Marlo Thomas Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (20)  | Personal Quotes (3)

Overview (4)

Born in Detroit, Michigan, USA
Birth NameMargaret Julia Jacobs
Nicknames Miss Independence
Height 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Many well known and highly identifiable actresses have tried and failed to make the arduous crossover from fizzy TV sitcom star to mature, dramatic artist. Usually it was their hardcore fans who refused to accept them in any other light. Sally Field and Elizabeth Montgomery come first to mind as two strong actresses, with even stronger TV comedy character personas to contend with, who managed to make the none-too-easy leap to serious dramatic stardom after the fact. And then there's THAT girl ... lovely, glowing brunette Marlo Thomas ... another prime example.

Born in Detroit, Michigan on November 21, 1937, Marlo was christened Margaret Julia Thomas. Raised within the mad Beverly Hills whirl of the entertainment business as the daughter of show business legend Danny Thomas, she was initially dissuaded from an acting career and began a half-hearted adult life as a school teacher.

Quickly switching to acting, however, Marlo began with early TV appearances in the late 1950's on such series as "Dobie Gillis," "77 Sunset Strip," "Thriller" and "Zane Grey Theatre" (an appearance with her father). Her first break came when she was cast as Joey Bishop's sister and aspiring actress on the sitcom The Bob Newhart Show (1961) for one season, and she continued to build up her small screen resumé with assorted guest shots on "Bonanza," "My Favorite Martian," "McHale's Navy," "The Donna Reed Show" and "Ben Casey."

Following her delightful work on the London stage as Corey in "Barefoot in the Park" in 1965, Marlo appeared in a failed TV pilot. The pilot was seen by ABC, and they had her tested for another sitcom lead and passed with flying colors. This one stuck did not fail. Audiences adored "That Girl" with the romantic entanglements and struggling ambition of Ann Marie, a single, independent and very trendy young lady in the real world as an actress wannabe. Marlo became an instant household name (as did co-star Ted Bessell) and earned a Golden Globe ("Best TV Star") and four Emmy nominations during the five-year run of the groundbreaking show.

Cancelling the show on her own terms in 1971, the smoky-voiced actress was faced with a huge task of breaking a stereotype as a perky, fresh-faced, wide-eyed innocent. Capitalizing on her TV fame, she immediately pursued serious film roles. Playing the title dramatic role of Jenny (1970) opposite Alan Alda, she portrayed an unwed, naïve, pregnant girl who marries a filmmaker for convenience sake and earned a Golden Globe nom for "Most Promising Newcomer" in the process. Still, the box office take was mild and the public needed more convincing. When she made her Broadway debut successfully in the Herb Gardner play "Thieves" opposite Richard Mulligan in 1975, she made another stab at films by recreating her stage role. The reviews for Thieves (1977) co-starring Charles Grodin this time (who directed her in the Broadway version) were underwhelming. She would meet talk show icon Phil Donahue on his daytime TV program while a guest promoting the Thieves (1977) movie. They wed in 1980.

During this time Marlo broadened her focus and combined her deep love for children and education with her show business career. She took home bookend Emmy Awards for producing the "Outstanding Children's Specials" Free to Be... You & Me (1974) and, later, Free to Be... a Family (1988). She would also win a Grammy for her children's album "Marlo Thomas & Friends." As for TV, she earned wonderful reviews starring in the ABC holiday mini-movie comedy It Happened One Christmas (1977) playing a troubled female version of James Stewart's protagonist in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) but it was her dramatic work in the TV movies The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck (1984) Consenting Adult (1985) (Golden Globe nomination), Nobody's Child (1986) (Emmy Award, Golden Globe nomination), and Held Hostage: The Sis and Jerry Levin Story (1991), Ultimate Betrayal (1994) and Reunion (1994) that forever erased her pristine stereotype image and saw her as a dramatic force to be reckoned with.

Marlo's subsequent return visits to Broadway with the plays "Social Security" (1986) and "The Shadow Box" (1994) added to her list of successes and continued with demanding theater roles such as Beatrice in "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigold" (1990), Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1992) and Ouisa in "Sex Degrees of Separation" (1992).

Marlo remained actively involved on TV in everything from classic comedy (as Jennifer Aniston's mom in Friends (1994) to adult drama as a lawyer/mentor in the highly-rated crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999), with other TV guest appearances including "Roseanne," "Ally McBeal," "Ugly Betty," "The New Normal" and an additional recurring role on Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (2017).

Sporadic filming into the millennium included the "Odd Couple"-styled comedy In the Spirit (1990) co-starring Elaine May and featuring May's daughter Jeannie Berlin who also co-wrote, and featured roles in the romantic comedy The Real Blonde (1997), the drama Starstruck (1998), the social comedy Playing Mona Lisa (2000), the Miley Cyrus romantic dramedy LOL (2012), the witty comedy The Female Brain (2017) and the action comedy Ocean's Eight (2018) headed by Sandra Bullock.

Younger brother/producer Tony Thomas and actress/sister Terre Thomas also involved themselves in show business careers. On a more personal level, Marlo is an accomplished author, humanitarian and social activist. She has also continued the tradition of her late father as National Outreach Director for St. Jude's Children Hospital for cancer research.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Family (3)

Spouse Phil Donahue (21 May 1980 - present)
Parents Rose Marie Mantell Thomas
Danny Thomas
Relatives Terre Thomas (sibling)
Tony Thomas (sibling)

Trade Mark (1)

Raspy voice

Trivia (20)

Is the eldest of three children of Danny Thomas and Rose Marie Mantell Thomas.
Her sister Terre Thomas, her brother Tony Thomas and her father Danny Thomas all appeared on the That Girl (1966) episode, That Girl: My Sister's Keeper (1969).
Remained friends with That Girl (1966) co-star Ted Bessell until his death. Thomas insisted Bessell see a doctor (which he did), when he complained of chest pains only days before he died.
Her father was of Lebanese descent and her mother was of Italian origin. Her mother's maiden name was Rose Marie Cassaniti.
Future successful television producer Aaron Spelling wrote the script for one of her very earliest television roles, an appearance with her father Danny Thomas on the anthology series Zane Grey Theatre (1956) telecast on February 2, 1961: Zane Grey Theatre: Honor Bright (1961).
Godmother is Loretta Young.
She studied drama at HB Studio in Greenwich Village, New York City.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital national outreach director.
Thomas and Donohue, long-time residents of Westport, Connecticut sold their sprawling Long Island Sound estate for close to its asking price, just under $30 million, moving to a smaller property across town. [December 2006]
Best known by the public for her starring role as the wholesome Ann Marie on That Girl (1966).
Attended and graduated from Marymount High School in Los Angeles, California (1956).
Attended and graduated from the University of Southern California with a teaching degree.
She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
She was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award for her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television (1996).
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on November 24, 2014, the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian, at a White House ceremony.
Was repeatedly a comedic target of the Will & Grace (1998) character Karen Walker, who hated her, but liked her husband, Phil Donahue.
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television at 6902 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on December 3, 1992.
The book "That Girl and Phil" (1991) by Desmond Atholl describes the love story of Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue.
Born on the same day as Laurence Luckinbill, they are three years apart.
Lifelong friends with feminist leader Gloria Steinem.

Personal Quotes (3)

My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.
[on her debt to Lee Strasberg and Sandra Seacat, from her 2010 autobiography] I only wish Lee could have lived to see me portray a schizophrenic in Nobody's Child (1986). I never could have gotten near playing that kind of part without Lee's exercises, and the subsequent work I did and continue to do with his primary disciple, the brilliant Sandra Seacat.
[from her book "Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny" (2010)] I was learning that even a woman with power, the path was dotted with land mines -- she's so ambitious, she's so aggressive, she's ruthless. "Funny thing," I used to say, "a man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless... all a woman has to do is put you on hold.".

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