"Until I was 18, which was shortly after we started filming 'Father Knows Best,' the day of my 18th birthday, they brought in a cake at 5 o'clock sang 'Happy Birthday,' and said, 'ha-ha now you don't get to go home. Now you'll work late like the rest of us!'"
About This Interview
Elinor Donahue was interviewed for three-and-a-half hours in Burbank, CA. Donahue talks about growing up as a performer in radio and vaudeville, and outlines her early film career in films Mister Big and The Unfinished Dance. She describes appearing in early experimental television for Klaus Landsberg (under hot lights and wearing unusual make-up) and speaks fondly of Ray Bolger, whom she danced with on The Ray Bolger Show. She details her role as teenager "Betty 'Princess' Anderson" on the classic '50s television sitcom Father Knows Best, and chronicles auditioning for the role, the long production hours, and the series' abrupt cancellation. She recalls working with series producer Eugene Rodney, whom she described as a "benevolent despot" that demanded strict adherence to the script. Donahue discusses working with fictional father Robert Young, "mother" Jane Wyatt and "siblings" Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin. She talks of her marriage to the sound man on the series and working on the show until six weeks before the birth of her first child, disguising her pregnancy from the cameras. Donahue then recalls her role as Andy Taylor's love interest, "Ellie May Walker," on The Andy Griffith Show, and describes the atmosphere on the Griffith set. She recounts tales of two other recurring parts, those of "Miriam Welby" on The Odd Couple and "Rebecca" on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She discusses playing the mother of 30-year-old paperboy Chris Elliot on Get A Life and how she read for the part as if she were speaking to a twelve-year-old, not knowing that Elliot would be playing an adult lead. Donahue also talks about her many guest appearances on various series over the years, including TheLoretta Young Show, Star Trek, and Ellen. Jennifer Howard conducted the interview on April 25, 2006.