Even though Jane Wyman almost killed herself so that Ronald Reagan would propose to her, it was Reagan who desperately wanted to keep Wyman’s love and attention at the end of their relationship.
When people think of President Ronald Reagan’s love life, they remember Nancy Reagan, his second wife. However, his relationship with Jane Wyman, his first wife, also made headlines, especially after what she did to marry him was revealed.
Born in January 1917, Jane had a challenging upbringing as her parents left her in a foster home when she was just a child. She eventually lived in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her foster family.
When she was just 15, she left home and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. In 1933, when Jane was just 16 years old, she lied about her age and married her first husband, Ernest Wyman.
Sadly, her first marriage ended after only two years, but she chose to keep Wyman’s last name. Jane then tied the knot with Myron Futterman, but they stayed together for only a few months.
Also in the 1930s, Jane landed a contract with Warner Bros. She appeared in “My Love Came Back” and “The Sunday Round-Up” before booking a part in 1938’s “Brother Rat,” where she met Reagan.
Jane was supposedly “smitten” with him as soon as she looked at him. After knowing each other better, she noticed his “vast knowledge,” how kind he was with others, and his devotion to his mother, something she never had.
The former couple had been dating for two years when Jane came up with a drastic plan to force Reagan to propose, and it worked.
While Reagan liked their relationship, he also thought things were moving too fast, so he kept delaying his proposal. That was until Jane threatened to take her own life if he didn’t pop the question.
She was not just saying that to scare him — she took enough pills to be taken to the hospital and even left a suicide note to explain her reasoning.
“[Reagan] was floored by what the divorce would do to his relationship with [his children].”
If that wasn’t enough, Jane initially banned Reagan from seeing her at the hospital. He eventually had access to her room and proposed, so her plan worked.
On January 26, 1940, Reagan and Jane tied the knot at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather chapel in Glendale, California’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park. After their marriage, they were dubbed the “ideal Hollywood couple.”
During their time together, Reagan’s family made Jane feel at home. They welcomed daughter Maureen in January 1941 and adopted a son Michael, born in 1945. Unfortunately, their third child, Christine, was born prematurely and died in June 1947.
Reagan and Jane’s relationship was destined to fail. Given that he was deeply involved in the Screen Actors Guild (he was its President), she felt neglected and eventually bored. Christine’s passing also dealt a heavy blow to the relationship.
The former POTUS then became jealous of Jane after she took home an Oscar for 1948’s “Johnny Belinda.” As a result, she asked for a divorce. He was not ready to give up on their marriage, though. Maureen once revealed:
“Dad was floored by what the divorce would do to his relationship with Michael and me. He couldn’t stand leaving his kids.”
After Jane said she wanted to part ways, Reagan did as much as he could to win her back, including visiting her on movie sets and sending her flowers. It worked as they reconciled a few times, but she ended up filing for divorce in June 1948.
Maureen pointed out that, no matter their problems, her dad never expected him and Jane to separate. The divorce became final in 1949, and they rarely mentioned each other publicly after that.
In 1968, when Reagan became California’s governor, Jane was asked why she never spoke of his political career. She responded that it had nothing to do with bitterness or conflicting political ideas — it’s simply “bad taste” to talk about ex-partners.
After leaving Reagan, Jane kept working in showbiz and married the same man twice. In Reagan’s case, he walked down the aisle with Nancy Reagan in 1952 and became the first divorced President of the United States in 1981.
When he died in 2004, Jane said that America lost a great president, as well as a kind and gentle man. In 2007, she died in California. She was 90 years old.