Ted Donaldson, young actor in ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’, dies aged 89
Ted Donaldson, who played Bud Anderson in the original radio version Father knows best and as Neely Nolan in the popular family drama A tree grows in Brooklynthe first feature film directed by Elijah Kazan, died. He was 89.
Donaldson died Wednesday of complications from a fall at his Echo Park apartment in January, his friend Thomas Bruno said The Hollywood Reporter.
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In his big screen debut, Donaldson portrayed a boy who makes his pet caterpillar, Curly, dance when he plays the harmonica in the comedy fantasy Yes Sir, That’s My Baby Once Upon a time (1944), main role Cary Grant and Janet Blair.
He also starred as Danny Mitchell in eight Columbia Pictures B-Movies centered around a German shepherd named Rusty. The first, Adventures of Rusty (1945) featured Ace the Wonder Dog.
An only child, Donaldson was born on August 20, 1933 in Brooklyn. His father was singer-songwriter Will Donaldson (he co-wrote “Do Wacka Do,” a hit with Roger Miller years later). After his mother Jo died when he was just a few months old, his father married organist/composer Muriel Pollock.
Donaldson attended the Professional Children’s School in New York and did a magic gig, and he joined the original Broadway production of life with father as son Harlan in 1941. Also that year he played Tiny Tim opposite Edmund Gwenn as Scrooge in a week-long radio version of A Christmas song.
In 1943, Donaldson was back on the Broadway side Gregory PeckStella Adler and Geraldine Fitzgerald as the younger version of Kenneth Tobey’s character in sons and soldiersDirected by Max Reinhardt.
His performance led him to audition for the role of Arthur “Pinky” Thompson with Columbia CEO Harry Cohn Once Upon a timebased on the radio play My client Curly.
Grant took a liking to the boy, supervised his fitting of a new blue Serge suit to a Hollywood client, and then attended with his wife Betsy Drake, Donaldson’s 1949 high school graduation ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The superstar actor affectionately called him “Teddy,” Donaldson remind in a 2018 interview.
After playing an orphan Mr. Winkle goes to war (1944) starring Edward G. Robinson and Ruth Warrick, Donaldson landed the role of Cornelius “Neely” Nolan in Fox’s film A tree grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith’s popular 1943 novel.
Set in Williamsburg in the early 20th century, the film also starred Dorothy McGuire and James Dunn (in an Oscar-winning series) as his parents, Katie and Johnny Nolan, and Peggy Ann Garner (a youth Oscar recipient) as his older sister , Francie.
From 1949 to 1954 Donaldson played James “Bud” Anderson Jr. opposite Robert Young on NBC Radio Father knows best. He was offered an offer to continue with Young in the TV adaptation on CBS, but turned it down.
“I didn’t want to be typed,” he said in the 2002 book Growing up on the set. “I didn’t want to be a 21-year-old playing a 15- or 16-year-old. I wanted to do other things.” However, he would later regret the decision. (Billy Gray portrayed Bud on the TV show for six seasons.)
After Adventures of RustyDonaldson came back for The Return of Rusty (1946), For the love of Rusty (1947), Rusty’s son (1947), My dog Rusty (1948), Rusty leads the way (1948), Rusty saves a life (1949) and finally Rusty’s birthday (1949).
Young Donaldson had a knack for animals – he also worked with a donkey personality child (1946) and with a horse in it The red stallion (1947).
His big screen resume was also included A guy, a girl and a buddy (1945), Christopher Blake’s decision (1948), The Green Promise (1949) and Call from a stranger (1952). His last onscreen credits came in the TV shows Matinee Theater 1955-56 & The silent service in 1958.
A true gentleman, Donaldson later taught acting classes and worked for years in a bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. Once, while delivering a book to a customer’s home, he was “over the moon and a little embarrassed” to find actress Alexis Smith on the other side of the door, Bruno said. The two had worked together Christopher Blake’s decision.
“She brought him into her house and sat him down and made him feel welcome,” he said.
Donaldson has guest-starred at several TCM Classic Film Festivals—including 2016, as a restored version of A tree grows in Brooklyn wowed audiences – and looked forward to returning to the Hollywood event next month.
He never married and had no survivors. Bruno and his wife Heidi set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses. THR will include a link to the page here when it goes live.
https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/ted-donaldson-young-actor-father-225234365.html Ted Donaldson, young actor in ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’, dies aged 89