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A native of Chicago, Donna learned to dance from her dance instructor mother. She attended the University of Illinois for one year before she pursued an acting career. “I was very lucky as a youth knowing exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

The daytime soaps were the birthplace of Donna's career. She initially appeared on “The Secret Storm” in 1966, and then took a regular role as former nun Laura Donnelly in “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.”

“I wore a full habit down the floor, with an arch around the face and everything,” she said in an interview with “But then I lost the habit, as they say. Laura got married and her husband started to fool around on her.”
Classic TV Beauties

Classic TV Beauties 1980s Countdown
    DONNA MILLS as Abby Cunningham in "Knots Landing"
Donna played America's favorite vixen in the '80s, the cunning, calculating Abby, a power-hungry woman who destroyed neighborhood marriages by sleeping with the husbands.

Donna's dazzling blue eyes and blonde mane of hair made her a natural femme fatale. US magazine tabbed her the “world's sexiest woman” four years running and she became the most interesting cast member of “Knots Landing” during her nine years on the show.

As talk show host Sally Jessy-Raphael told Donna, “You walked the line where people want to be like you and want to look like you and they don't resent you, and that ain't easy.”
Introduced during the second season (1980), Abby was the divorced sister of Sid Fairgate. Donna said her character was “designed well and had great depth.”

"I tried to make her a woman who wasn't all bad,” Donna told Jessy-Raphael. “She had many colors. She had vulnerabilities, she was a good mother, she could be hurt. She was much more real than the average vixen."
Soap Opera Digest asked Donna in a 1985 interview if Abby was evil.

“No,” Donna replied. “She'll go further than most people, but she's not willing to do anything. She'll hurt them emotionally but not in any other way. And she has feelings. I think evil people don't.

“Abby wants power. She wants it even more than money. She likes money a lot, but she likes the power of being in control. She's very confident of her abilities and her brains. If
something goes wrong, she'll figure out a way. She'll overcome an obstacle because she's very clever."

“Knots Landing,” a spin off from “Dallas,” aired on CBS from 1979-1993 on Thursday nights. The prime time soap which also starred beauties Joan Van Ark and Michele Lee, never garnered the ratings or media attention of “Dallas,” but it became one of TV's longest running dramas. Set in the fictional Southern California seaside town of Knots Landing, the series focused on four married couples. The show peaked in 1983-84 (11th in the Nielsen ratings) and 1984-85 (9th).
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Donna appeared in Burt Reynold's TV crime drama “Dan August” in 1970. Reynolds then recommended her to his friend Clint Eastwood when Eastwood was looking for a girl to co-star with him in the 1971 psychological thriller “Play Misty for Me.” Donna's role as girl friend Tobie Williams was her most memorable feature film part.

During the 1970s Donna guest-starred in TV shows “Police Woman,” “Fantasy Island,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “The Love Boat,” among others.

She was one of the original movie of the week queens, starring in 21 TV movies, mainly playing battered and abused women. 

“No girl on TV has ever been raped, strangled, assaulted, kidnapped, beaten or killed more than I,” she said in TV Guide.

As the conniving Abby, Donna went from playing the victim to playing the manipulative witch.
“If I had a choice of playing the goody-goody or the bad girl, I'd be the bad girl,” she told “They're always more interesting.”

“(Playing Abby) was great fun,” she said on the Jessy-Raphael Show. “I ran into a woman who told me, 'I get up in the morning and I look in the mirror and say, “OK. I'm gonna be like Abby today.”'”

A beauty at any age, Donna appeared on the cover of Playboy at age 47 and was featured in a partially-nude pictorial..
Donna Mills Abby Cunningham "Knots Landing"
Donna Mills Abby Cunningham "Knots Landing"
Donna Mills Abby Cunningham "Knots Landing"
Donna Mills Abby Cunningham "Knots Landing"
Cybill Shepherd "Moonlighting" Maddie Hayes
Donna's "Knots Landing" co-stars Michele Lee  and Joan Van Ark
Catherine Bach "The Dukes of Hazzard" Daisy Duke
Heather Locklear "Dynasty" "TJ Hooker" "Melrose Place"
Farrah Fawcett "Charlie's Angels" Jill Munroe
Lisa Bonet "The Cosby Show" "Different World" Denise Huxtable
Michele Lee "Knots Landing" Karen Fairgate MacKenzie
Joan Van Ark "Knots Landing" Valene Ewing
Shelley Long "Cheers" Diane Chambers
Markie Post "Night Court" Christine Sullivan
Christina Applegate "Married... With Children" Kelly Bundy
Morgan Fairchild "Flamingo Road" Constance Weldon Carlyle "Falcon Crest" Jordan Roberts