This is the time of year I’m reminded of how wonderful Donna Reed is. You know, the romantic lead opposite Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s seminal IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The black & white film is always playing on some channel virtually night and day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s a classic to be sure, but that’s not the real reason it oversaturates the airwaves during the holiday season – or at least used to. That’s because the movie fell into the public domain for several decades when some studio nincompoop didn’t renew the copyright. Networks and cable stations could therefore play the film without having to pay residuals and royalties – and the movie and it’s classic characters became as commonplace if not more nourishing than fruit cake. However, the real feast for the eyes will forever be Donna…Donna Reed.
Donna Reed had that all-American sweetheart look that everyone but George Bailey seemed to see, until it was too late for him to escape Bedford Falls. But really, how could anyone NOT fall in love with Donna – especially when she had been on the hunt for good ole’ George since High School (remember the famous dance scene where the floor divides and people start falling into the gymnasium pool?! Donna was George’s destiny and she would stick with him for better or worse, through thick and thin until the very end when Zuzu’s petals would magically reappear in his vest pocket. Talk about bygone days. If Frank Capra were alive today – the movie might not have ended so happily. But what makes the film so timeless is the love story itself. Because if Donna weren’t the amazing actress she was – it would not nearly be so believable that Jimmy Stewart would feel like he lost everything worth living and dying for when she doesn’t recognize after Clarence the Angel is so good to show George what it would be like if he’d never been born. Then again, Donna Reed as an old maid is a stretch. Probably the hottest old maid ever portrayed on film IMHO.
Donna Reed went on to have a respectable career on film and her very own TV show, THE DONNA REED SHOW, on on of television’s very first episodic shows. But that’s not why she will forever be remembered. In my house, I’ll always sit down and take time out to watch Donna say, “He’s making violent love to me, Mother!” from her living room when George inevitably visits one night to find that he has been hopelessly in love with her every since he first laid eyes on her, naked in a bush in front of her house. Me too!