Elinor Donahue’s Thoughts On ‘Father Knows Best,’ ‘Andy Griffith’ And ‘The Odd Couple’


Elinor Donahue's acting careerElinor Donahue's acting career

Elinor Donahue was a constant in iconic classics like Father Knows Best, The Andy Griffith Show, and the ‘70s show The Odd Couple, where she co-starred with Oscar Madison and Felix Unger. Elinor started working as a child in Vaudeville, focusing on dancing until she got into acting.

She also appeared on Many Happy Returns, The Flying Nun, Mulligan’s Stew, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, Get a Life, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and a few episodes of The Young and the Restless, where she played Judge Marie Anderson.

Elinor Donahue talks about her acting career

Elinor Donahue's acting careerElinor Donahue's acting career
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, Elinor Donahue, Andy Griffith (ca. 1960-Season 1), 1960-68

Elinor looks back on these shows with “fondness,” mainly because she refused to watch them at the time due to feelings of inadequacy. “It brings, generally speaking, happy memories. I was very critical of myself when I was young,” she explained. “I made myself uncomfortable. I didn’t like looking at it. Now I can be a little bit more forgiving.”

Growing up, she looked older than her age; hence, transitioning into an adult star was easier for her. “I grew so tall so young that I was sort of forced into seeming older than I really was if that makes any sense,” she revealed. On Father Knows Best, Elinor “left that show playing a young woman rather than a child.”

Elinor Donahue's acting careerElinor Donahue's acting career
FATHER KNOWS BEST, from left, Robert Young, Elinor Donahue, ‘Betty, Girl Engineer,’ aired April 11, 1956

Leaving dancing and working with Andy Griffith

Elinor gave up dancing to agree to a multi-year contract for Father Knows Best, and she has no regrets about it. “We got so busy with it that, no, kind of not. Then they started writing shows where Betty could dance,” she said, noting she had a chance to show off her skills on the series.

Elinor Donahue's acting careerElinor Donahue's acting career
THE ODD COUPLE, from left: Elinor Donahue, Tony Randall, Jack Klugman in ‘The Pen Is Mightier Than The Pencil’, (Season 3, Episode 4, aired October 6, 1972), 1970-75.

She also enjoyed working with Andy Griffth, who she regards as “so kind” while on set. “I was very nervous about singing. I didn’t sing anymore, and I avoided it like the plague,” she reminisced. “He could tell I was nervous and said, ‘Just sit down here on the floor, and I’ll noodle around with the guitar, and you come in when you feel comfortable, and we’ll start. Just a rehearsal.’”


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