Gov. Kim Reynolds proclaimed Jan. 27, 2021, as Donna Reed Day, exactly 100 years after the Oscar-winning actress made her earthly debut in Denison, Iowa. She passed away in 1986, but her legacy endures.
In her announcement, the governor “encouraged Iowans to be like Donna Reed and follow their dreams with integrity, courtesy, equity and humanity,” echoing the Donna Reed Foundation’s mission to inspire young people to serve their communities and pursue careers in the performing arts.
The proclamation via Facebook Live capped off a series of video tributes from Reed’s friends and family and kicked off a year of programs to celebrate the centennial, including commemorative displays at the Donna Reed Heritage Museum in Denison and the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines. The state museum also plans to host an online presentation on March 25, when Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen of Iowa City, will share rarely seen family photos from her mother’s early days in Iowa. Other events are in the works for December, when Reed’s most popular movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” will mark its 75th anniversary.
Today, the Turner Classic Movies network has been airing many of Reed’s movies to celebrate her birthday. The lineup started at 5 a.m. with “Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941) and continues through 5 p.m. with “Ransom!” (1956).
“Donna Reed was a legend,” Turner Classic Movies network host Alicia Malone said. “Turner Classic Movies is thrilled to help celebrate Donna Reed Day with her fans in Iowa and across the entire world. People often think of her as ‘the girl next door,’ but she had rare talent and an extraordinary career.”
Donnabelle Mullenger was just 17 when she left Iowa and packed her bags for California. She won a Los Angeles beauty pageant, which landed her a spot in the Rose Bowl Parade, a photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and, soon after, a contract with MGM Studios.
The studio changed her name to Donna Reed for her first movie, “The Get-Away,” when she was 20, and the name stuck.
Reed won an Academy Award in the 1954 movie “From Here to Eternity” and co-founded her own TV production company, which produced “The Donna Reed Show” from 1958 through 1966. Back then, few women held executive roles in Hollywood.
“Donna Reed’s life really was wonderful,” said Chris Kramer, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, including the State Historical Society of Iowa and Produce Iowa, the state office of film and media production. “She was an Iowa icon, a gifted actress, a savvy businesswoman and a visionary humanitarian who always kept in touch with her hometown. We can all learn from her example.”
The Donna Reed Centennial
Turner Classic Movies: Donna Reed marathon
Today (times indicated are Central)
5:00 a.m. Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
6:45 a.m. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
8:45 a.m. Faithful in My Fashion (1946)
10:15 a.m. Green Dolphin Street (1947)
12:45 p.m. Trouble Along The Way (1953)
2:45 p.m. The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954)
5:00 p.m. Ransom! (1956)
“Remembering Donna Reed”
Visit the Facebook page for Iowa Culture to watch a short tribute that posted at 10 a.m. today with stories from her friends and family plus a proclamation from Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“100 Years of Donna Reed”
Noon March 25
A webinar featuring rarely seen family photos shared by Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, and Donna Reed Foundation member Kurt Lee, with State Curator Leo Landis. This event is part of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s “Iowa History 101” series and the year-long commemoration of Iowa’s 175th year of statehood. Registration is free but required.
“Hollywood in the Heartland”
An exhibit at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, showcasing Iowa’s history with the silver screen. A handful of movie-related sites can be found statewide on a new featured tour on the free Iowa Culture mobile app, which highlights more than 3,500 art, film and history sites in all 99 counties.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.