, LadyBird Johnson. MLP is also the leading force behind the By the People: America in the World civic engagement project.