Donna Reed (Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images)
Donna Reed's acting won her an Oscar and a Golden Globe, as well as the hearts of television audiences as America's favorite homemaker in The Donna Reed Show. Her status as a successful film actress earned her top billing and greater focus than most television actresses at the time, in turn elevating her profile as the show became a hit. Throughout her career, Reed turned up in projects as diverse as It's a Wonderful Life and Dallas. In her personal life she worked as a peace activist and opposed the proliferation of nuclear power plants. We remember her life today and the lives of other notable people who died on this day in history.
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2014: Mae Young, U.S. professional wrestler who was a pioneer of women's wrestling and worked as half of a duo with The Fabulous Moolah, dies at 90.
Her career spanned eight decades and won her the adoration of fans and her fellow wrestlers, as well as a spot in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. When news broke of her death, condolences flooded into the Internet from her legion of fans, as well as the generations of wrestlers she inspired and trained over the years. Read more.
2013: Conrad Bain, Canadian actor who starred in the popular sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, dies at 89.
Diff'rent Strokes touched on serious themes but was known better as a family comedy that drew most of its laughs from its standout child actor, Gary Coleman. Bain played wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond, who promised his dying housekeeper he would raise her sons, played by Coleman and Todd Bridges, according to Bain's obituary by The Associated Press. Race and class relations became topics on the show as much as the typical trials of growing up. Coleman, with his sparkling eyes and perfect comic timing, became an immediate star, and Bain, with his long training as a theater actor, proved an ideal straight man. The series lasted six seasons on NBC and two on ABC. Read more.
2011: Trish Keenan, English lead vocalist of the electronic band Broadcast, dies of complications of pneumonia at 42.
Keenan and James Cargill formed the indie band in Birmingham, England, in 1995, according to Keenan's obituary by The Associated Press. For its 2009 release, Broadcast had worked in collaboration with the Focus Group. Read more.
2009: Ricardo Montalbán, Mexican actor well-known for his role on the TV series Fantasy Island, dies at 88.
In the 1960s Montalbán started Nosotros, an organization that advocated for Latinos in Hollywood. "He was threatened by phone and letter if he went forward with creating the group," his son-in-law, Gilbert Smith, said. Montalbán did it anyway. "I put my career aside and dedicated my heart and soul for over a year and a half to this new organization, going to radio and television to talk about it, talking to directors, producers, writers," he said, according to his New York Times obituary. "I received tremendous support, but there were also some negative repercussions. I was accused of being a militant and as a result I lost jobs." Read more.
2007: Darlene Conley, U.S. actress known for her role as Sally Spectra on The Bold and the Beautiful, dies of stomach cancer at 72.
Conley had been a fixture of the show, playing larger-than-life redhead Sally Spectra for 19 years. Spectra charmed fans with her scrappiness … and her ongoing friendly feud with rival clothing designer Stephanie Forrester. Their spats often ended with Spectra taking an unplanned swim, and the fans loved it … just as they loved it when Spectra cut Forrester's hair, with unflattering results. Read more.
2006: Jim Gary, internationally noted U.S. sculptor known for his dinosaurs created from auto parts, dies at 66 of complications of a cerebral bleed.
2006: Shelley Winters, U.S. actress who won an Academy Award for her role in The Diary of Anne Frank, dies of heart failure at 85.
In 1959's The Diary of Anne Frank, she was Petronella Van Daan, mother of Peter Van Daan and one of eight real-life Jewish refugees in World War II Holland who hid for more than a year in cramped quarters until they were betrayed and sent to Nazi death camps, according to Winters' obituary by The Associated Press. The socially conscious Winters donated her Oscar statuette to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Read more.
2004: Ron O'Neal, U.S. actor who starred as a cocaine dealer in the movie Superfly, dies of cancer at 66.
2004: Uta Hagen, German-born U.S. actress who won two Tony Awards, dies at 84.
1995: Ruby Starr, U.S. rock vocalist who attained national prominence in the 1970s and '80s, dies of cancer at 44.
1995: Mark Finch, English promoter of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema, commits suicide at 33.
1994: Esther Ralston, U.S. actress popular in the silent-screen era, dies of a heart attack at 91.
1990: David Arkin, U.S. actor who appeared in many Robert Altman films including Nashville and The Long Goodbye, commits suicide at 49.
1987: Douglas Sirk, German movie director known for his melodramas at Universal Pictures, such as The Tarnished Angels, dies at 89.
1986: Donna Reed, U.S. actress well-known for her role in It's a Wonderful Life and as the star of The Donna Reed Show, dies of cancer at 64.
As improbably perfect as Reed's character was on The Donna Reed Show, she was the mother that so many viewers dreamed of having … or being. She always had time for her children as well as numerous other activities, all while keeping an immaculate home and a smile on her face. From today's perspective, Donna Reed is the archetypal mother, the ideal that none of us quite manages to live up to. The role has become such a crucial part of Reed's identity that we don't always remember that the actress was just playing a part. Read more.
1984: Ray Kroc, U.S. founder of the McDonald's fast-food chain who also owned the San Diego Padres baseball team, dies of a heart ailment at 81.
1978: Harold Abrahams, English athlete who won an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash in 1924, which was depicted in the movie Chariots of Fire, dies at 78.
1978: Blossom Rock, U.S. actress known best as Grandmama in the TV series The Addams Family, dies at 82.
1977: Anaïs Nin, U.S. author known for Delta of Venus, and a companion to fellow U.S. writer Henry Miller, dies of cancer at 73.
1977: Peter Finch, English-Australian actor known best for his role in the movie Network, dies of a heart attack at 60.
1965: Jeanette MacDonald, U.S. singer and actress known for her musical films of the 1930s, dies of a heart attack at 61.
1957: Humphrey Bogart, U.S. actor who is widely regarded as a cultural icon and starred in the classic films Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, dies of cancer at 57.
1920: John Francis Dodge, U.S. automobile pioneer who started the Dodge Brothers Co., dies at 55.
1898: Lewis Carroll, English author known for Alice in Wonderland, dies at 65.
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