28 Wonderful Facts About Hollywood’s Sweetheart, Donna Reed

There are some personalities from the history that we are not able to forget even if we want and Donna Reed was one of them. The legendary actor that we will forever remember for her role in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ as Mary Bailey. Even though it happened several decades ago, fans still continue to celebrate her character.

The Hollywood actress with a career span of 40 years, produced many hits in her time and not a lot of people know this but Donna Reed also won an Oscar for playing a vulnerable sex worker, and apart from that she won many prestigious awards in her career.

Donna Reed worked in a total of 40 movies in her career and also had a TV show bearing her name that was called The Donna Reed show that lasted from 1958 to 1966. Even though she was in the glamor industry with luxury that Hollywood provided, she never forgot her roots and always remained the Iowa farm girl that she was.

She was a great person and also lead to a great life. And there is a reason why she is still celebrated in America as a legend. But it is also true that in her life she had to face several heartbreaks. She was an influencer who influenced the women of the whole country. The person who led such an interesting life must have had many wonderful facts about her to fascinate her fans, you would think, and you are absolutely right.

Here we are presenting you 30 most wonderful facts about Donna Reed that you did not know before. 

1. Doomed to Heartbreak

While working on one of her projects, Donna Reed got attracted to the studio’s head of makeup William Tuttle. The two shared a pretty good love story and they were so serious about their love that they married each other soon after. But sadly, their marriage didn’t last long and they divorced each other in just two years.

2. Campus Queen

Well, such a beautiful person that she was we would imagine the kind of charm she did with her beauty during her college days. She always had that kind of farm girl innocent beauty that amazed everyone. 

As soon as she graduated her high school, she moved to the coast to attend City College in Los Angeles and when she did everyone was so mesmerized by her beauty that she was crowned the Campus Queen.

3. Became Popular Too Soon

Right after Donna Reed was crowned the Campus Queen, her pictures surfaced the local media, and the newspapers in Hollywood also featured her. This was the beginning of her journey of being Hollywood’s sweetheart.

Soon after talent scouts, movie casting directors, model recruiters started contacting her and wanted her to do their project.

4. Small Town Girl

Donna Reed was a small-town girl, who was born as Donna Belle Mullenger on 21st January 1921 in Denison, Iowa which is a very small town in the United States. Even after being exposed to the glamor and luxury that Hollywood has to provide, Donna never forgot her roots and always remained the farm girl. 

5. Treasure in a Shoebox

In the year 2009, one of the family members of Reed found a shoebox at her former home. The shoebox that was found in the garage contained letters from young American Servicemen from World War 2. There were at least 341 letters in the box and Donna Reed has also done her part by becoming a penpal to those soldiers. The letters were heart-touching and beautiful.

6. Her Second Marriage

Though there is very little information about her divorce with her first husband, but after divorcing him, she quickly married her second husband who was her own agent, Tony Owen. The two had a fulfilling marriage and raised four children together. 

Later Tony Owen also became the executive producer of the actress’s iconic show titled, The Donna Reed Show.

7. Luck by Chance

There was a very little chance of Donna Reed to be cast as Mary Bailey in ‘It’s a wonderful life’. The director of the movie, Frank Capra, initially had no interest in her and wanted to cast Jean Arthur for the same. But at the moment, Jean was busy on Broadway and couldn’t take the role.

Other actresses like Olivia de Havilland and Ginger Rogers were also considered for the role of Mary Bailey but when nothing worked out, he decided to give Donna Reed a chance and we all know how it turned out to be.

8. Oscar-Winning Best Supporting Actress

Donna Reed played the role of a supporting actress in the movie, ‘From Here to Eternity’ and Deborah Kerr played the lead. Both had basically the same screen time in the movie unlike the usual norms. 

Later Deborah Kerr got nominated for Oscar in the category of Best Actress and on the other hand, Donna Reed received the Oscar award for her role as a supporting actress.

9. And Four-time Academy Award Winner too

Apart from winning Oscar for her role in ‘From Here to Eternity’, the actress has also won Academy Award for the same. In addition to this, she is also a four-time Academy Award winner which is kind of a big deal in Hollywood.

10. Luck by Chance, again…..

The director of the movie, ‘From Here to Eternity’, Fred Zinnemann did not want to cast Donna Reed as a supporting actress in his movie. Because he felt that she wouldn’t fit right in the character and will probably blow it, but he already butted head with Harry Cohn. who was the studio boss for casting Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, and Montgomery Clift, so he didn’t say anything this time.

Even though Fred had cast Donna Reed reluctantly, her performance surprised everyone and the director was glad that he had cast Donna Reed for this role. And as we have discussed previously, she also managed to win several prestigious awards for this one.

11. The transformation of Hollywood’s sweetheart

Donna Reed is famously known as Hollywood’s Sweetheart for a reason. It was because of her personality, her image and the kind of roles that she used to play in front of the camera and in an attempt to change her sweet image and to try some bold characters, she accepted the role of Lorene, who was a sex worker in the movie, ‘From Here to Eternity’.

12. Star from the Start

As we mentioned above that how Donna Reed quickly became famous and movie talent scouts were approaching her for projects. Well, she landed her first-ever Hollywood movie very quickly and her role also got a large scree-time in the movie. The movie got released in 1941 and it was a B-Movie titled ‘The Get Away’.

13. A Real Charmer

Well, the tales of Donna Reed being a real charmer is already infamous and let us give you one more example of it. Her co-actor from the movie ‘From Here to Eternity’, Frank Sinatra who was pretty famous at the time, also was got stunned by her beauty. 

When Reed died, Frank called her a very lovely lady who was gentle and kind. He also mentioned that how at the time Donna used to act, every person on the set instantly fell in love with her beauty.

14. And the List Goes On

The list of Donna Reed’s prestigious awards is long enough. She won one of the highest achievements in the Hollywood industry whether it is an Oscar, Academy Awards, and even a Golden Globe Award.

In the year 1963, Donna Reed received four Emmy nominations for her own sitcom, The Donna Reed show and ultimately she won a Golden Globes award for her role in television sitcom.

15. Never Had An Emmy

Even though Donna Reed got nominated four times for an Emmy Award for ‘The Donna Reed Show’ consequently for four years, from 1959 to 1962 but she never scored it.

16. One-Shot at Being Bold

Donna Reed received an Oscar when she tried to do something bold on-screen but that was a one-time shot because the next time when she tried to do the same, her movies didn’t run long. She produced a series of unforgettable movies after that and the audience wanted to see her doing more roles like Mary Bailey again.

17. ‘Rocking’ Performance

There is a scene in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when the character of Donna Reed, Mary Bailey has to throw a rock through a window of the decrepit Granville House. The director of the movie, Frank Capra, hired a stuntman for Donna to do it for her. But his money was a total waste on that stuntman.

Because the stuntman didn’t even got to do his job as Donna Reed herself threw the rock and it hit the window dead-on in just a single take. Indeed, she ‘rocked’ everybody.

18. Mary or Mary?

You would already know that the daughter of Donna Reed is named  Mary Owens and naturally anyone would assume that Donna named her daughter after being inspired by the name of her iconic and unforgettable character in the movie. ‘It’s a wonderful life’. 

But the answer is no! Donna Reed did not name her after her character Mary Bailey, but she named her after her great-grandmother Mary Mullenger.

19. The Legacy May Continue

There sure are millions of fans of the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and the daughter of Donna Reed is one of them. Mary Owen is not just a fan but an expert on the movie and that is why she gets regularly called at the special screenings of this Holiday special, In addition to this, Mary Owens also attends the annual film play at the IFC center in the New York City.

She gets the chance to introduce this movie at the screenings, where she also reveals some interesting facts and intimate details about it that made the whole thing even more amusing and entertaining.

20. A Very True Advice

There are many moments when we get to know that Donna Reed was not just beautiful externally but internally too. The words and advice that fall out of her mouth were heart touching and moving. One of the best advice that she ever gave that was concerned with dealing ourself was:

“When you handle yourself, use your head; when you handle others, use your heart.”

21. Encouraged People for Donation

Donna Reed was really a kind and gentle woman and always motivated people to do good deeds. There was a time when she got actively involved with blood donations and was at the forefront to bring awareness in people about the critical need for blood donations.

In 1980, she was a part of several active campaigns that promoted blood donations as well as also encouraged people to become organ donors.

22. The School that Produced Famous Stars

We all learned through this article that Donna Reed made quite a buzz when she attended Los Angeles City College. She has crowned the campus queen and was also insanely famous. Well, the Los Angeles City College is responsible for producing many other recognized personalities such as Morgan Freeman, Mark Hamill, Cindy Williams, and Dirty Harry-Clint Eastwood.

23. Reed and rock band Rush

No matter how not-so-related this combo sounds together, but they also share a connection. The legendary progressive band named Rush used Reed as their album’s cover art. The album was named Permanent Waves and it was released in the year 1980. The album became insanely successful later and the cover picture caught the people’s eye.

The idea of using her picture for the cover was given by Hugh Syme, the cover artist who wanted the cover to be of a 1950s woman with a Toni home permanent hairstyle from that era and someone who looked like actress Donna Reed.

24. Her Third Husband

After breaking off her marriage with Tony Owen, that lasted from 1945 to 1971. And she also had four children with him… But it couldn’t last longer than that, so the couple called it off and three years later, Donna Reed married her Third Husband, Grover Asmus that lasted from 1974 to the time she died, that is the year 1986.

Her third husband is the founder of Donna Reed Foundation and every year he honor it by celebrating in her hometown Denison, Iowa.

25. Her Television Daughter

Until now we all have learned about the charm, Donna Reed has on others and that is why wherever she worked she gained herself, well-wishers. One of them was the actress who played the character of Donna’s daughter on ‘The Donna Reed Show’. The actress was Shelley Fabares, who in 2011, wrote the following about her Television mother:

“She definitely became my second mother. She was a role model and remains so to this day. I still periodically hear her voice in my head when I am making a decision about doing something, I hear her urging me on to make the stronger decision of the two. I just adored her.”

26. A True Midwest Girl

Actress Shelley Fabares also said that Donna Reed was such an authentic and genuine person and that even acting in Hollywood couldn’t get the “Midwest girl” quality out of her and since she belonged to Iowa.

She said, “There is bedrock decency to people in the Midwest. They are thoughtful and ready to help you if something needs to be done.” 

27. The Voice

When Donna Reed died in the year 1986, a media company, LA Times published in their column where they talked about how and why the actress was successful. The column read that the Hollywood studio star system has given enough training to the actress to keep her mouth shut and the reason she got successful was because of that. 

The paper also wrote, when Donna Reed show got aired, which was a pretty successful sitcom, it showed us a new Donna Reed and that surprised the Hollywood in many when she started to have a voice.

In 1987, Donna Reed said in an interview, “I’d been overwhelmed by hopeless despair…having two sons who might have to go to Vietnam to fight…then one night at a rally for Eugene McCarthy, a mic was put in front of me unexpectedly, and I heard myself speaking what I thought.”

28. A Canceled Show or a Canceled Marriage?

When the Donna Reed show initially began, it had a really slow start and the makers of the show feared that it won’t become successful. But the director believed in the show and it’s wholesomeness and let it air some more and eventually the show turn out to be a big hit and brought a revolution in the Tv industry.

But the show had to end at some point. Even though Donna Reed gained millions through this show she was really anxious and exhausted to worry about the show’s cancellation. As soon as the show ended, her marriage with Tony Owen also started unraveling and they ultimately got divorced in 1972. 


Now as we all are aware of the kind of persona that Donna Reed had after learning so much about her. She was such a definition of a woman who was kind and beautiful. There is a reason why she is still praised in Hollywood and among fans, even many years after her death and that reason was that she was such a legendary actress.

With her authentic beauty and farm-girl vibe, she charmed everyone around her, and no wonder she has so many well-wishers and fans who adore her to this date and will continue to do so till the end. After Donna Reed, Hollywood has given her many other actresses, but nothing could replace our love for Donna.

So these were some of the wonderful facts about the wonderful actress and a mother Donna Reed. I hope it was all you are looking for. Do let us know in the comment section how you liked this article and if you have any questions or suggestions for her, you can give it to us by commenting below.