Donna Reed, 64, Dies of Cancer at Her Home

From Times Wire Services

Donna Reed, who won an Oscar as a prostitute in “From Here to Eternity” but found her widest success as the ideal wife and mother on television’s “The Donna Reed Show,” died at her Beverly Hills home today from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 64.

Her husband, retired Army Col. Grover Asmus, was at her side when she died, family spokesman Harry Flynn said.

Miss Reed had been hospitalized several months ago for ulcers. She went into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 10 for bleeding ulcers and the malignancy in the pancreas was discovered. She was released Dec. 24 in fair condition to spend Christmas at home.

‘Miss Ellie’ Last Role

Her last major performance was as Miss Ellie on CBS-TV’s high-rated soap opera “Dallas” during the 1984-85 season, a role she took over after star Barbara Bel Geddes withdrew because of heart surgery. Miss Reed had a three-year contract and filed suit when the producers rehired Bel Geddes for the current season.

Miss Reed won the Academy Award in 1953 as best supporting actress for her role in “From Here to Eternity” and appeared in many other films, including the 1946 Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”


For eight years beginning in 1958, she starred in “The Donna Reed Show” on ABC.

She was seen infrequently on television after the show went off the air.

“I just wouldn’t do the junk I was offered,” she said before she returned to acting. “I didn’t like the way films were treating women. Most of the roles were extremely passive--women in jeopardy, poor stupid souls who couldn’t help themselves.”

She starred in 1978 in the four-hour NBC movie, “The Best Place to Be,” and in 1979 was a guest star in a two-hour “Love Boat” episode filmed in Hong Kong.

Last year, Miss Reed filed a $7.5- million lawsuit against Lorimar Productions, producers of “Dallas,” to regain her role as the matriarch of the Ewing family. In August, she accepted a $1-million settlement.

Her other films included “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “Green Dolphin Street,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris” and “The Benny Goodman Story.”

A lifelong Republican, she was a leader of the Another Mother for Peace Movement against the Vietnam War.

Born Donna Belle Mullenger on Jan. 27, 1921, she carried no presumptions of stardom with her from Denison, Iowa, in 1938--only a determination to excel as a secretary, studying stenography and office efficiency at Los Angeles City College on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.

Named Campus Queen

It was only after classmates named her Campus Queen in December, 1940, that she came to the attention of talent scouts.

Her first marriage, to William Tuttle in 1943, ended in divorce a year later. She married Anthony Owen in 1945, and they had four children: Penny, Tony, Timothy and Mary. That marriage also ended in divorce.

Her current husband is a retired Army colonel who had been Gen. Omar Bradley’s last chief of staff.

Funeral services will be at Westwood Cemetery, “but we don’t have a date or time,” family spokeswoman Pat Gibson said.