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Tacoma, Washington
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Tacoma, Washington

Elinor Donahue, real name Mary Eleanor Donahue, is a well-known American actress who rose to fame as Betty Anderson in the hit sitcom “Father Knows Best” in the 1950s. She is also recognized for her performances as Gladys Peterson in the sitcom “Get a Life,” Joan Randall in the drama “Many Happy Returns,” and Jane Mulligan in the series “Mulligan’s Stew.” The actress has made numerous more TV shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” where she has appeared in recurrent roles. Additionally, she has been in many television movies, including “Gidget Gets Married,” and “If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever?” “The Father Knows Best Reunion,” “Doctors’ Private Lives,” “High School U.S.A.” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story,” to mention a few. Donahue has additionally appeared in other TV episodes as a guest star. She has been in the films “Honeymoon Lodge,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Tenth Avenue Angel,” “An Old-Fashioned Girl,” “Love Is Better Than Ever,” and “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” to add to the silver screen. Donahue has been married three times in her life, personally. She also has four sons and two stepchildren, all of whom she loves dearly.

Early Childhood & Life

Mary Eleanor Donahue, Elinor’s mother, was born on April 19, 1937, to Doris Genevieve and Thomas William Donahue in Tacoma, Washington, in the United States.

She started performing on the radio at the age of two. She was signed as a dancer and singer by Universal Studios three years later. She learned ballet while attending Long’s Private School.

Career of Elinor Donahue

In 1943’s “Mister Big,” Elinor Donahue made her debut on the big screen. She went on to work on the films “Honeymoon Lodge,” “Bowery to Broadway,” “And Now Tomorrow,” and “Winter Wonderland” after this.

She made appearances in the movies “The Unfinished Dance,” “Three Daring Daughters,” and “Tenth Avenue Angel” in 1947 and 1948. She then appeared in the movies “The Happy Years,” “Tea for Two,” “My Blue Heaven,” and “Love Is Better Than Ever” between 1950 and 1952.

In 1954, the actress was then given the part of Betty Anderson in the sitcom “Father Knows Best,” which she would portray until 1960. She also appeared in a number of TV shows during this time, including “Crossroads,” “Lux Video Theatre,” “Letter to Loretta,” “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,” “U.S. Marshal,” “Dennis the Menace,” and “The Brothers Brannagan.”

She then had a recurrent role on “The Andy Griffith Show” on CBS. Donahue made appearances as a guest star in the 1963 episodes of 77 Sunset Strip, Have Gun, Will Travel, Dr. Kildare, Redigo, and The Virginian.

Later, in 1965, she made an appearance in “A Man Called Shenandoah” episode. She appeared in the plays “Occasional Wife” and “Star Trek: The Original Series” two years later.

She appeared as Dr. Jennifer Ethrington in three episodes of “The Flying Nun” from 1968 to 1970. The actress was given the role of Miriam Welby in the drama “The Odd Couple” in 1972. She acted in the television movie “Gidget Gets Married” that same year.

She then made cameos in the television programs “Police Woman,” “The Rookies,” “Petrocelli,” and “S.W.A.T.” Later, in 1977, she played Betty Anderson once more in the television movie “The Father Knows Best Reunion.” The American artist appeared in the dramas “The Feather and Father Gang,” “Insight,” and “Police Story” that same year.

In the 1978 television film “Doctors’ Private Lives,” Elinor Donahue portrayed Mona Wise. She made an appearance in a “Different Strokes” episode the following year. She was soon given a role in the television miniseries “Condominium.” Then she appeared as a guest star in a few TV shows, including “Mork & Mindy,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Fantasy Island.”

In 1983, she appeared in both the movie “Going Berserk” and the television movie “High School U.S.A.” She appeared in a guest appearance on “Days of Our Lives” in 1984. The same year, she appeared in the drama “Happy Days.”

In 1987, the stunning American actress was hired to play Susan Baxter in “The New Adventures of Beans Baxter.” She made appearances in the television shows “Newhart,” “CBS Schoolbreak Special,” and “Generations” in 1988 and 1989. Soon after, she began as Gladys Peterson in the television series “Get a Life.” She then provided the voice for “the Mom” in the television show “Eek!stravaganza.”

She portrayed Rebecca Quinn in the CBS television series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” from 1993 to 1997. Donahue also appeared as a guest star on episodes of “Friends,” “The Invaders,” and “Ellen” around this time.

In 1999 and 2001, respectively, she starred in the TV movies “Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Heart Within.” She then appeared in the 2004 film “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.” She appeared in a “Cold Case” episode the following year.
The actress made a couple of cameo appearances in “The Young and the Restless” in 2010 and 2011.

Bigger Works of Elinor Donahue

Elinor Donahue is most remembered for her role as Betty, the older daughter, in the sitcom “Father Knows Best.” Donahue rose to fame thanks to the immensely popular series, which focused on the life of a middle-class American family in Springfield.

Recognition & Achievements

For “Father Knows Best,” Elinor Donahue was nominated for a 1959 Emmy Award in the category of “Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series.”

She and the other cast members, including Andy Griffith, Jim Nabors, and Don Knotts, shared the 2004 TV Land Legend Award for their work on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Individual Life of Elinor Donahue

In 1955, Elinor Donahue wed Richard Smith, who would become her first spouse. The pair did, however, divorce in 1961.

Harry Ackerman, a television producer, and the actress wed in 1962 and went on to have four sons: Brian, Peter, James, and Chris. Susan Peterson and Stephen Ackerman now have a stepmother thanks to their marriage. In 1991, Ackerman perished.

Donahue later wed Lou Genevrino, her third husband, in 1992.

Elinor Donahue Net Worth

American actress Elinor Donahue has a $3 million net worth. Donahue’s most well-known performance was as Betty Anderson in the TV show Father Knows Best.


In the Kitchen with Elinor Donahue was a book written and published by Donahue in 1998. This book contains 150 of her recipes as well as stories about her life in Hollywood.
The experienced actress is remembered in the song “Ellie’s Smile” by Jonathan Lore.

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