Forty years ago today John Hinckley tried to kill President Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton. The 25 year-old Hinckley fired six shots. One hit press secretary James Brady in the head and left him with permanent brain damage. (Brady died on 8.4.14.) A bullet hit police officer Thomas Delahanty; another hit Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy in the chest. And another bullet ricocheted off a car door and hit Reagan in the ribs. He survived.
According to Moving Picture Blog‘s Joe Leydon, at the time an interim arts editor with the Dallas Morning News, “early reports indicated Reagan was a goner.” The paper’s film critic Philip Wuntch “was out in Los Angeles for the Oscars,” Leydon recalls, “and he filed an absolutely brilliant overview of Reagan’s movie career on about one hour’s notice.
A day earlier (or on 3.29.81) Leydon interviewed Lee Marvin, who was visiting the USA Film Fest in Dallas. Leydon: “I joked with him that he had shot the President — Ronald Reagan — in [Don Siegel‘s] The Killers (1964), Reagan’s last movie. ‘Yeah,’ Marvin responded with a wolfish grin, ‘but he wasn’t President yet when I shot him.'”
Meanwhile up in Manhattan I was working for a modest McGraw Hill company called Product Information Network (PIN). I was glad for the employment (I was working on a large report about landfill compactors) but for the most part I was miserable. I remember being alarmed by the news about Reagan, but not quite emotionally distraught on a JFK-in-Dallas level, Reagan being a Republican and all.
The 65-year-old Hinckley, by the way, has been a relatively free man since September 2016. On 7.27.16, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley could be released from St. Elizabeths mental hospital as he was no longer considered a threat to himself or others. Hinckley was released from institutional psychiatric care on 9.10.16, with “many” conditions. He was required to live full-time at his mother’s home in Williamsburg, Virginia.