If you’ve been catching re-runs of “Father Knows Best,” you’ve probably been wondering what Elinor Donahue is up to these days. Here to help, folks!
Donahue is now 82 years old, but she was just a teenager when she landed the role of Betty “Princess” Anderson, the eldest daughter of Robert Young’s Jim Anderson. The series premiered on CBS in 1954, quickly making Donahue one of the most recognizable faces in America.
At 19 years old, amid the height of the show’s popularity, Donahue became a married woman. Reflecting on that decision years later, she would tell People, “I decided I wanted to be a grown-up. And how do you do that? You go off and get married and have a baby and you don’t have any more problems.”
Elinor Donahue with two co-stars in 1947.
Elinor Donahue with her husband, Lou Genevrino, in 2015.
Elinor Donahue on a 1979 episode of The Love Boat.
Elinor Donahue on an episode of Fantasy Island in 1981.
It wasn’t meant to be — she and her first husband would divorce in 1961 — but the failed relationship led to a longtime marriage with producer Harry Ackerman. They wed in 1962 and remained together until his death in 1991. After his passing, she wed again. She’s a mom of four.
“Father Knows Best” wrapped in the late 1950s, but the cast would reunite two decades later for reunion specials in 1977. By that time, Donahue had appeared in dozens of programs — “Andy Griffith,” “Star Trek” and “77 Sunset Strip,” to name a few — and became a fan-favorite character during her three-year run on “The Odd Couple.”
As for her co-stars: Robert Young, who played show’s titular father, died at 91 in 1998 while his on-screen wife, Jane Wyatt, died at 96 in 2006. Donahue’s fictional siblings are doing well: Billy Gray is 80 and Lauren Chapin 73, and they both live in Los Angeles.
Take a look in the gallery above to see Donahue’s transformation over the years.
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