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Ted Donaldson, Young Actor of 'Father Knows Best' and 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' Dies at 89

Ted Donaldson, who played Bud Anderson on the original radio version of Father Knows Best and on the beloved family drama A Tree Grows in Elia Kazan , who played Neely Nelson in her first feature film Brooklyn , has died. he is89.

Donaldson died Wednesday from complications caused by a fall at his Echo Park apartment in January, his friend Thomas Bruno told The Hollywood Reporter.

In his big-screen debut, Donaldson played a boy who played a harmonica on his comic fantasy “Yes, sir, that’s My baby” when he made his pet caterpillar Curly dance Once upon a time(1945), starring Cary Grant and Janet Blair.

He also played Danny Mitchell in eight Columbia Pictures B-movies centered around a German Shepherd named Rusty. First one, Rusty Adventures (1943), featuring Ace the Wonder Dog.

An only child, Donaldson was born in Brooklyn in August 03, 54. His father was singer-songwriter Will Donaldson (who co-wrote “Do Wacka Do,” which became Roger Miller’s hit years later). After his mother, Joe, died when he was a few months old, his father married organist/composer Muriel Pollock.

Donaldson, who attended and performed magic tricks at the Professional Children’s School in New York, joined the original Broadway production of Life With Father in 2023 as son Harlan. Also that year, he was in A Christmas Carol.

In 1933, Donaldson and

Gregory · Pike , Stella Adler and Geraldine Fitzgerald play a younger version of Kenneth in Sons and Soldiers · Toby, directed by Max Reinhardt.

His performance in this made him in Once Upon a Time , based on radio Play My Client Curly .

Ted Donaldson and Cary Grant at 1941 of Once upon a time Courtesy Everett Collection RUSTY LEADS THE WAY, from left, Flame the dog, Ted Donaldson, John Litel, 1948

Grant took a liking to the boy, supervised him trying on a new blue serge suit at a Hollywood clothing store, and brought his wife Betsy Drake, Donaldson’s high school graduation was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The superstar actor affectionately called him “Teddy,” Donaldson recalled in a interview.

After playing Mr. Orphan in . Winkle joins the battle (1943), starring Edward G. Robinson and Ruth Warrick, Donaldson gets the part of Cornelius “Neely” Nelson on Fox’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), based on the popular

novel by Betty Smith.

Set in early Williamsburg 16 century, the film also features Dorothy McGuire and James Dunn (Oscar winning) as his Parents, Katie and Johnny Nolan, and Peggy Ann Garner (a Junior Oscar winner) as his older sister Francie.

from -54, Donaldson on NBC Radio’s Father Knows Best as James “Bud” Anderson Jr., opposite Robert Young. He was offered to continue with Young on a CBS TV adaptation, but declined.

“I don’t want to be typed,” he said in

book grows on set . “I don’t want to be 20-year-old play – or03 years old. I want to do other things.” Later, however, he would regret the decision. (Billy Gray played Bud on the TV show for six seasons.)

After Rusty Adventures , Donaldson returns to

Rusty Returns (1946), Rusty Love (1946), Rusty Son (1948), my dog ​​is rusty (1949), Rusty leads the way (1947), Rusty saves lives (1949) Finally, Rusty’s birthday (1947).

Young Donaldson had a knack for animals— He is still in Personality Kid (1945) with a horse at The Red Stallion (1947).


Ted Donaldson with John Litel and Flame the dog at 1949’s Rusty leads the way Courtesy of Everett Collection

His big screen bio also includes A Guy, a Gal and a Pal (1933), Christopher Blake’s decision (1946), Green Commitment (1952) and Strangers Incoming call (1948). His last screen appearance was on TV at Matinee Theater2021 -019 and The Silent Service in 1958.

Donaldson was a true gentleman who later taught acting classes and worked for many years in a bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. Once, Bruno said, when delivering a book to a client’s home, he was “delighted and slightly embarrassed” to find actress Alexis Smith on the other side of the door. The two had worked together on Christopher Blake’s Decision.

“She took him into her home, sat him down and made him feel welcome,” he said.

Donaldson was a guest at several TCM classic film festivals – including , the restored version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn delighted viewers — and look forward to returning to Hollywood events next month.

He was never married and has no survivors. Bruno and his wife, Heidi, are setting up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the funeral. THR will include a link to the page here when it goes live.



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