Thomas at the Emmy Awards, September 17, 1989
|Born||Margaret Julia Thomas
November 21, 1937
Detroit, Michigan, United States
|Occupation||Actress, producer, activist|
|Spouse(s)||Phil Donahue (1980-present)|
Margaret Julia “Marlo” Thomas (born November 21, 1937) is an American actress, producer, and social activist known for her starring role on the TV series That Girl (1966-1971).
Thomas was born in Detroit, Michigan, the eldest child and elder daughter of Lebanese-American comedian Danny Thomas (1912–1991) and his wife, the former Rose Marie Cassanti (1914–2000). Her brother, Tony Thomas, is a television and film producer, and her sister, Terre Thomas, is a former actress.
Marlo Thomas was raised in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents called her Margo as a child, though she soon became known as Marlo, she told The New York Times, because of her childhood mispronunciation of the nickname. She attended Marymount High School in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a teaching degree—"I wanted a piece of paper that said I was qualified to do something," she said—and was a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta.
Thomas began appearing as a regular on The Joey Bishop Show (1961-1962). She followed the series with guest shots on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Ben Casey, My Favorite Martian, and Bonanza, but it was not until 1966 that she hit her professional stride as aspiring New York actress Ann Marie on the ABC sitcom That Girl. The series ran until 1971, garnering her a Golden Globe Award and four Emmy nominations. She was instrumental in the production of the TV special and record album Free to Be… You and Me.
Anxious to show she was as adept at drama as she was at comedy, she proved herself in the television movies It Happened One Christmas (1977) (a remake of It's a Wonderful Life, with Thomas in the rewritten James Stewart role), Nobody's Child (1986) , and The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck (1984), while she starred in Jenny (1970) and Thieves (1977) on the big screen.
Thomas's Broadway theatre credits include Thieves (1974), Social Security (1986 which she also toured), and The Shadow Box (1994). In 1993 she toured in Six Degrees of Separation. In 2007, she starred as Doreen in Elaine May's comedy Roger Is Dead at George Street Playhouse. She returned to George Street Playhouse in the spring of 2008 in Arthur Laurents' play New Year's Eve with Keith Carradine and Natasha Gregson Wagner.
She is also known for her children's books and the recordings and television specials created in conjunction with them: Free to Be… You and Me (1972 and 1974) and Free to Be… A Family (1987), with Christopher Cerf, which were born out of an attempt to teach her niece Dionne Thomas about life. She is donating all royalties from her 2004 book and CD, Thanks & Giving: All Year Long (also produced with Cerf), to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Started by her late father, the organization helps young children suffering from grave forms of disease, especially cancer and leukemia, including many whose parents do not have much money or health insurance; the services are free to all patients, although insurance is accepted from those who are insured.
Thomas has continued her legacy of charity and donation through her publications of The Right Words at the Right Time volumes I and II. Both books are collections of essays written by celebrities and fans of Thomas, explaining when a friend, family member or perfect stranger said the right thing in the author's time of need. All proceeds go to her charity (St. Jude's Hospital).
In recent years, Thomas has appeared in guest shots on Ally McBeal, Friends (as Rachel's mother, Sandra Green), and made several guest appearances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, playing attorney and former judge, Mary Conway Clark, who had a mentoring relationship with assistant District Attorney, Casey Novak. She also appeared in the 2000 comedy Playing Mona Lisa with Alicia Witt and Harvey Fierstein.
Since its launch in 2008, Thomas has been a contributor for wowOwow.com, a website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.
After the end of her relationship with playwright Herb Gardner, Thomas married talk show host Phil Donahue in 1980. By this marriage she has five stepchildren. The couple lives in New York City and Connecticut.