I've been following some of the coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions, and one line of criticism that's surprised me is that these events are not stage-managed enough.

One of Andrew Sullivan's correspondents, for example, criticises the Republican convention because, unlike the Democrats, the GOP didn't arrange for speakers to deliver remarks which 'contain themes and ideas that rebound and reinforce each other'. But the Republicans did have Clint Eastwood, who clearly spoke off the cuff in a performance that is still being talked about, even as the Democratic convention is in full swing.

Here's another legendary piece of convention improv from 1976, a year in which the convention actually meant something for the Republicans, with President Ford failing to secure enough delegates before the event to see off Ronald Reagan's challenge. Ford was eventually nominated in a tight contest, but when he acknowledged Reagan in his acceptance speech, there was such an overwhelming crowd reaction that Ford motioned to Reagan, who was in the audience, to come down and address the convention.

Edmund Morris notes in his biography of Reagan that: 'Only after Reagan glided offstage, accepting congratulations with his trademark shy duck of the head, did the realization sink in that he had said not a word in praise of President Ford.'