Donna Reed

  1. Susan Peters, Random Harvest, 1941.     First Ann Richards, then Reed were due to be the Kitty, but it was finally Peters who fell for Ronald Colman –  already committed to Greer Garson. Except, due to an accident, he can’t remember her. Sniff, sniff!   
  2. Virginia Grey, Grand Central Murder, 1941.     Due to his cancer and the shock death of his fiancee, Jean Harlow, William Powell called an end to The Thin Man films in ’41. Immediately – and tastlessly – MGM attempted to keep the formula going with another crime-busting couple, the far too stolid Dana Andrews and… well, Reed was dropkicked in favour of Grey. Their Rocky and Sue were miles from Nick and Nora – who thankfully returned to the screen in 19445 when The Thin Man Goes Home.
  3. Susan Peters, Song of Russia, 1943.      The Hollywood Reporter stated that Garbo was a “cinch” for Nadya.  The fact that Peters,  Reed, Kathryn Grayson, Signe Hasso, Hedy Lamarr and Barbara Pearson  were also seen,  underlined  the relative unimportance of the role in the over-egged  slice of (WW11) Soviet propaganda. “Distastefully Communistic,” charged headliner Robert Taylor.  He then joined WWII in the US Navy.
  4. Frances Rafferty, Dragon Seed, 1943.        Insulting! The book had a point – exposing Japanese atrocities in China.  MGM made it a farce, with the unlikeliest-looking Chinese family ever spawned by Hollywood. Taped eyelids for Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim Tamiroff…  Reed failed to pass her  Eurasian tests. So did Edward Arnold, Fay Bainter, Donald Crisp, Greer Garson, Van Heflin, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon, Edward G Robinson. Such whitewashing was Hollywood’s racist norm when filming Pearl S Buck books in the 40s – such as Luise Rainer winning an Oscar (instead of Anna May Wong) in The Good Earth,1936, and Louise Thurston in China Sky, 1944 … Until South Pacific’s France Nuyen was Siu Lan in Satan Never Sleeps, when set visitors included myself. In 1961.
  5. Frances Rafferty, Mrs Parkington, 1943.       The 22-year-old Reed was selected as Jane Stilham in the fourth of eight Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon films.   And then…  not.
  6. June Allyson, Music For Millions, 1944.    Or  Dear Barbara and 100 Girls and a Man, when Susan Peters, Donna Reed,  Lana Turner were  in the mix for Barbara, “scraping a ’cello” (as New York Times critic  Bosley Crowther phrased it) in José Iturbi’s symphony orchestra. O’Brien was the top-billed draw – at seven! Plus Jimmy Durante, with extra, beefed up material due to his breakthrough eight months earlier in Two Girls and a Sailor (also with Allyson).
  7. Angela Lansbury, The Picture  of Dorian Gray, 1944     Not Donna’s favourite film–making experience. Well, she’d been promised the role of Sybil Vane by director Albert Lewin – yet, somehow, wound up as Gladys Hallward. Thje future Dame Angela saw Lewin and George Cukor on the same day, winning both  Dorian and Gaslight – the  first two of her 112 screen roles.
  8. Arlene Dahl, Scene of the Crime, 1948. Reed had been the original choice for  Gloria – more than  a smidgen  pissed off at being wed to  a cop she never sees, etc. Van Johnson was the husband.  The inexplicable  death of his pardner was the case.
  9. June Allyson, The Stratton Story, 1949.
     true face of James Stewart…  “I was  mad at Jimmy for wrecking my career,  said  Reed. He had replaced Van Johnson in the baseball star’s biopic (“We’d wanted Jimmy from the beginning, he even looked like Monty a little,” recalled Mrs Ethel Stratton) and requested a change of Ellen.  When Donna asked why, she was told:“Jimmy’s fighting for his professional life.”   Reed said: ”What do you think I’m fighting for.”  And she was. “I didn’t work at MGM again. The pictures I made got  worse, except for From Here To Eternity, and my career never did recover.” But that was because neither Donna or her agents capitalised on her Eternity Oscar.   Stewart said he liked Donna, a good actress, but they had no chemistry as man and wife in It’s A Wonderful Life and…  “I hadda have a hit.”

  10. Arlene Dahl, Scene of the Crime, 1949. Originally, or so reported The Hollywood Reporter, Reed was booked to be the wife of a homicide cop – Van Johnson in his one and only film-noir. One can see why.
  11. Anne Baxter, All About Eve,1949
  12. Debra Paget, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  13. Doe Avedon, Deep In My Heart, 1954.      “To all those who love the music of Sigmund Romberg.”  Musical chairs for Mrs Lillian Harris Romberg  in the star-stuffed bio-musical when Reed had to leave to make The Last Time I Saw Paris.
  14. Shirley MacLaine, Around The World In 80 Days, 1955.       No thank you! Too close to a previous exotic lady, Sacajawea in The Far Horizon, 1954. Producer Mike Todd then  saw Suzanne Alexander, Marla English and  Jacqueline Park. Shirley felt totally miscast her third  movie. And she was! But she was also the hottest new It Girl in town!
  15. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  16. Dana Wynter, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.       Director Don Siegel always denied that the pods represented either Communists or McCarthyists. “It’s just an alien invasion story.”
  17. Debra Paget, Omar Khayyam, 1956.      In the Persian frame for Sharain were Reed, Joan Collins, Yvonne De Carlo and Joanne Dru.  Persia was played  by  the Indio and Palm Springs regions of Southern California.
  18. Angie Dickinson, Rio Bravo, 1958. 
  19. Joanna Pettet,  Welcome To Arrow Beach, 1973.     Or Yellow-Headed Summer  when Pidgepn and Donna Reed were due to be involved  in the el cheao horrorfest from Brut, of all companies. Laurence Harvey’s final film was later re-released as Tender Flesh.  Didn’t help none.


 Birth year: 1921Death year: 1986Other name: Casting Calls:  19