What could go wrong when Ronald Reagan, sitting
President of the United States, honoured James Bond
in a 1983 documentary?
When Ronald Reagan Endorsed 007
29th December 2010
Back in 1983, London Weekend Television (LWT)
commissioned a special 60 minute programme to coincide with the
of "Octopussy" and
to celebrate James Bond's 21st birthday on the silver screen.
The list of world famous figures LWT corralled
in to commenting about 007's character and legacy was stunning:
Muhammad Ali, Bjorn Borg, Bobby Charlton, Joan Collins, Henry
Ford II, James Garner, Bob Hope, Burt Lancaster, Paul McCartney,
Stirling Moss, Arnold Palmer, Al Pacino, Gregory Peck, Christopher
Reeve, Telly Savalas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Sinatra and
James Stewart were amongst the dozens of contributors.
But no-one could top Ronald Reagan, then
President of the United States, performing the introduction
to the special and praising 007 as a modern hero. It was
broadcast on ITV on 27th May 1983 in the UK to large viewing
All was well until the special, dubbed "James
Bond: The First 21 Years", was sold in America. The
White House was unhappy when stations who secured the broadcast
rights used the President's words in TV spots promoting
the show. Press around the world covered the controversy
in early July, 1983.
White House spokesman Mark Weinberg said
Reagan never expected any portion of his appearance to
be used in television
promos. Washington DC station WTTG, a stone's throw from
the Oval Office, began their cheeky trailers with an announcer
saying "and now a special announcement from the President
of the United States" over a static shot of the Presidential
His agreement to take part in the "one-time
understood to be a celebration of the 21st anniversary of Bond
films, not an inadvertent promotion of the latest release "Octopussy",
spokesmen told the media. MGM and United Artists were said to
be "making the most of the showbiz spectacular". "He
never intended this appearance to become part of the orchestrated
hype for Octopussy, or the documentary itself", a defensive
White House spokesman said.
The Democrats were naturally enjoying he whole affair. "We
always wondered what would happen when we got an actor in the
White House," said Speaker of the House, Mr 'Tip' O'Neill. "This
is the kind of thing we all thought Reagan would be doing if
her lost the '80 election."
Mr Reagan, however, gets the last word. "James Bond is
a symbol of real value to the free world. Of course some critics
might say that Bond is nothing more than an actor in the movies.
But then we've all got to start somewhere."
Reagan was the second sitting President
to publicly endorse James Bond, after John F. Kennedy named "From Russia With
Love" as one of his favourite books in an edition of Time
Magazine. The inclusion saw sales of Ian Fleming's novels soar
in the USA, and caused producers Saltzman and Broccoli to select
is as the follow up film to "Dr. No".