Donna Reed

Donna Reed

Image from the trailer for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Born Donna Belle Mullenger
January 27, 1921(1921-01-27)
Denison, Iowa, U.S. Died January 14, 1986 (aged 64)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S. Occupation Actress Years active 1941–1985 Spouse William J. Tuttle (1943-1945) (divorced)
Tony Owen (1945-1971) (divorced) 4 children
Grover Asmus (1974-1986) (her death)

Donna Reed (January 27, 1921 – January 14, 1986) was an American film and television actress.She received the 1953 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Lorene, a prostitute, in From Here to Eternity, and received the 1963 Golden Globe Award for Best TV Star – Female for her performance as Donna Stone, an American middle class wife and mother, in The Donna Reed Show. In 1984, she replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie in the television melodrama, Dallas, and sued the production company for breach of contract when she was abruptly fired upon Bel Geddes’s decision to return to the show.Reed was married three times and the mother of four children. She died of pancreatic cancer.


Reed was born Donna Belle Mullenger on a farm near Denison, Iowa, the daughter of Hazel Jane 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]

Reed in Shadow of the Thin Man, (1941)After signing with MGM in 1941, Reed made her film debut that same year in The Get-Away, opposite Robert Sterling. Billed in her first feature as Donna Adams, MGM decided against the name and changed it to Donna Reed.[4] She 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, followed by roles in The Picture of Dorian Gray and They Were Expendable, both in 1945.Her “girl-next-door” good looks and warm on-stage personality made her a popular pin-up for many GIs during WWII. She personally answered letters from many GIs serving overseas.[5]

Reed with James Stewart and Karolyn Grimes in It’s a Wonderful Life, (1946)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, a prostitute and mistress 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]Beginning in 1958, she starred in The Donna Reed Show, a television situation-comedy series that featured her as Donna Stone, the idealized housewife of pediatrician Dr. Alex Stone (Carl Betz) and mother of Jeff (Paul Petersen) and Mary Stone (Shelley Fabares). It 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 with the regular cast of The Donna Reed Show, (1958)After The Donna Reed Show ended its run in 1966, Reed took time off from acting and helped form the advocacy group, Another Mother For Peace in 1967.[9] Reed also became an opponent of the Vietnam War and the use of nuclear weapons. She returned to acting in the 1970s, appearing in various guest spots in television series and television movies.[10]In 1984, she temporarily replaced Barbara Bel Geddes, who had decided to step down from her role as “Miss Ellie” in the television series Dallas in the 1984-85 season. When Bel Geddes agreed to return to the role for the 1985-86 season, Reed was abruptly fired. She sued the show’s production company for breach of contract[11] and later settled out of court for over $1 million.[12]

From 1943 to 1945, Reed was married to make up artist William Tuttle. In 1945, she married producer Tony Owen (1907–1984) with whom she had four children: Penny Jane, Anthony, Timothy, and Mary Anne (the two oldest children were adopted). Reed and Owen divorced in 1971, and three years later, she married retired U. S. Army Colonel Grover W. Asmus (1926–2003).[1][13]On January 8, 1945, Reed went to Juarez, Mexico to obtain a divorce from Bill Tuttle. Ret
ning home on the night of January 9, 1945, Reed boarded a plane in El Paso, Texas for a flight back to Los Angeles. Just as the plane was about to take off, Reed was bumped from the flight to make room for a military officer. The airliner crashed on approach to Lockheed Air Terminal (now called Bob Hope Airport) in Burbank, California killing everyone on board.[14]

Reed died of pancreatic cancer in Beverly Hills, California on January 14, 1986, thirteen days short of her 65th birthday. She had been diagnosed with the terminal illness three months prior. She is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[12]

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”.[15]Reed’s hometown of Denison, Iowa, hosts the annual Donna Reed Festival.[16] Reed’s childhood home was located on Donna Reed Drive in Denison but was destroyed by a fire in 1983.[17]Reed’s Academy Award is on display at W.A. McHenry museum house in Denison, Iowa.[18]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 Donna as their star of the month[19] which saw Mary Owen pay a special tribute to her mother.[20]

Year Film Role Notes
1941 The Get-Away Maria Theresa ‘Terry’ O’Reilly Alternative title: The Getaway
Shadow of the Thin Man Molly
Babes on Broadway Jonesy’s Secretary Uncredited
1942 Personalities Uncredited
The Bugle Sounds Sally Hanson
The Courtship of Andy Hardy Melodie Eunice Nesbit
Mokey Anthea Delano
Calling Dr. Gillespie Marcia Bradburn
Apache Trail Rosalia Martinez
Eyes in the Night Barbara Lawry
1943 The Human Comedy Bess Macauley
Dr. Gillespie’s Criminal Case Marcia Bradburn Alternative title: Crazy to Kill
The Man from Down Under Mary Wilson
Thousands Cheer Customer in Red Skelton Skit
1944 See Here, Private Hargrove Carol Holliday
Gentle Annie Mary Lingen
1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray Gladys Hallward
They Were Expendable Lt. Sandy Davyss
1946 Faithful in My Fashion Jean Kendrick
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
Hangman’s Knot Molly Hull
1953 Trouble Along the Way Alice Singleton Alternative title: Alma Mater
Raiders of the Seven Seas Alida
From Here to Eternity Alma “Lorene” Burke Winner: Best Supporting Actress Academy Award
The Caddy Kathy Taylor
Gun Fury Jennifer Ballard
1954 They Rode West Laurie MacKaye
Three Hours to Kill Laurie Mastin
The Last Time I Saw Paris Marion Ellswirth/Matine
1955 The Far Horizons Sacajawea Alternative title: The Untamed West
The Benny Goodman Story Alice Hammond
1956 Ransom! Edith Stannard Alternative title: Fearful Decision
Backlash Karyl Orton
Beyond Mombasa Ann Wilson
1958 The Whole Truth Carol Poulton
1974 Yellow-Headed Summer
Year Title Role Notes
1954 The Ford Television Theatre Lydia Campbell 1 episode
1955 Tales of Hans Anderson 1 episode
1957 General Electric Theater Rayna 1 episode
Suspicion Letty Jason 1 episode
1958–1966 The Donna Reed Show Donna Stone 275 episodes
1979 The Best Place to Be Sheila Callahan Television movie
1983 Deadly Lessons Miss Wade Television movie
1984 The Love Boat 2 episodes
1984–1985 Dallas Eleanor “Miss Ellie” Southworth Ewing Farlow 24 episodes

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

  • ^ a b Donna Reed Biography (1921-1986).
  • ^ Field, Eunice. “My Story is Not for Children–or Prudes”.
  • ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 2. ISBN 0-313-26806-1. 
  • ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 628. ISBN 1-557-83551-9. 
  • ^ Rohter, Larry. “Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail,” New York Times. May 25, 2009.
  • ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 5. ISBN 0-313-26806-1. 
  • ^ Phillips, Gene D. (1999). Major Film Directors of the American and British Cinema. Lehigh University Press. pp. 118. ISBN 0-934-22359-9. 
  • ^ Olson, James Stuart (2000). Historical Dictionary of the 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 82, 83. ISBN 0-313-30619-2. 
  • ^ Hevly, Bruce William; Findlay, John M. (1998). The Atomic West. University of Washington Press. pp. 208. ISBN 0-295-97716-7. 
  • ^ “Donna Reed Biography (1921-1986)”. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  • ^ “Donna Reed Loses Bid for ‘Dallas’ Role”. The New York Times. 1985-06-19. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  • ^ a b “The Television Generation Mourns Its Favorite Surrogate Mother, Tough but Tender Donna Reed”. People. 1986-01-27.,,20092827,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  • ^ Scott Royce, Brenda (1990). Donna Reed: A Bio-bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 7. ISBN 0-313-26806-1. 
  • ^ Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search Of Donna Reed. IA: University of Iowa Press. pp. 63. ISBN 0877456259. 
  • ^ “Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts”. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  • ^ Whye, Mike (2004). The Great Iowa Touring Book: 27 Spectacular Auto Trips. Big Earth Publishing. pp. 37. ISBN 1-931-59935-1. 
  • ^ Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search Of Donna Reed. IA: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0877456259. 
  • ^ “Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts”. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  • ^ “Now Playing: Donna Reed — (TCM Original) May 2010”. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  • ^ “Now Playing: Donna Reed: Star of the Month — (TCM Original) Mary Anne Owen”. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
    • Fultz, Jay (1998). In Search of Donna Reed. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0877456259. 
    • Tucker, David C. (2007). The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.. ISBN 0786429003. 


    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: