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Joy Hodges

Broadway performer and big-band vocalist-dancer

This article was corrected on Feb. 26, 2003.

Joy Hodges, Broadway performer and big-band vocalist-dancer also credited with prodding a young Ronald Reagan to start a career in acting, died in Palm Desert, Calif., on Jan. 19. She was 88.

Des Moines native played the leader of a girls’ musical group in the film “To Beat the Band” in 1935. Over the next five years she made a dozen films, usually playing a showgirl or singer. In the 1939 film “Boy Meets Joy,” she even appeared as herself. She also worked with big bands including Ozzie Nelson’s and Glenn Miller’s.

She performed in scores of Broadway productions, including “I’d Rather Be Right” and “Best Foot Forward.”

She met Reagan in Des Moines, where he was an announcer and sportscaster and she sang on radio station WHO. When Reagan was assigned to cover the Chicago Cubs’ spring training on Catalina Island in 1937, he stopped in Hollywood to visit Hodges and asked for her advice about getting into acting. She arranged an interview that led to a Warner Bros. contract for him.

Reagan of course went on to be SAG prexy, governor of California and U.S. president, yet he kept in touch with her for 60 years and invited her to the White House.

Her husband Eugene Schiess predeceased her. Survivors include two cousins.

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