Actress Elinor Donahue began her acting career at a very early age, starring in several films before landing the role that she became best known for. Playing Betty Anderson on the sitcom Father Knows Best from 1954 to 1960 helped establish her as one of the top actresses on television. Elinor balanced her Hollywood career with motherhood, welcoming four sons: Brian Ackerman, Peter Ackerman, James Ackerman and Christopher Ackerman. 

During her time on Father Knows Best, Elinor was married to her first husband, Richard Smith. He was working as a sound producer on the show when he fell in love with the star. The pair got married in 1955 and welcomed their son, Brian, almost a year later. They ended their marriage in 1961. 

Father Knows Best's Elinor Donahue's Kids: Get to Know Her 4 Sons
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The Washington native also snagged a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1961. The role only lasted one season. 

“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.”

In 1962, Elinor married her second husband, Harry Ackerman. He worked as a producer, responsible for several popular television sitcoms like The Flying Nun, Bewitched, Leave It To Beaver and Gidget. The couple met when they were both working on Father Knows Best. They were married from 1962 until his death in 1991. The pair had three children together: Peter, James and Christopher. 

In 1992, Elinor married her third husband, Lou Genevrino, a former Broadway dancer. They did not welcome any children together, however, they became grandparents. 

Keep scrolling to meet Elinor’s four sons. 

Who Is Elinor Donahue’s Son Brian Ackerman?

For a couple of years, Brian ventured in the entertainment business much like his parents. In 1983, he worked in the casting department for the film The First Time. He also worked as a production assistant on the 1984 documentary Going Hollywood: The ‘30s. In a 1987 interview with People, Elinor shared that Brian was working as a caterer. 

Who Is Elinor Donahue’s Son Peter Ackerman?

Peter also became an actor and a production assistant. He appeared in the 1985 television film Gidget’s Summer Reunion and the 1986 television series The New Gidget. He later venture into music video production, working on Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video and Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun.” Peter later left the entertainment industry and became an ordained priest in 2007. 

Who Is Elinor Donahue’s Son James Ackerman?

James became an entertainment executive, working for Broadway Systems before it was sold to SintecMedia. The company provided software technology for major cable networks like Food Network and HGTV. He previously worked as the Vice President of International Business Development at A&E. 

Who Is Elinor Donahue’s Son Christopher Ackerman?

Christopher also joined showbusiness, working as a producer of short films and documentaries since 2009. He also garnered acting credits in short films such as 2009’s Marbles with Thoreau and 2012’s Making Change.