Elinor Donahue

Mary Eleanor Donahue (born April 19, 1937), credited as Elinor Donahue, is an American actress, best remembered today for playing the role of Betty Anderson, the eldest child of Jim and Margaret Anderson (Robert Young and Jane Wyatt), on the 1950s American sitcom Father Knows Best.

Elinor Donahue
Donahue in 1960
Mary Eleanor Donahue

(1937-04-19) April 19, 1937
Other namesMary Elinor Donahue
Years active19422011
Spouse(s)Richard Smith (1955–61; divorced)
Harry Ackerman (1962–91; his death)
Lou Genevrino (1992–present)
ChildrenChildren: Christopher Ackerman (May 16, 1978), James Ackerman, Brian Ackerman (1957), Peter Ackerman (1962) [1]

Early life and career

Donahue was born in Tacoma, Washington, the daughter of Doris Genevieve (née Gelbaugh) and Thomas William Donahue on April 19, 1937.[2]

Appearing in dancing-chorus film roles from the age of five, Donahue was at one point a ballet-school classmate of future Fred Astaire partner Barrie Chase. She was a child actress working in vaudeville and had several bit parts in movies as a teenager, including Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), starring Elizabeth Taylor. She played one of the daughters in Three Daring Daughters in 1948 and appeared as Mamie Van Doren's sister in Girls Town (1959).

Father Knows Best

Donahue achieved stardom for her role as the elder daughter, Betty, on the television family series Father Knows Best.[3] Her co-stars were Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, Billy Gray as her younger brother, James "Bud" Anderson, Jr., and Lauren Chapin as her younger sister, Kathy.

Donahue was a musical judge in ABC's Jukebox Jury (1953–54).[4] While in the first season of Father Knows Best she also appeared on The Ray Bolger Show, starring Ray Bolger as a song-and-dance man. Thereafter, she was cast with James Best, Ann Doran, and J. Carrol Naish in the 1956 episode "The White Carnation" of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. She guest starred on an episode of U.S. Marshal. She also appeared as a new bride in the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show episode titled "The Newlyweds" that aired April 2, 1956.[5]

1960s to 1980s

Donahue played Georgiana Balanger in the episode "Dennis and the Wedding" (1960) on Dennis the Menace.[6] Donahue was also cast, in 1960, with Marion Ross in an episode ("Duet") of The Brothers Brannagan. She played Miriam Welby on ABC's The Odd Couple, Jane Mulligan on Mulligan's Stew, and Nurse Hunnicut on Days of Our Lives.

She was featured in 12 episodes of CBS's The Andy Griffith Show as lady pharmacist Ellie Walker, even getting a mention in the opening credits. The character was intended to be a love interest for Sheriff Andy Taylor, but after one season (1960–1961), Donahue decided to ask for a release from her three-year contract.[7]

In 1963, Donahue was cast in an episode of NBC's short-lived modern Western series, Redigo, with Richard Egan as the rancher Jim Redigo; then in 1964, she appeared as Melanie in "The Secret in the Stone" in the NBC medical drama dealing with psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour, starring Jack Ging and Ralph Bellamy.

Additionally, in 1963, she played Letty May in the episode "The Burning Tree" on Have Gun Will Travel.

In the 1964–65 season, Donahue costarred as Joan Randall, the daughter of Walter Burnley, played by John McGiver, on the CBS sitcom, Many Happy Returns about the complaint department of a fictitious Los Angeles department store. She guest-appeared on Star Trek in the second-season episode "Metamorphosis" (1967) as commissioner Nancy Hedford.

In 1966, she guest-starred on the TV series A Man Called Shenandoah, episode 8, "Town On Fire."

Donahue portrayed Miriam Welby in 17 episodes of The Odd Couple (1972–75).

Donahue appeared in a 1981 episode of One Day at a Time, as Alex's mother Felicia.

Donahue portrayed the sister of Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) in three episodes of ABC's The Flying Nun (1968–70). In 1977, she appeared in an episode of the ABC crime drama The Feather and Father Gang. In 1978, Donahue starred in the NBC sitcom Please Stand By.

In 1979, she appeared on Diff'rent Strokes as a fiance to Mr. Drummond in season 1.

In 1984, she made an appearance as Mrs. Broderick, the mother of a teenaged drug addict on the last season of Happy Days.

In 1987, she played the title character's mother in the short-lived Fox series The New Adventures of Beans Baxter. In 1988, she appeared in a Newhart episode ("Courtin' Disaster") and appeared (in a 1989 episode) on The Golden Girls as the newest wife of Dorothy Zbornak's ex-husband, Stan.

1990s and later

In 1990, she played Bridget, a Beverly Hills clothing-store manager, in the film Pretty Woman. Donahue played Gladys, the mother of Chris Peterson (Chris Elliott), in all 35 episodes of the sitcom Get a Life (1990–92), and had a recurring role as Rebecca Quinn on the CBS drama series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

In 1991, she portrayed the "Orphanage woman" in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.

In 1992, she voiced the mother on the Fox Kids animated series Eek! the Cat. In 1994, she made an appearance as Aunt Lillian in "The One Where Nana Dies Twice", an episode of Friends. She played the part of Lorraine, Luther Van Dam's girlfriend, in season five of Coach in the early 1990s.

In 1998, Donahue published a memoir entitled In the Kitchen with Elinor Donahue, in which she relived some of her memories of Hollywood along with providing more than 150 of her recipes.[8]

In September 2010, Donahue made an appearance on The Young and the Restless as Judge Anderson, one of Nikki Newman's old friends and also as the woman minister who will officiate at the wedding of Billy Abbott and Nikki's daughter, Victoria Newman. The wedding took place in front of the Abbott's new home, which just happened to be a replica of the Anderson house from Father Knows Best.



Year Title Role Notes
1943 Mister Big Muggsy
1943 Honeymoon Lodge Janie Thomas
1944 Bowery to Broadway Young Bessie Jo
1944 And Now Tomorrow Janice - age 4
1946 Winter Wonderland Betty Wheeler
1947 The Unfinished Dance Josie
1948 Three Daring Daughters Alix Morgan
1948 Tenth Avenue Angel Cynthia
1948 The Arkansas Swing Toni MacGregor
1949 An Old-Fashioned Girl Maud Shaw
1950 The Happy Years Connie Brown
1950 Tea for Two Lynne Smith
1950 My Blue Heaven Mary
1951 Her First Romance Lucille Stewart
1952 Love Is Better Than Ever Pattie Marie Levoy
1959 Girls Town Mary Lee Morgan
1983 Going Berserk Margaret Anderson
1990 Pretty Woman Bridget
2004 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement Lady Palimore


Year Title Role Notes
1954–1960 Father Knows Best Betty Anderson Main role
1955 Lux Video Theatre Helen Richards "The Life of Emile Zola"
1955 Letter to Loretta Debbie Waring / Janey "He Always Comes Home", "Week-End in Winnetka"
1956 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show Emily Vanderlip Foster "The Newlyweds"
1956 Ford Theatre Katherine Casey "Sheila"
1958 U.S. Marshal Martha Watson "Shoot to Kill"
1960 Goodyear Theatre Connie Peters "Marked Down for Connie"
1960 Dennis the Menace Georgiana Balanger "Dennis and the Wedding"
1960 The Brothers Brannagan Kate Warren "Duet"
1960–61 The Andy Griffith Show Elinor "Ellie" Walker Recurring role
1961 General Electric Theater Carol Madsen "A Voice on the Phone"
1961 The United States Steel Hour Fran Crowell "Delayed Honeymoon"
1963 77 Sunset Strip Laura Holt "Scream Softly, Dear"
1963 Have Gun – Will Travel Letty Mae Stinchcomb "The Burning Tree"
1963 Dr. Kildare Sharon Calloway "Ship's Doctor"
1963 Redigo Joanie-Mae Kilpatrick "Hostage Hero Riding"
1963 The Virginian Carole Cole "Siege"
1964 The Eleventh Hour Melanie "The Secret in the Stone"
1964–65 Many Happy Returns Joan Randall Main role
1965 A Man Called Shenandoah Julie Wade "Town on Fire"
1967 Occasional Wife Linda Sue "Oil, Be Seeing You"
1967 Star Trek: The Original Series Nancy Hedford "Metamorphosis"
1968–1970 The Flying Nun Dr. Jennifer Ethrington "My Sister, the Sister", "How to Be a Spanish Grandmother", "My Sister, the Doctor"
1969 In Name Only Esther Garrity TV film
1972 Gidget Gets Married Medley Blaine TV film
1972–1975 The Odd Couple Miriam Welby Recurring role
1974 If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever? Alice Bennett TV film
1974 Police Woman Ellie Tarlow "Warning: All Wives"
1974 The Rookies Amanda "Blue Christmas"
1975 Petrocelli Joan Hiller "Vengeance in White"
1976 S.W.A.T. Marjorie Kemp "Lessons in Fear"
1977 The Feather and Father Gang Julie "The People's Choice"
1977 The Father Knows Best Reunion Betty Anderson TV film
1977 Insight Margaret Drill "Christmas 2025"
1977 Mulligan's Stew Jane Mulligan Main role
1977 Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas Betty Anderson TV film
1977 Police Story Camille Tackleberry "Ice Time"
1978 Police Story Joan Anderson "No Margin for Error"
1978 Doctors' Private Lives Mona Wise TV film
1979 Please Stand By Carol Lambert TV series
1979 Diff'rent Strokes Diane Sloane "The Woman"
1980 Condominium Audrey Ames TV film
1980 Barnaby Jones Judy Corbett "The Silent Accuser"
1981 Mork & Mindy Dr. Joni Lincoln "Mindy and Mork"
1981 The Grady Nutt Show Ellie Williams TV film
1981 One Day at a Time Felicia "Alex Moves In"
1981 Fantasy Island Madge Nolan / Blanche Barrens 2 episodes
1982 The Dukes of Hazzard Marjorie Dane "The Sound of Music - Hazzard Style"
1983 High School U.S.A. Mrs. Franklin TV film
1983 Hotel Louise "Deceptions"
1984 No Earthly Reason Mrs. Morrison TV film
1984 Happy Days Mrs. Broderick "School Dazed"
1984–85 Days of Our Lives Kate Honeycutt Guest role
1986 Riptide Elaine Warwick "Echoes"
1987 The Love Boat Betty Anderson "Who Killed Maxwell Thorn?"
1987 The New Adventures of Beans Baxter Susan Baxter Regular role
1988 CBS Schoolbreak Special Laura Donovan "Never Say Goodbye"
1988 Newhart Irma "Courtin' Disaster"
1989 The Golden Girls Katherine "Stan Takes a Wife"
1989 Generations Sylvia Furth TV series
1989 Santa Barbara Dr. Anderson "1.1278", "1.1277"
1990 Murder, She Wrote Connie Lewis "The Szechuan Dragon"
1990–1992 Get a Life Gladys Peterson Main role
1992 Herman's Head Mrs. Fitzer "A Charlie Brown Fitzer"
1992–93 Eek!stravaganza Mom (voice) TV series
1993 The Legend of Prince Valiant Queen Eleanora (voice) "The Jubilee"
1993 Coach Lorraine "Burden of the Burleighs", "Luthario"
1993 Biker Mice from Mars Munsterella (voice) "A Scent, a Memory, a Far Distant Cheese"
1993–1997 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Rebecca Quinn Recurring role (seasons 2–6)
1994 Friends Aunt Lillian "The One Where Nana Dies Twice"
1995 The Invaders Norma Winters "1.1", "1.2"
1996 Ellen Delores Warwell "The Tape"
1999 Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story Mrs. Lebowitz TV film
2001 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Heart Within Rebecca Quinn Dickinson TV film
2005 Cold Case Esther 'Legs' Davis "Colors"
2010–11 The Young and the Restless Judge Marie Anderson Guest role (4 episodes)


  1. Profile, people.com; accessed April 19, 2014.
  2. "Elinor Donahue Biography". FilmReference.com.
  3. https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/father-knows-best-star-elinor-donahue-explains-why-beloved-series-ended-i-was-sad-and-disappointed
  4. Jukebox Jury: Research Video, Inc.: Music Footing Licensing Agency and Vintage Television Footage Archive
  5. ""The Newlyweds", April 2, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  6. ""Dennis and the Wedding", October 9, 1960". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  7. "Archive of American Television". Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  8. Donahue, E. (1998). In the Kitchen with Elinor Donahue. ISBN 1-888952-92-X

Further reading

  • Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, pp. 58–59.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.