Elinor was a key character on “Father Knows Best” as the show’s oldest daughter, Betty ‘Princess’ Anderson, who represented a middle-class family enjoying an ideal all-American existence in the Midwest.
The radio program debuted in 1949 and ran every Thursday until 1954. It was later taken up for television by CBS, with only actor Robert Young from the radio program, who portrayed Dad Jim Anderson, remaining.
During her six years on the successful program, which at its peak was one of the top ten most viewed American TV series, Elinor also featured in “Crossroads” and the “George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.”
Her schedule was tight, and she acknowledged once that she didn’t have time to watch the program again.
By the time they got home at night and ate their dinner, they’d be getting ready to learn their lines, go to bed, and wake up to do it all over again. So she never watched the program, she said.
Born in Tacoma in 1937, she soon became the household’s major provider when her career took off in her adolescence, playing in films such as Love is Better than Ever, starring Elizabeth Taylor, and Girls Town.
Because Elinor was still a kid and lived in California, she needed to have an adult on set with her at all times, but since her dad was unavailable and her mother worked full-time, her mother, Doris, quit her job.
Elinor went on to star in “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Dr. Kildare,” “Star Trek,” and “Mork & Mindy” after “Father Knows Best” ended.
In total, the 86-year-old screen veteran has appeared in over 70 TV episodes and films, including Winter Wonderland and Pretty Woman.
Elinor married her first husband when she was 19 years old, and she confessed that she anticipated that by marrying and having a child, she would mature.
She had just turned 19, and she was like a 13-year-old, she said in an interview.
She’d never had the opportunity to mature into a real person, so she was immature. She’d had no friends in high school. She thought if she ran away, got married, and had a baby, she’d be a grownup.
So she decided to agree with the next person who inquired, who turned out to be “Father Knows Best” sound guy Richard Smith.
They went to see a movie, and after he whispered in her ear, ‘I love you, and I’d like to marry you,’ she said, ‘Okay.”
With him, she had her first son, Brian, and the couple split six years later, in 1961.
She married TV producer Harry Ackerman in 1962 and had three boys with him. He was 20 years her senior, and they were blissfully married for over 30 years until his death in 1991.
She married her third and current spouse, contractor Lou Genevrino, the following year. For the past decade, she has been absent from our screens.
She has had a lengthy and highly successful career despite never having considered acting.