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Donna Reed

Donna Reed

Personal life

Reed was born Donnabelle Mullenger on a farm near Denison, Iowa. The trees that Reed's father planted still stand and the route to their home, southeast of Denison, is named Donna Reed Drive. This route is now paved to the north corner of the old Mullenger farm.[1] Reed is the daughter of Hazel Jane (née Shives) and William Richard Mullenger.[2][3] She was the 1st born of five children.[4] She was raised Methodist.[5] Reed was the mother of four children with husband Tony Owen, two of whom the couple adopted at The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois. She was committed to both motherhood and gender equality. In 1967, in opposition to the Vietnam War, she co-founded Another Mother for Peace.

Reed attended Denison High School and graduated in the top ten of a class of 85. After high school, in 1938, she left for Los Angeles, California to live with her Aunt Mildred. Reed was ecstatic to discover that for five dollars a semester she could enroll in radio and secretarial courses at Los Angeles City College.[6]

Donna Reed on the set of the TV show DallasDonna Reed is probably best remembered for her roles as the wholesome housewife Donna Stone on television's The Donna Reed Show and as Mary Bailey in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). However, early in her career, she posed topless for a series of cheesecake glamour photographs[7] and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a prostitute in From Here to Eternity (1953). In later years Reed sometimes complained that she was denied more challenging roles similar to her Oscar-winning part in From Here to Eternity.

In her later years 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 fired. She sued the show's production company for breach of contract and received an undisclosed seven-figure settlement, but this settlement came shortly before her death from cancer. During a 2007 TV special, "Bring Back...Dallas", on the UK's Channel 4 it was revealed that Larry Hagman got Bel Geddes back, an action which left Reed jobless.




Reed died at the age of sixty-four in Beverly Hills, California from pancreatic cancer and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Reed was survived by her four children; Mary Owen, Timothy Owen, Penny Owen Stigers, and Tony Owen Jr.[9] The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Reed's hometown of Denison, was organized after Reed's death in 1987 by her husband, Grover Asmus, actresses Shelley Fabares and Norma Connolly, and numerous friends, associates, and family members.[10] 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". Some of the workshops offered include theater performance, children's musical theater, methods of theater arts coaching, private coaching, and writing for screen and stage.[11] The performing arts center was formerly an opera house built in 1914, and later renovated into the Ritz Movie Theater where the young Reed first fell in love with movies.

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