Donna Reed Museum

Donna Reed was the wholesome girl next door featured in numerous films in the 1940s and 1950s, followed by a TV career that lasted decades. She is best known for her role as Mary Hatch Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a holiday classic that has become a beloved and enduring part of American popular culture. She was born and raised on a farm outside of Denison, Iowa.

She never forgot her roots, as she frequently visited her parents in Denison. In addition, she left her Oscar Award for “From Here to Eternity” to the community of Denison.

Address: 1305 Broadway, Denison, Iowa

Website: https://www.donnareed.org/

It’s your chance to get close to Donna Reed at the Donna Reed Museum in Denison, Iowa.

When is the Donna Reed Museum open?

There are no regularly posted hours on their website, we would recommend calling them at 712.263.3334 or email donnareedfnd@gmail.com to verify hours and schedule an appointment.

Displays and artifacts from Donna Reed’s movie and TV career.

Is there a cost to visit the Donna Reed Museum?

There is no cost, it is free.

What is there to see at the Donna Reed Museum?

They showcase Donna’s honors and awards. Some of the interesting artifacts include:

  • Original scripts annotated by Donna Reed
  • Movie posters
  • Donna’s personal scrapbooks
  • Personal letters between Donna Reed and her pen pal of 48 years, Violet Lindsay.
  • They also have a life-size cut out of Donna, so you can get your photo with her.
  • an invitation from director Frank Capra to a screening of the movie
  • Another unique display is on the snow-making process developed especially for It’s a Wonderful Life, as this process replaced the practice of using painted cornflakes for falling snow. 

Isn’t it a movie theatre also?

Yes, the museum is connected to the Donna Reed Theatre. It opened as the Germania Opera House sometime in 1914. It functioned as a movie theatre until the 80s and has since been refurbished and is now a venue for live performances but is also equipped for movies. In the 1980s, the theater was renamed in honor of Donna Reed, who was born and raised in Denison and attended high school in the town.

Check out the hallway leading to the theatre, its filled with photos of Donna and the other celebrities she worked. Photo above of John Wayne and Donna Reed.

Do they still have free showings of It’s A Wonderful Life during the holiday season?

Yes, my understanding is that the Donna Reed Theatre still plays the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” before Christmas each year – and it’s free to attend. The story I heard was that Donna Reed was involved in making arrangements to have the film shown at the theatre and the movie’s owner allowed Denison to show the movie, but only with three conditions. First, it can only be shown in this theatre, only be shown before Christmas, and it has to be free to attend.

It happens to be that this was the location when I first saw the full movie. I was dating a girl from Denison (who I later married) and she took me to the theatre, during one of the free showings of It’s a Wonderful Life.

To see when the movie It’s a Wonderful Life is playing during December, I suggest following their Facebook account> https://www.facebook.com/thedonnareedfoundation/

The Donna Reed Theatre in Denison, Iowa seats about 500.
A view of the theatre from the stage.
Roy Voggessor, a Denison native, who during retirement helped run tours of the Donna Reed Theatre and Museum. In this photo, he’s showing up the projection room

Where can we see Donna Reed’s Oscar Award from the 1953 film From Here to Eternity?

The Oscar is on display at the McHenry House, a local historical house dedicated to the McHenry family. Address of the McHenry House: 1428 1st Ave N, Denison, IA 51442 Phone: 712.674.3750

Donna’s Oscar Award is on display at the nearby McHenry House.

Why is It’s a Wonderful Life considered a holiday classic?

The film was released in 1946, but it did not initially achieve widespread popularity. It was re-released in the 1970s, and became a holiday television staple, airing annually on network television during the holiday season.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a holiday classic because it has become a beloved and enduring film that is closely associated with the holiday season. It has timeless themes of love, family, and the true meaning of Christmas. The film tells the story of George Bailey, a man who is on the verge of despair and contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. However, with the help of a guardian angel, he is shown what his life would have been like if he had never been born, and he comes to realize the profound impact that he has had on the lives of those around him.

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