Fast Facts

  • Performed on radio at age 2 and was signed as a singer and dancer by Universal Studios at age 5.
  • Attended ballet school (Long's Private School) at the same time as future Fred Astaire partner Barrie Chase.
  • Lied to a booking agent about her age (said 16 when she was 14) to ensure work as a chorus-line dancer.
  • Confessed to her actual age when submitting an injury report for a broken ankle, which ironically freed her from vaudeville dancing to land her iconic role on Father Knows Best.
  • Read for her role as mother to comedian Chris Elliott on Get a Life thinking that his character was a 12-year-old paperboy, not 30. 
  • Published In the Kitchen With Elinor Donahue in 1998, a collection of stories from a life in Hollywood, plus 150 of her recipes.


  • 1959, Emmy — Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series: Nominee


  • Susan Peterson — Stepdaughter
  • Richard Smith — Ex-husband
  • Steve Ackerman — Stepson
  • Peter Ackerman — Son
  • James Ackerman — Son
  • Christopher Ackerman — Son
  • Doris Donahue — Mother
  • Thomas William Donahue — Father
  • Harry Ackerman — Husband (deceased)
  • Brian — Son
  • Lou Genevrino — Husband

Next On TVSee all »


  • Birth Name: Mary Eleanor Donahue
  • Birth Place: Tacoma, WA
  • Profession: Actor

Watch This

<p></p><p>Nicole Barre, Briana Venskus and Alanna Masterson, <em>The Walking Dead</em></p>
The Walking Dead: What's Going to Happen at Oceanside?

The Walking Dead returns to a mysterious colony with a lot of guns