Nancy was her childhood nickname as she was born Anne Frances Robbins. She took the last name of her stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon, who legally adopted her at age 16.
She appeared in her last film Hellcats of the Navy in 1957. She played nurse Lieutenant Helen Blair and was the only time she acted with her husband, playing what one critic called "a housewife who came along for the ride." Another reviewer, however, stated that Davis plays her part well, and "does well with what she has to work with."
She was criticized early in Reagan's first term of office due to her decision to replace the White House china, despite its being paid for by private donations. The total cost of the crockery came to more than $200,000.
She championed recreational drug prevention causes by founding the "Just Say No" drug awareness campaign, which was considered her major initiative as First Lady. Reagan became actively involved by travelling more than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) throughout the United States and several nations, visiting drug abuse prevention programs and drug rehabilitation centres.
Nancy Reagan was at the centre of more controversy when it was revealed in 1988 that she had consulted an astrologer to assist in planning the president's schedule after the attempted assassination of her husband in 1981. Nancy later wrote, "Astrology was simply one of the ways I coped with the fear I felt after my husband almost died... Was astrology one of the reasons [further attempts did not occur]? I don't really believe it was, but I don't really believe it wasn't."
Her godmother was silent film star Alla Nazimova. A friend of Rudolf Valentino, Nazimova openly conducted relationships with women, and her mansion on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard was believed to be the scene of wild parties. She is credited with having originated the phrase 'sewing circle' as a discreet code for lesbian or bisexual actresses.
One of her strangest movie roles was as Si-Tchun, a lady-in-waiting, in the 1946 Broadway musical about the Orient, Lute Song, starring Mary Martin and Yul Brynner. The show's producer told her, "You look like you could be Chinese."
Reagan had a troubled relationship with her biological children and stepchildren. Her relationship with Patti was the most contentious; Patti rebelled against her parents by joining the nuclear freeze movement and authoring many anti-Reagan books.
The day after her husband was shot, Nancy fell off a chair while trying to take down a picture to bring to him in the hospital. She suffered several broken ribs, but decided not to reveal this to the media.
In 1991, the author Kitty Kelley wrote an unauthorised and largely uncited biography about Nancy Reagan, repeating accounts of a poor relationship with her children and introducing rumours of alleged sexual relationship with singer Frank Sinatra.