Real name: Donna Belle Mullenger
Birthdate: January 27, 1921
Partner: Col. Grover Asmus
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Reed was born Donna Belle Mullenger on a farm near Denison, Iowa to William Richard Mullenger and Hazel Jane Shives.Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life
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, she occasionally stepped outside that image: early in her career, she posed topless for a series of cheesecake glamour photographs and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a prostitute in From Here to Eternity (1953).
Donna Reed was the mother of four children (two with husband Tony Owen, and two adopted with Owen). She was committed to both motherhood and gender equality. In 1967, in opposition to the Vietnam War, she co-founded Another Mother for Peace. Nevertheless, 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 an ailing Barbara Bel Geddes as "Miss Ellie" in the television series Dallas in the 1984-1985 season. When Bel Geddes was well enough to return to the role, Reed was fired. She sued the show's production company and received an undisclosed seven-figure settlement, but this settlement came shortly before her death from cancer. During a 2007 TV special, Bring Back..., on the UK's Channel 4 it was revealed by several cast members and Donna Reed's son that Barbara Bel Geddes was never ill and had been replaced after she demanded more money. It was also revealed that Larry Hagman got Bel Geddes back, an action which left Reed jobless.
She died, aged 64, in Beverly Hills, California from pancreatic cancer and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Reed's hometown of Denison, was organized after Reed's death in 1986. 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. The performing arts center was formerly an opera house built in 1914, and later renovated into the Ritz Movie Theater where the young Donna Belle Mullenger first fell in love with movies.