Quintessentially Donna Reed

Day 265 of Colourisation Project – January 27

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Although she presented a squeaky-clean on-screen image of the archetypal 1950’s housewife and mother, Donna Belle Mullenger won her Oscar for playing a prostitute in From Here to Eternity. She charmed cinema audiences in It’s a Wonderful Life and she also delighted TV viewers on The Donna Reed Show.

Donna Reed Bef & Aft

Publicity Still – Donna Reed 1958  –  Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born on this day, January 27, 1921, and better known as Donna Reed, she made over forty films in a career spanning forty years. But it is for her role as Mary, the dutiful and supportive wife in Frank Capra’s heart warming film, It’s a Wonderful Life, (1946) that she is best remembered for. Named as one of the 100 best American films ever made by the American Film Institute, it is still regularly aired on television during the Christmas season.

Another memorable film was the one for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, for her performance in the role of Alma, the dance-hall prostitute in the war drama From Here to Eternity (1953).

In 1958 Reed turned to television where for eight long seasons she played the quintessential wife and mother in the perfect American nuclear family, in the highly successful TV sitcom, The Donna Reed Show. Reed won a Golden Globe Award and four Emmy Award nominations for her work on the series. It made her a millionaire several times over. She once described her show as,

“[…] a realistic picture of small town life—with an often humorous twist. Our plots revolve around the most important thing in America—a loving family.”

It drew criticism from some feminist quarters, because it was felt that Reed was  perpetuating the stereotypical image of a subservient housewife. Reed, who had raised four children of her own, defended her role in a 1984 television interview by arguing that,

“I played a strong woman who could manage her family. That was offensive to a lot of people. I felt that I was making, for women, a statement. This mother was not stupid. She wasn’t domineering, but she was bright and I thought rather forward-thinking, happily married.”

Looking back on it now, it was the 1950s and the show represented everything that was wholesome and good or so we thought at the time.  Back here in Australia we all hankered for her family’s idyllic suburban lifestyle.

Donna Reed died on January 14, 1986, less than two weeks before her 65th birthday, from pancreatic cancer.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Donna Reed has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1610 Vine Street.

Now, set aside 25 minutes or so to watch this little gem. An episode from the first season of The Donna Reed Show, filmed in 1958, when the world was a happier place.



“Forty pictures I was in, and all I remember is ‘What kind of bra will you be wearing today, honey?’ That was always the area of big decision – from the neck to the navel.”  –  Donna Reed

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Film, Hollywood, Photography, Uncategorized, USA, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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