Elinor noted that none of the actors who played the three Anderson children had relationships with their real life fathers, a factor that probably strengthened their on-screen chemistry with Young.

"Robert Young saw something in all three... None of us had contact with our fathers, we were all estranged," she said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. "We had a particular connection to Robert as Daddy, that needy kind of thing."

Elinor said her manager practically forced her to audition for Betty and she never believed she would get the part..

"At the first interview they said I was too ordinary," she told the Desert Entertainer in a 2012 interview. "For the second interview, I got all dressed up and they said I was 'too Hollywood.'

"After the third call-back and a nervous screen test with Robert Young, my manager called to say I got the part... by then, six weeks later, I said, 'What part?'"
Classic TV Beauties
Classic TV Beauties 1960s Countdown
   ELINOR DONAHUE as Betty Anderson in "Father Knows Best" and Ellie Walker in "The Andy Griffith Show"
As a teen-age actress, Elinor played "Princess," the oldest daughter in the idealistic All-American family. Several years later, after she had matured into an adult, Elinor portrayed a college-graduate pharmacist in a brief yet memorable role on another iconic TV series.

"Father Knows Best" was a depiction of the idyllic family. The show reflected the optimism and wholesomeness of American life during the Eisenhower era. The humor was non-threatening,the characters adorable, and every show had a message, a moral lesson. It aired during a time before we questioned authority.

"It was a product of its time, a kind of moment in history," Elinor said of "Father Knows Best" in a People magazine article twenty five years later. "It wasn't meant as a treatise on how family life should be."
.No. 32
Co-creator Eugene B. Rodney said Elinor was the perfect fit for Betty: attractive but not sophisicated.

Like many other TV series of the day, "Father Knows Best" was originally a radio program, airing for five seasons starting in 1949. Young and business partner Rodney developed the TV series, initially naming it "Keep It in the Family." A pilot was aired in May 1954, but the show's name was later changed and Young hired a new supporting cast when the series began in October 1954.

"Father Knows Best" was dropped by its TV sponsor and canceled after the first 26 episodes, but was brought back thanks to a letter writing campaign. A TV Guide article from that year noted that it was "one of the very few cases of a show literally being brought back by what press agents like to call 'Popular Demand.'"
Taking only a short break after production on "Father Knows Best" stopped, Elinor was hired as Ellie Walker, the intended love interest for Andy Griffith, in 1960.

Ellie appeared in the fourth episode of the first season and was given billing in the show's opening credits. She made her mark as one of TV's original feminists, holding a job as a pharmacist, and entering politics, another male-dominated arena, when she ran for and won a Maybery city council seat.

The character, however, wasn't a good fit for the show and the chemistry with Andy never developed. She appeared in only 12 episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" and asked to be released from her three-year contract after the first season. A commentary on the website  www.thiswastv.com noted that Ellie "challenged Andy and Mayberry more than any of the opportunistic criminals that would roll into town over the next seven seasons."
A new sponsor, Scott Paper Company, picked up the sponsorship and moved the series from CBS to NBC. More importantly, it shifted the show to an earlier time slot -- from 10 to 8:30 pm -- so children could stay up and watch. It eventually aired on all three networks and aired every night except Thursday and Saturday.

Young tired of playing Jim Anderson after the 1960 season and production stopped, but "Father" was so popular that reruns continued airing on primetime for the next three seasons.

"I was sorry to see the show stop production," Elinor told TV Guide. "We've all been together for so long and worked together so much that we felt like an actual family and it was really like a part of a real family unit breaking up."

As she began looking for new roles, Elinor worried that she would be typecast.
"I would like to play a really good but small role in a really prestigous picture," she said in 1960. "I've been Betty Anderson so long now that whenever producers do think of me they think of a 15- or 16-year old girl."

Born in Tacoma, Washington as Mary Eleanor Donahue, Elinor first sang on the radio at age 2. She performed as a vaudeville dancer at age 4, touring the Pacific Northwest. A year later Elinor's mother moved her to Los Angeles and she signed a contract with Universal Studios She appeared in her first movie, "Mister Big" with Donald O'Connor at age 7.

"I didn't really decide (to go into show business), it was decided for me," she said.

As a young child Elinor worked with stars Ray Bolger, Liz Taylor and Sammy Davis, Jr., and landed bit parts in movies as a contract player. Although she experienced the glamour and glitz of Hollywood, Elinor and her mother lived through some hard times.

"There were times when they literally weren't eating," a friend said of Elinor and her mother in the 1960 TV Guide article. "Elinor wasn't always working and wasn't exactly overpaid when she did work."
In interviews years later, Elinor said that she didn't feel she did her best work as Ellie Walker. She said she was going through a divorce and was raising her three-year-old son and just needed a break.

Since "Andy Griffith," Elinor has lived the life of a working actress. She played a humorous part in "Pretty Woman" (1990), and more recently, made an apperance on "The Young and the Restless" as Judge Anderson.

In 1998, Elinor published a book "In the Kitchen with Elinor Donahue," in which she relived memories of working 60-plus years in the entertainment business, and she shared cooking recipes.
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Elinor Donahue "Father Knows Best" Betty Anderson "The Andy Griffith Show" Ellie Walker
Elinor Donahue "Father Knows Best" Betty Anderson "The Andy Griffith Show" Ellie Walker
Elinor Donahue "Father Knows Best" Betty Anderson "The Andy Griffith Show" Ellie Walker
Elinor Donahue "Father Knows Best" Betty Anderson "The Andy Griffith Show" Ellie Walker
Mary Tyler Moore "The Dick Van Dyke Show" Laura Petrie
Yvonne Craig "Batman" Batgirl
Barbara Feldon "Get Smart" Agent 99
Sigrid Valdis "Hogan's Heroes" Fraulein Hilda
Joi Lansing "The Beverly Hillbillies" Gladys Flatt
Tina Louise "Gilligan's Island" Ginger Grant
Catherine Bach "The Dukes of Hazzard" Daisy Duke
Eartha Kitt "Batman" Catwoman
The website  www.fatherknowsbest.com said the show "portrayed a family that was suprisingly similar to real people. The parents managed to ride through almost any family situation without violent injury to their diginity, and the Anderson youngsters were... behaved children who respected and loved their parents."

A show born during the chaste 1950s, "Father Knows Best," last aired on primetime network TV just months before President Kennedy was assassinated. In fact, ABC was airing a "Father Knows Best" repeat in the afternoon of November 22, 1963 when ABC News interrupted the program with the breaking news that the president had been shot.

Family came first and foremost for insurance sales manager Jim Anderson (Robert Young, the series co-creator), a father who would attend one of his daughter's school plays rather than a business function.
Amanda Blake "Gunsmoke" Kitty Russell