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Donna Reed Reflects on Iconic Role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

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Donna Reed Reflects on Iconic Role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

By Movieguide® Contributor

Actress Donna Reed, known best for her role as Mary Bailey in the Christmas classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, recently revealed how her upbringing during the Great Depression gave her a unique perspective on the movie.

“I doubt that any people in America suffered more than some of the Midwestern farmers of the early ’30s. These people, our friends and neighbors, were struck with a series of Job-like afflictions,” Reed said.

“When I think back to those harsh days, I think mainly in terms of my parents, and the anguish I felt inside as I saw them up early and late to bed, day after day, laboring hard with no returns,” she added.

The Golden-Era star recalled how many of her neighbors left during that time, unable to survive on farms due to the severe drought. However, Reed said her father was determined to stay.

In a previous article, Movieguide® reported on the faith that kept Reed’s father grounded amid hardship:

Reed remembered her father, William Mullenger, as a “stubborn man,” with a drive to never quit. Reed reflected on what sustained her father and her family: Faith.

“I used to wonder how Dad could be so sure when so many others were not. And then, on Sundays, I’d get a glimpse of the answer. On Sundays Dad would pile Mom and the four kids into that old car we drove for 15 years and we’d rattle to the Methodist church in Denison,” she said. “You could get strength just from sitting next to Dad in church. When the minister would read from the Bible, Dad would lean forward a little, as though this especially he had to hear.

“Watching his face, we children could see that the ancient words were food to his spirit, strength to get him through one more week,” she
continued.

It’s easy to draw parallels between Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, to Reed’s father—both choosing hope, when faced with financial crisis and despair—one of the reasons why IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has stood the test of time.

A portion of Movieguide®’s review of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, reads:

As for Stewart’s romantic co-star, Donna Reed, well Donna Reed is the epitome of the girl next door that you want to marry but may not have the courage or good sense to do so. Her character, Mary, is so in love with George Bailey that the issue of whether George will pop the question becomes a huge moment of utmost jeopardy for both characters, but especially for Mary. Then, when George has his biggest moment of crisis, it’s Mary’s love and faith that sets the stage and is the catalyst for George’s ultimate salvation – psychologically, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Without her faith, love and action, George really would be totally lost.