Donna Reed’s Daughter Finds Trunk Full Of Letters From WWII Troops To Her Mother

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Donna Reed’s Daughter Finds Trunk Full Of Letters From WWII Troops To Her Mother

By Movieguide® Contributor

Mary Owen, the daughter of Hollywood icon Donna Reed, shared the touching discovery she made after her mother’s death — hundreds of letters from WWII soldiers. 

Seventeen years after Reed passed away, Owen was going through some of her mother’s things. In the garage, she found a trunk full of letters from the troops. 

“When WWII was over, nobody really wanted to talk about it anymore because everyone participated in it,” Owen said. “I didn’t know anything about these letters.”

It’s unsurprising that Reed corresponded and kept letters from WWII soldiers. The actress did everything she could to lift the troops’ spirits. 

“I still have my mother’s ration cards,” Owen shared. “She went on bond drives. Whenever she visited her parents in Iowa, she sold bonds. She danced with the guys at the Hollywood Canteen and so on. Several of her movies … were shown at base camps. So she started getting these letters right around 1940, 1941, but really closer to the end of the war during the last two to three years. And she responded to them.”

The letters Owen read from these soldiers were touching — some talked about their hopes for the future, while others admitted they were scared to be serving on the frontlines. She said that reading these letters made her feel connected to these brave servicemen. 

Owen also spoke about the connection between WWII and Reed’s most well known movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 

“I feel like WWII had an influence on the making of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE,” she explained. “[Director] Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart participated in the war effort. Jimmy Stewart was an Air Force bomber pilot, and he was away from Hollywood for five years. Capra was too old to enlist, but he had joined the Army Corps and was making the ‘Why We Fight’ series. They were both different people coming back from those experiences going into the making [of] IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.”

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

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is arguably the most beloved movie of all time. It’s certainly the most uplifting, rewarding and redemptive movie. It’s also funny, emotionally powerful, psychologically enriching, and beautifully made. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a pro-life masterpiece by Director Frank Capra, with brilliant performances by Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and a cast of terrific character actors. Slight caution is advised for some false angelology, but the movie honors God in a whimsical, profound, powerful way.

“I think [the movie] gives people hope,” Owen said of the iconic and beloved movie. “There aren’t many movies that you can see over and over again without them weakening. I’ve seen it so many times. I sometimes see something different that I’ve never seen, or it hits me differently. Mary Bailey has become much more talked about. She was so strong. And I love that.”

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