Father Knows Best actress Elinor Donahue became a household name after portraying the role of Betty Anderson on the sitcom from 1954 to 1960. The show ultimately ended up changing her life in more ways than one because she met her first husband, Richard Smith, on set. She was married two more times after that to Harry Ackerman and Lou Genevrino.

After her time on Father Knows Best, Elinor immediately snagged a role on yet another popular series, The Andy Griffith Show. Her portrayal of Ellie Walker on the show lasted for one year. 

“I went pretty much immediately from Father Knows Best into The Andy Griffith Show where I was really playing a grownup with a profession, and moxie and stuff,” she told Closer in July 2020. “But the truth is, I felt like a bird out of a nest. I didn’t feel like I had all my feathers yet and I didn’t feel capable. It was the strangest feeling. I had a three-year contract for that show, but at the end of the first year I asked to be let out of it, because I didn’t feel that I was playing the role properly.” 

Father Knows Bests Elinor Donahue’s Husbands, Marriage History
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Elinor continued to balance her career with being a mother to her four sons from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, scoring roles on several NBC series. From 1972 to 1975, the Washington native snagged a recurring role on ABC’s The Odd Couple. From 1993 to 1997, Elinor played Rebecca Quinn on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Later on in her career, from 2010 to 2011, she portrayed judge Marie Anderson on The Young and the Restless. 

Since taking a step back from acting, Elinor has been spending time with Lou in their Palm Springs home and enjoying life as a grandmother. 

Keep scrolling to learn more about Elinor’s three marriages. 

Who was Elinor’s first husband Richard Smith?

Richard was working as a sound producer on Father Knows Best when he fell in love with the actress. In a 2015 interview, Elinor explained that he proposed to her during a date night.

“We had gone to see a movie and he whispered, ‘I love you and I’d like to marry you,’ in my ear. And I said, ‘OK.’”

The couple got married in 1955 and welcomed their son, Brian, one year later. They split just a few years later in 1961.

Who was Elinor’s second husband Harry Ackerman? 

Elinor married her second husband, Harry, in 1962. He was a successful television producer, responsible for creating several popular series. He worked on Father Knows Best along with other shows like Bewitched, Gidget, I Dream of Jeannie and The Partridge Family. During their marriage, Elinor and Harry welcomed three children together: Peter, James and Christopher.

The entertainment mogul was married once before to Mary Shipp before tying the knot with Elinor. The couple had two children together, daughter Susan and son Stephen. He and Elinor were married up until his death in 1991 from pulmonary failure at the age of 78.

Who is Elinor’s Third Husband Lou Genevrino?

Elinor married her third husband, Lou, in 1992. The former Broadway dancer appeared in the 1984 short film Quest. He also worked on the 1992 television series Homefront. Lou’s most recent IMDb credit was for the miniseries Sinatra in 1992.