Donna Reed was an American actress born on January 27, 1921, in Denison, Iowa. She was christened Donna Belle Mullenger and grew up on a farm. She attended Los Angeles City College before signing with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) after performing in a college stage production.
Reed is perhaps best known for her role as Mary Hatch in Frank Capra's 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life." The film was not a great box office success at the time of its release but has since become a Christmas classic, with Reed's performance especially held in high regard.
Her breakout role came earlier, in 1941, with the film "Shadow of the Thin Man." Throughout the 1940s, Reed appeared in numerous films, often portraying wholesome, kindly characters. Her all-American girl persona made her a popular and endearing figure on the silver screen.
In 1953, Reed won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "From Here to Eternity," where she played Alma Lorene, a prostitute who becomes entangled with a soldier, played by Montgomery Clift. This role showcased her depth as an actress, demonstrating her capability for more substantial and complex roles than she was often assigned.
In addition to her film career, Donna Reed is known for her work on television. She starred in "The Donna Reed Show," which aired from 1958 to 1966. The show was a successful family sitcom, where Reed played Donna Stone, a middle-class American mother. The series was praised for its warm-hearted portrayal of family life and ran for eight seasons.
Later in her career, Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie on the television series "Dallas" during the 1984-1985 season, but Bel Geddes returned for the next season, leaving Reed out of the cast.
Reed was also known for her work as an activist. She co-founded the anti-nuclear organization Another Mother for Peace and was an advocate for peace during the Vietnam War era.
Donna Reed's personal life included marriage to producer Tony Owen, with whom she had four children. Following their divorce, she married Grover Asmus in 1974.
Donna Reed passed away from pancreatic cancer on January 14, 1986, at the age of 64. Her legacy includes the numerous performances on both film and television that continue to resonate with audiences around the world. The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts was established in her hometown to honor her memory and support aspiring young performers.