Forgotten Iowa History: This Oscar Winner Was an Iowa Native
When you think celebs from Iowa, you think of some really, REALLY heavy hitters in Hollywood, right?
Ashton Kutcher, The Duke John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Elijah Wood, and the legendary Cloris Leachman all come to mind. If you include sports, there's Shawn Johnson, Kurt Warner, and of course Dan Gable among many others.
But there is one celebrity, one very legendary, Oscar-winning star who, despite passing away in the 1980s, left a tremendous body of work behind to be enjoyed by generations after and to come.
That star was the Denison, Iowa-born Donna Belle Mullenger, better known by her stage name Donna Reed.
Reed was born on January 27, 1921. She lived in Iowa through her teenage years and attended Denison High School. She got into theater during her time in high school. After she graduated, she wanted to become a teacher herself but instead ended up moving to Los Angeles.
It was in LA where she tried to continue her schooling, but ended up performing in various stage shows, and eventually landing a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Even after she was offered the acting deal, she wanted to finish school and did earn an associate's degree according to a biography written about Reed.
Reed starred in a couple of the most famous pictures in early Hollywood history including It's a Wonderful Life in 1946 where she played Mary Bailey.
In the prime of her film acting career in 1953, Reed won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Alma Burke in From Here to Eternity. She starred opposite Frank Sinatra and Burt Lancaster in the film.
Reed did win an Oscar early in her career, but she is best known for the eponymously named Donna Reed Show which ran for a highly successful 8 seasons and had 275 episodes from September 24, 1958, to March 19, 1966. Reed won a Golden Globe Award for her role in 1963.
After the show concluded, Reed took time off from acting to raise a family and become a louder voice in the political activism scene.
She did continue to act, and even took over the role of Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow on the show Dallas.
Reed passed away in late 1986 at age 64. She died from pancreatic cancer. According to an LA Times article on her life, one of her Donna Reed Show costars remember her as decent and, "a real Iowa girl."
Donna Reed was certainly a Hollywood success story, and by all accounts, a great ambassador to her home state of Iowa!