Future U.S. President Ronald Reagan once played a fake Czech immigrant

Among future United States president Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood film roles, few are widely-remembered today – outside of, perhaps, the Gipper in the oft-quoted Knute Rockne, All-American or the chimp-fostering professor in the oft-derided Bedtime for Bonzo.

But one is particularly fun for Czech locals. In The Girl from Jones Beach, Reagan plays a pinup artist who pretends to be a Czech immigrant to woo an ESL teacher played by Virginia Mayo. For… complex reasons involving a backstory that takes up the first act of the movie.

Amusingly, Reagan settles on the guise after scanning the room when asked where he’s from. “Pilsen,” he replies after spotting a Pilsner beer in a classmate’s bag.

Virginia Mayo’s teacher then lectures the class on how Czechoslovakia is split into two ethnicities: the Slovaks and the… Croats?!

The ruse is almost up when an actual Czech student enters the classroom and discovers a fellow countryman.

“Ale, ne! Jak se máte, pane? Jste z Prahy? Naše země je dobrá země. Ale Amerika je práva demokracie!” (But, no! How are you, sir? Are you from Prague? Our country is a good country. But America is a real democracy!)

Can the scene in the clip below:

Reagan’s character keeps up the ruse for much of the second act of the film, resulting in some more sketchy Czech from the future president.

That’s John Mylong from bad-movie classic Robot Monster as Stravich, the Czech student pleased to find Reagan’s countryman in his class.

If his Czech was close but not quite the real thing, that’s because Mylong was originally born in Vienna to Russian-Jewish parents. He emigrated to Hollywood via Prague in the late-1930s after the German annexation of Czechoslovakia.

January 2021 represents the 40th anniversary of the start of Reagan’s two-term U.S. presidency. The former actor was sworn into office on January 21, 1981.

You can stream The Girl from Jones Beach on Amazon Prime.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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