Donna Reed

Although best known for portraying the housewife and mother ”Donna Stone” in the family-themed TV show ”The Donna Reed Show” which aired for eight seasons (1958-1966), TV and film actress Donna Reed secured herself a place in Hollywood's history with impeccable appearances in motion pictures such as They Were Expendable, From Here to Eternity and the quintessential Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. Her wholesome image, natural good looks, Iowa strength, placid poise, exquisite grace and keen intelligence continue to radiate on screen, carrying viewers into a bygone era defined by indestructible moral values and overwhelming purity of emotions.

Biography and collection of movies

Born Donnabelle Mullenger on January 27th, 1921 in the small town of Denison, Iowa, she grabbed the opportunity presented to her by a relative to relocate in Los Angeles, California, where she had hoped to pursue a career in radio. Although acting was more of a hobby, after finishing out the college semester, Donnabelle joined the Feldman-Blum talent agency and began preparing for a screen test. Upon seeing this screen test, Head of MGM, Louis B. Mayer declared the natural beauty from Iowa the studio's next starlet and in 1941 she signed a 7-year contract with MGM, Hollywood's number one studio at that time, with an impressive paycheck of $75 a week.

The studio executives changed her name to Donna Reed for marketing purposes and that same year, the ravishing ingenue was cast in a supporting role as the good girl Mary Theresa O'Reilly in Edward Buzzell's gangster flick The Get-Away, starring Robert Sterling. After appearing in several forgettable war-themed movies, Donna Reed was cast opposite Mickey Rooney as his love interest in two smashing box-office hits, George B. Seitz's The Courtship of Andy Hardy, the 12th installment of the popular film series ”Andy Hardy” and then again in Clarence Brown's 1943 drama The Human Comedy, her first A movie.

Donna Reed in they Were Expendable

Donna Reed shines in They Were Expendable.

They Were Expendable
Character: Sandy Davyss | Genre: Ware, Romance | Year: 1945 | Director: John Ford
Donna Reed was given the opportunity to portray the courageous and dignified Navy nurse Sandy Davyss in John Ford's patriotic war film They Were Expendable, starring fellow Iowan John Wayne and Robert Montgomery. Based on actual events from WWII, the sub-plot of the film is centered around the delicate, bittersweet romance between the strong-minded lieutenant Rusty Ryan (portrayed by John Wayne) and the upright nurse Sandy.

Donna Reed and Jim Stewart

Donna Reed and Jim Stewart out late in It's a Wonderful Life.

It's a Wonderful Life.
Character: Mary Hatch Bailey | Genre: Drama | Year: 1946 | Director: Frank Capra
By far the most popular movie Donna Reed starred in was Frank Capra's majestic black-and-white classic It's a Wonderful Life, co-starring screen legend Jimmy Stewart. Today, this rare cinematic masterpiece is regarded as the quintessential ”Christmas movie”, although this label was far from the director's real intentions and expectations.

From Here to Eternity
Character: Alma "Lorene" Burke | Genre: War, Drama | Year: 1953 | Director: Fred Zinnemann
Eager for more challenging parts, she accepted the gritty, racy role of the dancehall prostitute Alma ”Lorene” Burke in Fred Zinnemann's screen adaptation of James Jones' award-winning novel From Here to Eternity for Columbia Pictures. Co-starring Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. The film was nominated for twelve Oscars and also proved extremely popular with the audiences.

In her late career, Donna Reed focused primarily on television and for an entire season, from 1984 to 1985 she portrayed the clan matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing in the mega-popular prime-time soap opera ”Dallas”. Upon Barbara Bel Geddes' return to reprise her original role, Donna Reed was abruptly fired. She sued the producers for breach of contract and eventually settled for a hefty compensation (allegedly $1.25 million).

Screen icon Donna Reed passed away at the age of 64, on January 14th, 1986 in Beverly Hills. She had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer just three months earlier.

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