Elinor Donahue is famous for her important part in the popular American TV show “Father Knows Best”. But even after that show ended, she didn’t stop working. She continued to do well in both acting and other areas.

She was born in Washington and is now 86 years old. Recently, she appeared as a guest in the soap opera “The Young and the Restless”.

In the TV show “Father Knows Best,” Elinor played Betty Anderson, the oldest daughter also known as ‘Princess’. The show was about a regular family living a happy life in the Midwest.

It started on the radio in 1949 and aired every Thursday until 1954. Then it moved to TV on CBS. Only Robert Young continued his role from the radio, playing dad Jim Anderson.

Elinor was a big part of the show for six years. At its best, it was one of the top ten most watched American TV shows. During this time, she also acted in other shows like “Crossroads” and “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.”

Her schedule was busy, and she once said she didn’t have time to watch the show herself.

“When we got home at night and had dinner, it was time to learn our lines and then go to bed to do it all over again. So, I never got to watch the show,” she told Closer magazine.

Elinor was born in Tacoma in 1937. She became the main money-earner for her family when she started acting as a teenager. She appeared in movies like “Love is Better than Ever,” which starred Elizabeth Taylor, and “Girls Town.”

Because Elinor was still young when she started acting in California, she had to have an adult with her on set all the time. Since her dad wasn’t around and her mom worked full-time, her mom Doris gave up her job to be there for her.

After “Father Knows Best” ended, Elinor appeared in other shows like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Star Trek,” and “Mork & Mindy.”

The 86-year-old actress has been in over 70 TV shows and movies like “Winter Wonderland” and “Pretty Woman.”

Elinor got married for the first time when she was 19. She said she felt like a young teenager even though she was technically an adult. She thought getting married and having a baby would make her feel more grown-up.

“I was just 19 but felt like I was still 13,” she said. “I hadn’t really had a chance to grow up yet. I didn’t have many friends from high school… I thought if I got married and had a baby, I would become a grown-up.”

So when a man asked her to marry him, she said yes. This man happened to be Richard Smith, who was a sound man on “Father Knows Best.”

“We went to see a movie together, and during the movie, he whispered in my ear, ‘I love you and I’d like to marry you.’ I just laughed and said, ‘Okay.’”

She had her first son, Brian, with him. But they got divorced six years later, in 1961.

Then in 1962, she married a TV producer named Harry Ackerman. They had three sons together. He was 20 years older than her, but they stayed happily married for almost 30 years until he passed away in 1991.

The next year, she got married again, to her current husband, Lou Genevrino, who works as a contractor. She’s been retired from acting for the past ten years.


For someone who never really thought about being on the screen she has had a prolific and very successful career.

Please share with all the ‘Father Knows Best’ fans you know.