Family & Companions
Elinor Donahue was thrust into show business at an early age by her stage costumer mother. She danced in vaudeville at first, then at five years old, she was given a contract with Universal Pictures. She spent most of the 1940s performing in small film roles for the studio, mainly in musicals, dramas and breezy comedies. Her star never hit in feature films, and Donahue turned to the growing industry of television for work. In 1954, she was chosen for the role of Betty Anderson, the angst-ridden elder daughter of Robert Young's patriarch in the sitcom "Father Knows Best." The show's six-season run made her a household name, and more roles poured in. She played the pharmacist/girlfriend of Andy Griffith for 12 episodes of the family comedy "The Andy Griffith Show" and the daughter of John McGiver in the department store comedy "Many Happy Returns." She was "The Flying Nun"'s sister in the Sally Field star-maker and was opposite Tony Randall as a love interest in the sitcom "The Odd Couple" for 13 episodes in the early '70s. As she aged, Donahue was primarily cast in the role of the pleasant, concerned mother in such shows as the family comedy "Mulligan's Stew," the animated comedy "Eek! the Cat," and quite for irony in Chris Elliott's FOX comedy"Get a Life." She also had recurring parts on the popular western "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and the soap "The Young and the Restless."