Donna Reed was a disconcertingly pretty mom in her TV sitcom for those of us growing up in the 50s, but to our parents' generation, she was a minor movie star, and apparently a pinup for U.S. servicemen in World War II. The NY Times today (Memorial Day) notes that a recently discovered cache of letters from servicemen she received is now just about all that's left of the thousands of letters that went from war zones to Hollywood stars in the 1940s. Though the story emphasizes her girl-next-door sweetness, anyone who's seen her performance with Jimmy Stewart with a telephone between them in It's A Wonderful Life might notice that she generates some serious sexual heat.
Donna Reed had mostly supporting roles in movies (a soldier mentions The Human Comedy and she won the Oscar for From Here to Eternity) but had a long career in television, not only with The Donna Reed Show but a range of character parts. She died in 1986.
That she saved more than 300 letters takes on more significance because--and I confess I didn't know this before--she "became an ardent antiwar campaigner, serving during the Vietnam era as co-chairwoman of a 285,000-member group called Another Mother for Peace and working for Senator Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 presidential race. In his biography, Mr. Fultz quotes her as saying that “she looked forward to a time when ‘19-year-old boys will no longer be taken away to fight in old men’s battles.’ ”