Babes on Broadway
The Bugle Sounds
The Courtship of Andy Hardy
Calling Dr. Gillespie
Eyes in the Night
Dr. Gillespie’s Criminal Case
The Man from Down Under
See Here, Private Hargrove
Faithful in My Fashion
Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder
Raiders of the Seven Seas
They Rode West
Three Hours to Kill
The Far Horizons
Tales of Hans Anderson
The Whole Truth
Donna Reed was nominated for one and won an Academy Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in From Here to Eternity (1953).
When you handle yourself, use your head; when you handle others, use your heart. ~ Donna Reed
Donna Reed: Learn more about her, review her filmography and more
Donna Reed was born Donna Belle Mullenger on January 27, 1921 on a farm near Denison, Iowa, the daughter of Hazel Jane (née Shives; July 16, 1899 – July 17, 1975) and William Richard Mullenger (July 4, 1893 – July 15, 1981). The eldest of five children, In 1936, while she was a sophomore at Denison (Iowa) High School, her chemistry teacher Edward Tompkins gave her the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is said to have greatly influenced her life. Upon reading it she won the lead in the school play, was voted Campus Queen and was in the top 10 of the 1938 graduating class. 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, although she had no plans to become an actress. After receiving several offers to screen test for studios, Reed eventually signed with MGM; however, she insisted on finishing her education first.
In 1941 after signing with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Reed made her film debut in The Get-Away opposite Robert Sterling; she was billed as Donna Adams. MGM soon changed her name to Donna Reed,
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, and in They Were Expendable in 1945.
Her “girl-next-door” good looks and warm onstage personality made her a popular pin-up for many GIs during World War II. She personally answered letters from many GIs serving overseas.
In 1945, Reed 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. The following year she collaborated with her Denison High school chemistry teacher Edward R. Tompkins on the 1947 MGM film The Beginning or the End, which dealt with the history and concerns of the atom bomb.
In 1946, MGM also lent her 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.
Following the release of It’s a Wonderful Life, Reed appeared in Green Dolphin Street (1947) with Lana Turner and Van Heflin. In 1949 she expressed a desire for better roles. Several years later, she performed in Scandal Sheet (1952).
Reed in 1953 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.
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 wife 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. Reed won a Golden Globe Award and earned four Emmy Award nominations for her work on the series.
When The Donna Reed Show ended its run in 1966, Reed took time off from acting to concentrate 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.
In the 1984–85 season of the television series Dallas, Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie Ewing
When Bel Geddes agreed to return to the role for the 1985–86 season, Reed was abruptly fired. Reed failed in attempts to stop the 1985–86 season from going into production while she tried to get reinstated in the role of Miss Ellie. She sued for breach of contract, later settling out of court for over $1 million.
From 1943 to 1945, Reed was married to make-up artist William Tuttle. After they divorced, in 1945 she married producer Tony Owen (1907–1984). They raised four children together: 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 Grover W. Asmus (1926-2003), a retired United States Army colonel. They remained married until her death in 1986.
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 illness three months earlier and told it was at a terminal stage. Her remains are interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.