Donna Reed was born in the Midwestern town of Denison, Iowa, on January 27, 1921, as Donna Belle Mullenger. She wanted to become a teacher but since she could not afford to go to college she moved to LA at 16 to go to secretarial school. She was noticed for her striking beauty and was bombarded with offers from agents and studio executives. After receiving several offers to screen test for studios, Reed signed with the prestigious Feldman-Blum agency, after which she gave an impressive screen test for MGM, Reed eventually signed with MGM, but insisted on finishing her education first. She played many small roles for years with MGM but was lent out to Frank Capra's Liberty Films for the independent picture, It's a Wonderful Life (1946). The film, which featured Reed as Jimmy Stewart's wife (Mary Hatch Bailey), barely got off the ground at the box office, but went on to become a perennial holiday favorite. Although it was a great role for her, it caused her to be typecast to squeaky clean roles. She endured many uninteresting one dimensional roles that were not fulfilling to her as an artist. However in 1956, she staged a remarkable comeback when she was cast in the prized role of Alma, the dancehall prostitute in From Here to Eternity (1953). Featuring the stellar cast of Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra, the film swept the 1954 Oscars securing a total of eight wins, including a Best Supporting Actress Award for Reed.
Despite the accolades she received for her role of Alma, her film career came to a screeching halt. So she took matters into her own hands and along with her husband created their own production company. Todon Productions launched The Donna Reed Show (1958-66), which provided the perfect vehicle to display the actress as the picture of sophisticated charm. In 1958, the family sitcom premiered and Reed came to personify the quintessential mother of suburban America. The series enjoyed an eight-year run, during which she received four Emmy nominations.
So besides being a pioneer in the television industry by becoming one of the first female producers, in her personal live she was a pretty kick ass woman as well. During the Vietnam War in the 1970s, she was a fervent anti-nuclear weapon and anti-war activist, co-chairing the protest organization "Another Mother for Peace. Another Mother for Peace was founded to educate women to take an active role in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations, people and ideologies. AMP is a non-profit, non-partisan association. AMP encourages its members to do Peace Homework by writing to elected government officials to express their desire for peace.
In 1986, the resilient actress lost her two-year bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 64 years old. In 1987, Grover Asmus (Reed's widower), actresses Shelley Fabares and Norma Connolly, and numerous friends, associates, and family members created the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts. A non-profit organization to memorialize Donna Reed's accomplishments and perpetuate her deep commitment to youth, education, and the performing arts. Based in Reed's hometown of Denison, the 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".