Print Article

Donna Reed Biography

(1921–1986)

Related Works

  • 1951 Saturday's Hero
  • 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • 1953 Trouble Along the Way
  • 1946 It's a Wonderful Life
  • 1942 The Courtship of Andy Hardy
  • 1956 Ransom!
  • 1979 The Best Place to Be (TV Movie)
  • 1953 Raiders of 7 Seas
  • 1944 Gentle Annie
  • 1983 Deadly Lessons (TV Movie)
  • 1946 Faithful in My Fashion
  • 1941 The Bugle Sounds
  • 1954 The Last Time I Saw Paris
  • 1954 Three Hours to Kill
  • 1955 The Far Horizons
  • 1942 Eyes in the Night
  • 1942 Calling Dr. Gillespie
  • 1974 Yellow-Headed Summer
  • 1959 Ride Lonesome
  • 1953 Gun Fury
  • 1944 See Here, Private Hargrove
  • 1956 Backlash
  • 1941 Shadow of the Thin Man
  • 1941 Babes on Broadway
  • 1955 The Benny Goodman Story
  • 1947 Green Dolphin Street
  • 1943 The Human Comedy
  • 1943 The Man from Down Under
  • 1949 Chicago Deadline
  • 1942 Apache Trail
  • 1941 The Get-Away
  • 1953 The Caddy
  • 1948 Beyond Glory
  • 1943 Thousands Cheer
  • 1942 Mokey
  • 1958 The Whole Truth
  • 1945 They Were Expendable
  • 1984 Dallas (TV Series)
  • 1952 Hangman's Knot
  • 1960 Pepe
  • 1953 From Here to Eternity
  • 1943 Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case
  • 1953 USSR Today
  • 1952 Scandal Sheet
  • 1956 Beyond Mombasa
  • 1958 The Donna Reed Show (TV Series)
  • 1954 They Rode West
  • 1944 Mrs. Parkington
» More

Related People

» More

Actress. Born Donna Belle Mullenger (she would later change it to Donna Reed), on January 27, 1921, in Denison, Iowa. The oldest of five children, the 16-year-old Reed left America's heartland to attend secretarial school at Los Angeles City College. When she was named Campus Queen of the local college, her photograph appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The striking beauty was inundated with offers from agents and studio executives. Reed signed with the prestigious Feldman-Blum agency, after which she gave an impressive screen test for MGM, who signed her to a studio contract.

Reed first gained a foothold in show business, in 1941, with supporting roles in the thriller Shadow of the Thin Man, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy; and the musical Babes on Broadway, featuring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. The two projects proved to be auspicious debuts, winning Reed attention and positive notice. Shortly after, she landed a succession of more substantial parts in popular features, such as Calling Dr. Gillespie (1942) and See Here, Private Hargrove (1944). In 1945, she was featured in her first mainstream role as Gladys Hallward in the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's haunting novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was a box office success despite mixed reviews from critics.

After several years of grooming by MGM in bland studio fare, Reed was lent out to Frank Capra's Liberty Films for the independent picture, It's a Wonderful Life (1946). The film, which featured Reed as Jimmy Stewart's wife (Mary Hatch Bailey), barely got off the ground at the box office, but went on to become a perennial holiday favorite.

Limited to squeaky-clean parts, Reed endured several more years of unrewarding projects. However in 1956, she staged a remarkable comeback when she was cast in the prized role of Alma, the dancehall prostitute in From Here to Eternity (1953). Featuring the stellar cast of Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra, the film swept the 1954 Oscars securing a total of eight wins, including a Best Supporting Actress Award for Reed.

In spite of Hollywood's prestigious acknowledgement, Reed's career remained stagnant. As a result, Donna and her husband Tony Owens decided to launch their own production company, Todon Productions. The ambitious couple sought to translate Reed's film talent into success in the increasingly influential medium of television. With the demise of her motion picture career, Todon Productions launched The Donna Reed Show (1958-66), which provided the perfect vehicle to display the actress as the picture of sophisticated charm. In 1958, the family sitcom premiered and Reed came to personify the quintessential mother of suburban America. The series enjoyed an eight-year run, during which she received four Emmy nominations.

After ABC retired the series in 1966, Reed's career predominantly consisted of minor parts in forgettable TV projects. However in 1984, she signed a three-year contract to play the juicy role of Miss Ellie on the popular TV series Dallas. After only one season, she was unceremoniously fired from the hit show. Infuriated by her abrupt dismissal, she successfully sued the production company for breech of contract.

advertisement

You may also be interested in…

On TV

I Survived...

Sundays 9/8c

Shatner's Raw Nerve

Shop Biography

Barack Obama: Inaugural Edition DVD

Barack Obama: Inaugural Edition DVD

Get exclusives and hard to find titles only at the Biography Shop. Buy Now

Email Sign Up

Get email updates on your favorite BIO shows and what's new on bio.com!

– Bio.com news
– BIO shows
– Born On This Day

…and more! SIGN UP today!

Featured This Month

Neil Armstrong

ONE GIANT LEAP

Apollo 11 landed on the moon 40 years ago on July 20, 1969. Meet the crew: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Watch videos.

Johnny Depp

JOHNNY DEPP

Hollywood icon Johnny Depp stars in the new film Public Enemies about bank robber John Dillinger. Watch videos and more.

Lindsay Lohan

FULL BIO EPISODES

Find out about the lives of fascinating people. From to Lindsay Lohan, check out our VIDEO GUIDE to see what's on!

Celebrity Bookings