logo
Source: Wikipedia.
Source: Wikipedia.

Final Years of Donna Reed: Court Fight and Cancer Battle

Odette Odendaal
Jul 09, 2019
06:19 P.M.
Share this pen
FacebookFacebookTwitterTwitterLinkedInLinkedInEmailEmail

Donna Reed became a household name during the 1950s and 1960s as the star of “The Donna Reed Show,” but medical problems exasperated by a legal battle revealed a much more troubling cancer diagnosis that led to her passing soon after.

Advertisement

During her earlier acting days, Donna appeared in several films like the Frank Capra classic “It's a Wonderful Life,” and “From Here to Eternity,” for which Donna won an Academy Award in 1953 as Best Supporting Actress.

Donna Reed from the trailer for the film The Picture of Dorian Gray. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Donna Reed from the trailer for the film The Picture of Dorian Gray. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisement

But on December 10, 1985, Donna went to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for surgery relating to her bleeding ulcers, but during the operation, doctors discovered cancer in her pancreas.

″While they were correcting the ulcerous condition, they discovered, I gather, a very early malignancy in the pancreas. She’s a strong person. She’s never had a whole lot of sickness in her life,″ Donna’s spokesman, Harry Flynn said at the time.

Publicity photo of "It's a Wonderful Life" in 1946. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Publicity photo of "It's a Wonderful Life" in 1946. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisement

The actress got released from the hospital on Christmas Eve. Once back at her Beverly Hills home, Donna bravely fought to regain some of the strength the last few months had drained.

“Even though it was settled amicably, it took a tremendous toll on her. In her own words, it was 'one of the worst periods' in her life,'” Harry said.

Advertisement

Two days before she died, Donna heard that her television husband on “Dallas,” Howard Keel was in the hospital for double-bypass surgery. She sent him a plant and gave him a call to wish him well.

“They talked for 10 minutes, and she never once mentioned her own illness. Howard had absolutely no indication of how sick she was. In fact, she was the one who ended the conversation. She didn’t want to tax him too much,” Howard Keel’s manager said.

Donna Reed in "A Shadow of a Thin Man" in 1941. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Donna Reed in "A Shadow of a Thin Man" in 1941. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisement

Then, as Donna’s husband, the retired Army Col. Grover Asmus sat by her side on January 14, 1986, she passed away at the age of 64.

Early in 1985, Donna sued Lorimar Productions, the producers of the hit television show “Dallas” after she replaced by her predecessor as Miss Ellie, the matriarch of the Ewing family barely a year into her three-year contract.

Donna replaced Barbara Bel Geddes on the show after she needed heart surgery, but Lorimar decided to reinstate her.

Donna Reed in "The Human Comedy" in 1943. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Donna Reed in "The Human Comedy" in 1943. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisement

In both May and June of 1985, her requests for a preliminary injunction to halt production of the show got denied. Three months later, Donna settled her initial $7.5 million lawsuit when she accepted Lorimar’s settlement offer of $1 million.

Relatedly, Donna’s daughter on “The Donna Reed Show,” Shelley Fabares became a teen favorite when she rose to fame in her role as Mary Stone.

Shelley later made a successful transition into the adult acting scene despite severe health issues she also faced later in her life.

Advertisement
info
Please fill in your e-mail so we can share with you our top stories!
By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
Advertisement
Related posts

Is Donna Mills Married? A Look inside the TV Icon’s Love Life

May 13, 2022

Girl Finds Shelter in a Tree Cave When a Voice From Behind Says, ‘This Is My Cave’ – Story of the Day

February 24, 2022

Shelley Fabares Is ‘Blessed’ to Have Married Mike Farrell after His Divorce That Was ‘Hard’ on His Kids

April 26, 2022

On Her Wedding Day, Bride Walks Down the Aisle and Sees Her Groom Marrying Another Woman — Story of the Day

February 01, 2022