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6 things you might not know about Donna Reed

From girl next door to the ideal mom, Reed was an all-American icon. Salute her birthday with her bundt cake, perhaps.

There is no dirt on Donna Reed. If you are coming here looking for juicy gossip, you will not find it. The actress is as bright and clean as the kitchen floor on The Donna Reed Show.

But Reed remains a fascinating role model. From girl next door to pinup to all-American mom, she remained a cultural icon. She nabbed an Academy Award in 1953 for her role in From Here to Eternity, and a decade later earned a Golden Globe for Best TV Star.

Of course, from 1958 to 1966 she headlined as Donne Stone on The Donna Reed Show. The beauty taught lessons to and solved problems for her picture-perfect family. January 27 marks what would have been her 95th birthday. To celebrate, here are some interesting tidbits about her life and work.

1

She milked a cow on the set of 'It's a Wonderful Life' to win a bet.

Jimmy Stewart and Reed both came from small towns, which made them the ideal pair to cast as the leads in the now Christmas classic (which, as you might know, flopped hard at the time). To prove her rural heartiness, Lionel Barrymore challenged Reed to milk a cow. The Iowan had no problem with the task.

2

Jean Arthur, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland and more were considered for the role of Mary Bailey.

Though it is now hard to image, Reed was not the actress initially in the mind of Frank Capra. Jean Arthur was reportedly first offered the role, but was committed to Broadway. Other actresses up for the role included Olivia de Havilland, Martha Scott, Laraine Day and Ginger Rogers. The latter turned down the role for being "too bland."

3

The location of Hilldale on 'The Donna Reed Show' is never stated.

Like the Raytown of Mama's Family and the Springfield of The Simpsons, The Donna Reed Show's small town setting has given location. Because of the star's roots, we like to assume it's Iowa.

4

She sued 'Dallas' for breach of contract.

In 1984, Reed took over for Barbara Bel Geddes as matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing on the eighth season of the prime time soap. However, Bel Geddes returned the following season and Reed was cut. Hurt from the move, Reed sued for breach of contract and settled for seven figures.

Image: Dallas / Warner Bros. Television

5

She saved over 341 G.I. letters from World War II in a shoebox.

The gorgeous pinup cheered up many a soldier serving our country during World War II. She corresponded with our boys, and they in turn wrote her back, confiding in the approachable starlet. Years after Reed's death, in 2009, a shoebox was discovered in her garage containing 341 letters from soldiers. “[We] think you are a typical American girl, someone who we would like to come home to!!!!!” one G.I. gushed from the South Pacific.

Image: Associated Press

6

You can find her Bundt cake recipe online.

Four eggs, lemon cake mix, a half cup of oil, a box of lemon pudding mix, a cup of water. 

Image: Just a Pinch Recipes

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