World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Donna Reed

Article Id: WHEBN0000394902
Reproduction Date:

Title: Donna Reed  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: It's a Wonderful Life, Hangman's Knot, Ransom!, Scandal Sheet (1952 film), Trouble Along the Way
Collection: 1921 Births, 1986 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Actresses, Actresses from Iowa, American Anti–nuclear Weapons Activists, American Anti–vietnam War Activists, American Anti-War Activists, American Film Actresses, American Methodists, American Television Actresses, Best Musical or Comedy Actress Golden Globe (Television) Winners, Best Supporting Actress Academy Award Winners, Burials at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, California Republicans, Cancer Deaths in California, Deaths from Pancreatic Cancer, Los Angeles City College Alumni, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Contract Players, People from Denison, Iowa
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Donna Reed

Donna Reed
The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945
Born Donna Belle Mullenger
(1921-01-27)January 27, 1921
Denison, Iowa, U.S.
Died January 14, 1986(1986-01-14) (aged 64)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Pancreatic cancer
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actress
Years active 1941–1985
Spouse(s) William J. Tuttle (m. 1943; div. 1945)
Tony Owen (m. 1945; div. 1971)
Grover Asmus (m. 1974–86)
Children 4

Donna Reed (born Donna Belle Mullenger; January 27, 1921 – January 14, 1986) was an American film and television actress and producer. Her career spanned over forty years, with appearances in over forty films. She is well known for her role as Mary Hatch Bailey in Frank Capra's 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life. In 1953, she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Lorene Burke in the war drama From Here to Eternity.

Reed is probably most widely known for her work in television, notably as Donna Stone, a middle-class American mother and housewife in the sitcom The Donna Reed Show (1958–66), in which her character was more assertive than most other television mothers of the era and for which she received numerous Emmy Award nominations and the Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star in 1963. Later in her career, Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie Ewing in the 1984–85 season of the television melodrama, Dallas, and sued the production company for breach of contract when she was abruptly fired upon Bel Geddes' decision to return to the show.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • The Donna Reed Show 2.1
    • Later career 2.2
  • Personal life 3
    • Political views 3.1
  • Death 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Radio 6
  • Filmography 7
  • Awards and nominations 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Reed was born Donna Belle Mullenger on a farm near Denison, Iowa, the daughter of Hazel Jane (née Shives; 1899–1975) and William Richard Mullenger (1893–1981).[1] The eldest of five children, she was raised as a Methodist.[2] After graduating from Denison High School, Reed planned to become a teacher, but was unable to pay for college. She decided to move to California to attend Los Angeles City College on the advice of her aunt. While attending college, she performed in various stage productions but had no plans to become an actress. After receiving several offers to screen test for studios, Reed eventually signed with MGM, but insisted on finishing her education first.[3]


Donna Reed as It's a Wonderful Life

In 1941 after signing with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Reed made her film debut in The Get-Away opposite Robert Sterling billed as Donna Adams. MGM soon changed her name to Donna Reed.[4] She then starred in The Courtship of Andy Hardy and had a supporting role with Edward Arnold in Eyes in the Night (1942). In 1943, she appeared in The Human Comedy with Mickey Rooney, and They Were Expendable in 1945.

Her "girl-next-door" good looks and warm on-stage personality made her a popular pin-up for many GIs during World War II. She personally answered letters from many GIs serving overseas.[5]

In 1945, she struggled with an English accent and with a passive, underwritten role as Gladys Hallward in the first cinema adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

In 1946, she was lent to RKO Pictures for the role of Mary Bailey in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. The film has since been named as one of the 100 best American films ever made by the American Film Institute and is regularly aired on television during the Christmas season.[6]

Following the release of It's a Wonderful Life, Reed appeared in Green Dolphin Street (1947) with Lana Turner and Van Heflin, and Scandal Sheet (1952). In 1953, she played the role of Alma "Lorene" Burke, girlfriend of Montgomery Clift's character, in the World War II drama From Here to Eternity. The role earned Reed an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for 1953.[7]

The Donna Reed Show

From 1958 to 1966, Reed starred in The Donna Reed Show, a television series produced by her then-husband, Tony Owen. The show featured her as Donna Stone, the housewife of pediatrician Alex Stone (Carl Betz) and mother of Jeff (Paul Petersen) and Mary Stone (Shelley Fabares). The show ran for eight seasons on ABC.[8] Reed won a Golden Globe Award and earned four Emmy Award nominations for her work on the series.

Reed described her show as "[...] a realistic picture of small town life with an often humorous twist. Our plots revolve around the most important thing in America—a loving family."[9] In the show, Reed's character, Donna Stone, is a loving mother and wife, but also a strong, smart woman with feelings and a sense of humor.[10] But some feminists criticized the show, asserting that it promoted submissiveness among housewives. In a 1979 interview, Reed, who had raised four children, responded, "I played a strong woman who could manage her family. That was offensive to a lot of people."[11] In a 1984 television interview, Reed said of her show, "I felt that I was making, for women, a statement. This mother was not stupid. She wasn't domineering, but she was bright and I thought rather forward-thinking, happily married."[12]

In a 2008 interview, Paul Petersen (who played Jeff Stone in the series) explained, "That's what the show was really about, the importance of family. That's where life's lessons are transmitted, generation to generation. There's a certain way in which these are transmitted, with love and affection." Petersen also stated that "[The Donna Reed Show] depicts a better time and place. It has a sort of level of intelligence and professionalism that is sadly lacking in current entertainment products. The messages it sent out were positive and uplifting. The folks you saw were likable, the family was fun, the situations were familiar to people. It provided 22-and-a-half-minutes of moral instruction and advice on how to deal with the little dilemmas of life."[13]

Later career

Donna Reed as Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow in Dallas

When The Donna Reed Show ended its run in 1966, Reed took time off from acting to focus on raising her children and engaging in political activism. She returned to acting in the 1970s, appearing in various guest spots in television series and television movies.[14]

In the 1984–85 season of the television series Dallas, Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie Ewing. Of the show, Reed explained in a 1984 interview, "One of the main reasons Dallas is successful is the family. They all stick together. They may squabble, but they pull for one another and live under one roof, which is really tribal, and it's not true anymore! And I think deep down, everyone misses that."[12] When Bel Geddes agreed to return to the role for the 1985–86 season, Reed was abruptly fired.[15] Reed failed in attempts to stop the 1985–86 season from going into production while she tried to get herself reinstated in the role of Miss Ellie,[15] and she sued for breach of contract, later settling out of court for over $1 million.[16]

Personal life

Reed, Tony Owen, and their four children in 1959. Standing is Penny Jane; seated from left are Tony, Jr., Mary and Tim.

From 1943 to 1945, Reed was married to make up artist William Tuttle. In 1945, she married producer Tony Owen (b. 1907–d.1984), with whom she raised four children: Penny Jane, Anthony, Timothy, and Mary Anne (the two older children were adopted). After 26 years of marriage, Reed and Owen divorced in 1971.

Three years later, Reed married retired United States Army Colonel Grover W. Asmus. They remained married until her death in 1986.[1][17]

Political views

Reed, who was a registered Republican, was interested in politics. Her interest peaked during the Vietnam War when she became concerned that her oldest son, Tony, might be drafted. In a 1971 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Reed said, "In the beginning, we felt [Tony] should serve his country in a noncombatant role. But he wouldn't even accept that, feeling the whole thing was immoral. He didn't trust the government or the military. I've learned a lot from Tony."[18] In 1967, Reed became a peace activist and co-chaired the anti-war advocacy group, Another Mother for Peace. The group's slogan was, "War is not healthy for children and other living things."[19][20]

In addition to being an opponent of the Vietnam War, Reed also opposed nuclear power plants. She supported Democratic anti-war Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 presidential election.[21]


Donna Reed's grave

Donna Reed died of pancreatic cancer in Beverly Hills, California, on January 14, 1986, 13 days shy of her 65th birthday. She had been diagnosed with the terminal illness three months earlier. Her remains are interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[16][22]


In 1987, Grover Asmus (Reed's widower), actresses Shelley Fabares and Norma Connolly, and numerous friends, associates, and family members created the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts. Based in Reed's hometown of Denison, the non-profit organization grants scholarships for performing arts students, runs an annual festival of performing arts workshops, and operates "The Donna Reed Center for the Performing Arts".[23]

Denison also hosts the annual Donna Reed Festival.[24] Reed's childhood home was located on Donna Reed Drive in Denison but was destroyed by a fire in 1983.[25]

Reed's Academy Award is on display at the W. A. McHenry Museum in Denison.[26]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Donna Reed has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1610 Vine Street.

In May 2010 Turner Classic Movies honored Reed as their star of the month[27] which saw Mary Owen pay a special tribute to her mother.[28]

In a 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times, actress Shelley Fabares (who played Mary Stone on The Donna Reed Show) wrote, "[Donna Reed] definitely became my second mother. She was a role model and remains so to this day. I still periodically hear her voice in my head when I am making a decision about doing something, I hear her urging me on to make the stronger decision of the two. I just adored her."[29] Fabares also described Reed as "a real Iowa girl. There is a bedrock decency to people in the Midwest. They are thoughtful and ready to help you if something needs to be done. She never lost that Midwest girl."[29]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Screen Guild Theatre episode: The Mating of Millie[30]


Year Title Role Notes
1941 The Get-Away Maria Theresa 'Terry' O'Reilly Alternative title: The Getaway
1941 Shadow of the Thin Man Molly
1941 Babes on Broadway Jonesy's Secretary Uncredited
1942 Personalities Uncredited
1942 The Bugle Sounds Sally Hanson
1942 The Courtship of Andy Hardy Melodie Eunice Nesbit
1942 Mokey Anthea Delano
1942 Calling Dr. Gillespie Marcia Bradburn
1942 Apache Trail Rosalia Martinez
1942 Eyes in the Night Barbara Lawry
1943 The Human Comedy Bess Macauley
1943 Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case Marcia Bradburn Alternative title: Crazy to Kill
1943 The Man from Down Under Mary Wilson
1943 Thousands Cheer Customer in Red Skelton Skit
1944 See Here, Private Hargrove Carol Holliday
1944 Gentle Annie Mary Lingen
1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray Gladys Hallward
1945 They Were Expendable Lt. Sandy Davyss
1946 Faithful in My Fashion Jean Kendrick
1946 It's a Wonderful Life Mary Hatch Bailey Alternative title: Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life
1947 Green Dolphin Street Marguerite Patourel
1948 Beyond Glory Ann Daniels
1949 Chicago Deadline Rosita Jean D'Ur
1951 Saturday's Hero Melissa Alternative title: Idols in the Dust
1952 Scandal Sheet Julie Allison Alternative title: The Dark Page
1952 Hangman's Knot Molly Hull
1953 Trouble Along the Way Alice Singleton Alternative title: Alma Mater
1953 Raiders of the Seven Seas Alida
1953 From Here to Eternity Alma "Lorene" Burke Winner: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1953 The Caddy Kathy Taylor
1953 Gun Fury Jennifer Ballard
1954 They Rode West Laurie MacKaye
1954 Three Hours to Kill Laurie Mastin
1954 The Last Time I Saw Paris Marion Ellswirth/Matine
1954 The Ford Television Theatre Lydia Campbell Episode: "Portrait of Lydia"
1955 The Far Horizons Sacajawea Alternative title: The Untamed West
1955 Tales of Hans Anderson Episode: "Wee Willie Winkie"
1956 The Benny Goodman Story Alice Hammond
1956 Ransom! Edith Stannard Alternative title: Fearful Decision
1956 Backlash Karyl Orton
1956 Beyond Mombasa Ann Wilson
1957 General Electric Theater Rayna Episode: "Light from Tormendero"
1957 Suspicion Letty Jason Episode: "The Other Side of the Curtain"
1958 The Whole Truth Carol Poulton
1958–66 The Donna Reed Show Donna Stone 275 episodes
1960 Pepe Herself Cameo
1974 Yellow-Headed Summer
1979 The Best Place to Be Sheila Callahan Television movie
1983 Deadly Lessons Miss Wade Television movie
1984 The Love Boat Polly/Gwen 2 episodes
1984–85 Dallas Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow 24 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result
1953 Academy Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role From Here to Eternity Won
1963 Golden Globe Award Best TV Star – Female The Donna Reed Show Won
1964 Golden Apple Awards Most Cooperative Actress
1959 Emmy Award Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series The Donna Reed Show Nominated
1960 Emmy Award Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead or Support) The Donna Reed Show Nominated
1961 Emmy Award Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) The Donna Reed Show Nominated
1962 Emmy Award Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) The Donna Reed Show Nominated
2004 TV Land Awards The Most Irreplaceable Replacement Dallas Nominated
2006 TV Land Awards The Most Irreplaceable Replacement Dallas Nominated

See also


  1. ^ a b Donna Reed Biography (1921–1986).
  2. ^ Field, Eunice. "My Story is Not for Children—or Prudes". 
  3. ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 2.  
  4. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 628.  
  5. ^ Rohter, Larry. "Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail," New York Times. May 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 5.  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ Olson, James Stuart (2000). Historical Dictionary of the 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 82, 83.  
  9. ^ "". 
  10. ^ "'"Don’t Call The Donna Reed Show 'Situation Comedy. 
  11. ^ Gilbert, Tom (2011-12-27). "Donna Reed's show reflects an era when mother, too, knew best". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  12. ^ a b Rona Barrett Remembers Donna Reed (1921–1986) on YouTube
  13. ^ "Life was better in ‘Donna Reed' world". 
  14. ^ "Donna Reed Biography (1921–1986)". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  15. ^ a b "Donna Reed Loses Bid for 'Dallas' Role". The New York Times. 1985-06-19. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  16. ^ a b "The Television Generation Mourns Its Favorite Surrogate Mother, Tough but Tender Donna Reed". People. 1986-01-27. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  17. ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 7.  
  18. ^ "Her New Role: A Mother for Peace". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Donna Reed Is Dedicated To Peace Effort"
  20. ^ Hevly, Bruce William; Findlay, John M. (1998). The Atomic West. University of Washington Press. p. 208.  
  21. ^ Kauffman, Bill (2011-12-29) Iowa Votes for Peace, The American Conservative
  22. ^ Donna Reed at Find a Grave
  23. ^ "Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts". Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  24. ^ Whye, Mike (2004). The Great Iowa Touring Book: 27 Spectacular Auto Trips. Big Earth Publishing. p. 37.  
  25. ^ Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search Of Donna Reed. IA: University of Iowa Press.  
  26. ^ "Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  27. ^ "Now Playing: Donna Reed – (TCM Original) May 2010". Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  28. ^ "Now Playing: Donna Reed: Star of the Month – (TCM Original) Mary Anne Owen". Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  29. ^ a b King, Susan (2011-12-26). "'"Classic Hollywood: 'The Donna Reed Show. Los Angeles Times. 
  30. ^ Kirby, Walter (April 13, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 11, 2015 – via  

Further reading

  • Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search of Donna Reed. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.  
  • Tucker, David C. (2007). The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.  

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.