For six years, Elinor Donahue was the voice behind Betty Anderson, the oldest daughter in the family sitcom, Father Knows Best. Originally a radio show, the storyline revolved around a loving and intelligent family man, his wife and their three kids and their everyday problems. The show became just as much a hit on screens as it did over the air – if not more. Unfortunately, though, after just a few seasons, the show abruptly ended, shocking both the cast and the fans.
However, that wasn’t the complete end to the Father Knows Best era. Seventeen years after leaving the show, the cast returned to film the reunion movie. At first, Donahue and the cast felt apprehensive about the project. Following the show’s end, not many of the stars kept in touch, leaving their time together on the sitcom in the past.
“There was great trepidation when we first had our reading for the reunion movie,” the Father Knows Best star shared with Closer Weekly. “You could just sense it.”
However, moments into the reading, the cast’s dynamic quickly returned and with it their friendships. Donahue likened the experience to time traveling, but not in the way you’d expect.
“But we sat down and read through it once and it was as though the years had flown by. Nothing was any different and it was wonderful,” Donahue recalled. “It just felt so comfortable and it didn’t feel like we were going backward, we were coming forward.”
She added, “We brought everything that we were, everything we had been through to our characters. We all looked at each other and it was like a huge sigh of relief. In the end, we really, really loved it.”
‘Father Knows Best’ Star Describes Moment She Found Out About Show’s Cancellation
Before the reunion, there was a bit of heartbreak when the show went off the air. With its popularity among fans, no one expected Father Knows Best to end so soon, especially Donahue. The seasoned actress recalled that her agent, Lily Messenger, called her and told her the reason behind the show’s abrupt end.
“Miss Messenger called me and said, ‘You’re not going back anymore,’” she recalled. “Robert Young (Jim Anderson) and Jane Wyatt (Margaret Anderson) have retired and they don’t want to do it anymore, so they just stopped,’” Donahue said. “We had enough episodes in the can to make an entire season without having to shoot any more; back then we were shooting 39 episodes a year.”
The teenage Father Knows Best actress admitted that, at first, she was “sad and disappointed” regarding the show’s end, especially since she had grown so close to both Young and Wyatt. However, she acknowledged that the future was unpredictable and holds no ill feelings towards her former castmates.
“As far as I know, and nobody knows what’s around the corner, it’s no more,” Donahue said. “I’m done, finished… But all told, it was all just so magical. Honestly, I’ve had a lot of fun.”