NANCY DAVIS BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Actress Nancy Davis was born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921 in New York, New York. She was the only child of car salesman Kenneth Seymour Robbins and actress Edith Luckett. Her godmother was an actress too, silent film star Alla Nazimova. Shortly after her birth, Davis’ parents separated. Her mom resumed her acting career and spent her time traveling across the country looking for work, which meant she had to leave her daughter at her sister and brother-in-law’s Bethesda, Maryland home. Over the next few years she only occasionally saw her mother, and she had no contact with her father. They finally divorced in 1928.
A year later, in 1929, her mother married a Loyal Davis, a well to do Chicago neurosurgeon. She moved with the couple to Chicago, and Loyal eventually adopted her. At the time of adoption she legally changed her name to Nancy Davis, because she had always been nicknamed Nancy. She took on the last name of Davis because she considered Loyal to be her true father. After graduating from the Chicago Latin School for Girls, she enrolled at Smith College in Massachusetts and majored in English and drama. Her mother’s theatre friends would often come over to their house, and growing up it had fueled Nancy to follow in the same footsteps as her mom. Upon graduating from Smith College in 1943, and then working for a short time at a Chicago department store, Davis decided to turn to acting.
With the help of her mother and her mother’s colleagues, she landed a job with a touring company and then a spot on Broadway. In 1949 she did a screen test for Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, passed, and moved to California where she signed a seven year contract. Davis’ acting career began with a minor role in the romantic drama “The Doctor and the Girl” (1949), although she had one year prior been an extra in “Portrait of Jennie” (1948). She followed with the seductive “East Side, West Side” (1949), and then portrayed a child psychiatrist in “Shadow on the Wall” (1950). With her subsequent picture, “The Next Voice You Hear” (1950), she graduated to leads. In the feature, Davis played a pregnant housewife who has a life changing experience when she hears the voice of God coming from her radio. In 1951 the actress appeared in her favorite screen role, that of Mrs. Katherine Mead in “Night Into Morning”. A New York Times critic commended her for her talent to portray emotion, saying Davis “does nicely as the fiancée who is widowed herself and knows the loneliness of grief.”
After completing 1951’s American satire “It’s a Big Country”, MGM let Davis go so because she wanted a wider range of parts that deviated from her typecast housewife, mother, or submissive lady roles. Around the same time, which was during the Red Scare that was sweeping throughout Hollywood, she went to the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan, and gave him proof that she had never been in anything even vaguely communistic. She fell in love with him and they got married in 1952, only to have a child a few months later. In the same year of her marriage, she appeared in two more films, the film-noir “Talk About a Stranger” and drama “Shadow in the Sky”. In the following year, she made her first TV appearance on “The Ford Television Theatre” (1953), but also starred in the science fiction horror flick “Donovan’s Brain” (1953).
Davis went on television twice more, for “Schlitz Playhouse” (1953-54) and “Climax” (1955), before starring alongside her husband in the war thriller “Hellcats of the Navy” (1957). She acted in only one movie after, the airplane crash picture “Crash Landing” (1958), but had roles in the television shows “Zane Grey Theater” (1961), “The Tall Man” (1961), “G.E. True Theater” (1956-61), “The Dick Powell Theater” (1962), “87th Precinct” (1962), and “Wagon Train” (1962) before retiring as an actress.
Davis spent much of her time after helping Reagan with his campaigns, supporting him as the governor of California, being a First Lady, and becoming highly involved in the anti-drug “Just Say No” campaign. When her husband got sick with Alzheimer’s, she withdrew from the public to take care of him until his death in 2004. Since then, her health has begun to deteriorate as well. In 2008 she suffered a fall and was taken to the hospital. Fortunately, she remained in good spirits about her health and life, and today still is, as Brian Williams from msnbc put it, “as sharp as ever and enjoys a robust life with her friends in California… She is, as most of her friends describe her, a pistol.”
1962 Wagon Train
1962 87th Precinct
1962 The Dick Powell Theatre
1961 The Tall Man
1961 Zane Grey Theater
1958 Crash Landing
1957 Hellcats of the Navy
1956 G.E. True Theater
1953 Schlitz Playhouse
1953 Donovan's Brain
1953 The Ford Television Theatre
1952 Shadow in the Sky
1952 Talk About a Stranger
1951 It's a Big Country
1951 Night Into Morning
1950 The Next Voice You Hear...
1950 Shadow on the Wall
1949 East Side, West Side
1949 The Doctor and the Girl
1948 Portrait of Jennie