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Donna Reed

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Donna Reed was born in the mid-western town of Denison, Iowa on January 27, 1921 with the birth name of Donna Belle Mullenger. The town was small, less than 3, 000 people located by the Boyer River. It, also, is the county seat of Crawford County. Donna grew up as a farm girl used to the everyday chores of any farm girl growing up in western Iowa. The thing that set her aside from others was the fact that Donna was very beautiful. That wasn't to say that others weren't as pretty, it's just that Donna's beauty stood out more than others, so much so that she won a beauty contest in Denison. Upon graduation from high school, Donna left for college in Los Angeles, California in the hopes of eventually entering movies. While at Los Angeles City College, Donna pursued her dream by participating in several college stage productions. In addition to the plays, she also won the title of Campus Queen. As a result of one of those stage plays, Donna was spotted by MGM and was signed to a contract. Donna's first film was a minor role with MGM in the 1941 production of THE GET-AWAY. That one was followed, that same year, in BABES ON BROADWAY with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Donna's small role was as a secretary. Afterwards, MGM began giving Donna better parts. Some of the movies in which her roles were more substantial were THE BUGLE SOUNDS (1941), THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY (1942), and THE MAN FROM DOWN UNDER (1943). In 1944, Donna received second billing as Carol Halliday in SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE. It's basically a comedy about a reporter who is drafted into the army and eventually meets up with Donna's character as a worker in the canteen. The following year, Donna starred in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. It was her best role to date. It was a love story set in London in 1890. The critics had mixed reviews on the film, but did well at the box-office. Donna was now one of the leading ladies of Hollywood. In 1946, Donna starred as Mary Hatch in the delightful Christmas story, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with Jimmy Stewart. This timeless story is a holiday staple to this day. The film also starred Lionel Barrymore and Thomas Mitchell. The next year Donna starred as Ann Daniels in BEYOND GLORY with Alan Ladd. The film did well at the box-office making money for Paramount who released the movie. Donna's next role was the strongest she had had yet in 1949's CHICAGO DEADLINE again with Alan Ladd. The film was one of the best mystery dramas for a long time. Another hit. As the Forties turned in to Fifties, Donna's roles were substantial and wholesome, the girl next door type. In 1953, Donna played a prostitute in the widely acclaimed FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. She was so outstanding in the role of Alma, that she was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress beating out seasoned veterans such as Thelma Ritter and Marjorie Rambeau. The film itself won for Best Picture. The motion picture remains a classic to this day, plus gave Donna more attention. Later that year Donna starred in THE CADDY a comedy with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin as the top billed stars. In 1955, Donna landed the role of Sacajawea in THE FAR HORIZONS. It was the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Charlton Heston and Fred MacMurray rounding out the fine cast. After filming THE WHOLE TRUTH in 1958, Donna entered television as the lead in "The Donna Reed Show". The long running series proved to be a hit. Donna was so effective in the show that she was nominated for TV's prestigious Emmy Award as Best Actress every year from 1959-1962. The series ran until the end of the 1966 season. She was far more popular in TV than on the silver screen. After the run of the program, Donna took some time away from show business before coming back in a couple of made for TV movies. (In 1974, she had made YELLOW-HEADED SUMMER for the big screen, but the film was never released). Donna did get the role of Ellie Ewing Farlow in the hit TV program "Dallas" during the 1984-85 season. It was to be her final public performance. On January 14, 1986, less than two weeks before her 65th birthday, Donna died of pancreatic cancer in Beverly Hills, California. Grover Asmus, her husband, created the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts in her hometown of Denison, Iowa. The Foundation helps others who desire a career in the arts. Donna never forgot her roots. She was still a farm girl at heart.
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