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The Donna Reed Show Reunion
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
7:00 pm PT
Shelley Fabares, "Mary Stone"
Paul Petersen, "Jeff Stone"
Patti Petersen, "Trisha Stone"
Stu Phillips, Music Producer, "Johnny Angel," "My Dad"
Eddie Foy III, Screen Gems Casting Director
James Darren, Entertainer & Series Guest Star
Jimmy Hawkins, “Scotty”
Ann McCrea, “Midge”
Plus additional guests to be announced
When The Donna Reed Show made its TV debut in 1958, Donna Reed was a major movie star having already secured her place in entertainment history in classic films including It’s A Wonderful Life and From Here to Eternity, for which she won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in 1954. Though uncredited, Reed played a major role behind-the-scenes, helping to fashion a family comedy which put the Mom front and center, unlike its popular contemporaries including The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Father Knows Best. In doing so, she became an icon for millions at the center of a series that throughout the course of its 275 episode run presented a family ideal which generations aspired to, while from time to time dealing with challenging subject matter including drug addiction, women’s rights, and freedom of the press. Reed also received four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe Award for her performance as “Donna Stone.”
Blessed with a gifted ensemble cast including Carl Betz (Dr. Alex Stone), Shelley Fabares (Mary Stone) and Paul Petersen (Jeff Stone), both of whom would establish burgeoning pop music careers during the series’ run, The Donna Reed Show endures for generations of fans who grew up with the Stone family during its initial run and as a Nick-At-Nite favorite. Now forty-five years after airing its last episode, and on the occasion of its official Season Four - The Lost Episodes DVD release, the Paley Center is pleased to welcome members of the iconic series cast and creative team for a fond look back at this true TV classic, including the screening of highlights and rare footage from unsyndicated episodes not seen anywhere in decades.
AN ARTICLE FROM LA WEEKLY
The Donna Reed Show Reunion at Paley Center: Shelley Fabares, Paul Petersen and Others on the Perfect TV Family That Really Was
Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.
By Ali Trachta
Despite later starring in three movies alongside Elvis Presley and having a #1 hit single, "Johnny Angel," Shelley Fabares, who played oldest child Mary Stone on The Donna Reed Show, was terribly afraid of singing. Last night at the Donna Reed reunion, hosted by the Paley Center, Fabares spoke of "going into a coma" when she was told she'd have to sing on the show.
Fabares chocked it up to teenage angst. "At 14, 15, 16-years-old, is there much you like about yourself?" she said. Once, when poised to film a scene in which she'd have to dance, Fabares said she went into another one of her comas, but that Donna Reed, who was a mother figure to her and many others on set, was able to calm her down. Fabares quoted Reed as saying, 'Shelley, there are three things I can't do. I can't swim, I can't dance, and I can't act.'
She said Reed went on to say she once filmed a movie in which the first three scenes she shot required her to swim, dance and sing, and that she just had to summon up some courage and do it. Fabares said Reed ended the conversation with, "Oh yeah, that movie I was talking about was It's a Wonderful Life."
This was one of the many tales told about the late actress last night by her costars Fabares, Paul Petersen, who played son Jeff Stone, and Patti Petersen, Paul's real-life sister, who played adopted daughter Trisha Stone, along with producers and directors, all of whom had the utmost respect for Reed as a performer, a leader and feminist before her time.
The Donna Reed Show was a classic 1950s American sitcom; a contemporary of Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. What set it apart, though, was that Reed was truly the center. Her character was a traditional housewife, sure, but the story came from her point of view.
The Stones shared a loving bond onscreen, and according to Reed's colleagues present last night, that bond extended into real life. At one point, Fabares acknowledged Reed's son and daughter in the audience, thanking them for sharing their mother with her and Petersen, whom she said "latched on to [Reed] as if she were their own."
After The Donna Reed Show wrapped, Fabares said that she, Reed, Peterson and Carl Betz, who played father Alex Stone, would meet at a restaurant in Beverly Hills called The Bistro every month without fail, just to talk and catch up. Petersen said the ladies would leave after a few hours, while he and Betz sometimes stayed long after; until close sometimes.
Betz played a paternal role in Petersen's life, as illustrated best in a clip played last night of a young Petersen singing "My Dad" to Betz in an episode of Donna Reed. It's difficult to tell if the tears in their eyes were the result of genuine emotion, or just really good acting.
Peterson almost named his son after his former TV dad, though Betz wouldn't allow it. "Your father's still alive," Petersen said Betz told him. But it didn't stop Petersen from giving his child the middle name Alexander, after Betz's character.
Lunches at The Bistro went on for years, and without fail, Fabares said, until Betz passed away. The remaining three couldn't bring themselves back to the restaurant for a while, though eventually they resumed their meetings until Reed died years later. Then, the family meals finally stopped.
This was the ultimate dream of that era, it seems. That the perfect family you saw on TV was real in some way; that it was achievable. Petersen remarked that such strong bonds didn't necessarily exist on every set, noting that the cast of Father Knows Best, which filmed on the stage next to them, greeted each other with handshakes even after years of working together.
"[Reed and Betz] promised us they would be friends for life, and they were," Peterson said. He seemed to speak for everyone on the stage when he said, "I knew I had it good."