Margaret Julia "Marlo" Thomas (born November 21, 1937) is an American actress, producer, author, and social activist. She is best known for starring on the sitcom That Girl (1966-1971) and her children's franchise +more_You_and_Me'>Free to Be. You and Me. She has received three Primetime Emmy Awards, a Daytime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Peabody Award for her work in television, has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.

She has also received a Grammy Award for her children's album Marlo Thomas and Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long. In 2014, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Thomas serves as National Outreach Director for St. +more Jude Children's Research Hospital, which was founded by her father Danny Thomas in 1962. She created the Thanks & Giving campaign in 2004 to support the hospital.

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Early life

Thomas was born in Detroit and raised in Beverly Hills, California, the eldest child of Rose Marie Cassaniti and comedian Danny Thomas. She has a sister, Terre, and a brother, producer Tony Thomas. +more Her father was a Roman Catholic Lebanese American and her mother was Sicilian American. Her godmother was Loretta Young. The name "Marlo" came from her childhood mispronunciation of the name Margo, as Thomas was called by her family.

Thomas attended Marymount High School and 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 in the world". She was a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta.


Early career

Thomas appeared in many television programs including Bonanza, McHale's Navy, Ben Casey, Arrest and Trial, The Joey Bishop Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, My Favorite Martian, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Donna Reed Show. Her big break came in 1965 when she was cast by Mike Nichols in the London production of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, co-starring Daniel Massey, Kurt Kasznar, and Mildred Natwick. +more (In 1986, she was once again cast by Nichols on Broadway in Andrew Bergman's Social Security, co-starring Ron Silver and Olympia Dukakis. ).

Thomas and her father, Danny, were cast as Laurie and Ed Dubro in a 1961 episode, "Honor Bright", of CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre.

That Girl

Thomas starred in an ABC pilot called Two's Company in 1965. Although it did not sell, it caught the attention of a network programming executive. +more He met with Thomas, and expressed interest in casting her in her own series. With their encouragement, Thomas came up with her own idea for a show about a young woman who leaves home, moves to New York City, and struggles to become an actress. The network was initially hesitant, fearing audiences would find a series centering on a single female uninteresting or unrealistic.

The concept eventually evolved into the sitcom entitled That Girl, in which Thomas played Ann Marie, a beautiful, up-and-coming actress with a writer boyfriend, played by Ted Bessell. The series told the daily struggles of Ann holding different temporary jobs while pursuing her dream of a career on Broadway. +more That Girl was one of the first television shows to focus on a working, single woman who did not live with her parents, and it paved the way for many shows to come. Thomas was only the fourth woman to produce her own series, following Gertrude Berg, Lucille Ball, and Betty White. That Girl aired from 1966 to 1971, producing 136 episodes, and was a solid performer in the Nielsen ratings.

In 1971, Thomas chose to end the series after five years. Both ABC and the show's sponsor, Clairol, wanted the series finale to be a wedding between the two central characters, but Thomas rebuffed them, saying that she felt it was the wrong message to send to her female audience, because it would give the impression that the only happy ending is marriage. +more That Girl has since become popular in syndication.

Clairol was our sponsor and they wanted to end the show with a wedding. I said, "I just can't do that to these women and girls who followed Ann Marie's adventure. +more I can't now say that the only happy ending is a wedding, because I don't believe it. " There was a big ruckus about it, but I wouldn't do it. The last show, Ann Marie took Donald to a women's lib meeting, which made nobody happy but me. I loved it.

Later career

After That Girl, eager to expand her horizons, Thomas attended the Actors Studio, where she studied with Lee Strasberg until his death in 1982, and subsequently with Strasberg's disciple Sandra Seacat. When she won her Best Dramatic Actress Emmy in 1986 for the TV movie Nobody’s Child, she thanked both individuals.

In 1972, she released a children's book, +more_You_and_Me'>Free to Be. You and Me, which was inspired by her young niece Dionne Gordon. She went on to create multiple recordings and television specials of and related to that title: Free to Be. You and Me (1972, 1974) and Free to Be. A Family (1987), with Christopher Cerf. Also in 1972, she served as a California delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. She helped the George McGovern presidential campaign in October 1972 at Star-Spangled Women for McGovern-Shriver, reciting a parody of Erich Segal's Love Story for 19,000 people at Madison Square Garden.

In 1973, Thomas joined Gloria Steinem, Patricia Carbine, and Letty Cottin Pogrebin as the founders of the Ms. +more Foundation for Women, the first women's fund in the US. The organization was created to deliver funding and other resources to organizations that were presenting liberal women's voices in communities nationwide.

In 1976, Thomas made a guest appearance on the NBC situation comedy The Practice as a stubborn patient of her father Danny Thomass character Dr. Jules Bedford, and the chemistry of father and daughter acting together made for touching hospital-room scenes.

She has made guest appearances on several television series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (as Judge Mary Conway Clark, a mentor of ADA Casey Novak), Ballers, The New Normal, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. She also narrated the series Happily Never After on Investigation Discovery. +more From 1996 to 2002, Thomas played Rachel Green's mother, Sandra Green, on the TV show Friends.

Thomas appeared in films such as Jenny (1970), Thieves (1977), In The Spirit (1990), The Real Blonde (1997), Starstruck (1998), Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999), Playing Mona Lisa (2000), LOL (2012) with Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus, and Cardboard Boxer (2014). She also starred in television movies including It Happened One Christmas (1977; also produced) (a remake of It's a Wonderful Life), The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck (1984; also produced), Consenting Adult (1985), Nobody's Child (1986; Best Dramatic Actress Emmy), Held Hostage: The Sis and Jerry Levin Story (1991; also produced), Reunion (1994; also produced), Deceit (2004; also produced), and Ultimate Betrayal (1994).

Thomas's Broadway theatre credits include Thieves (1974), Social Security (1986), and The Shadow Box (1994), and in 2011, she starred as Doreen in Elaine May's comedy George Is Dead in Relatively Speaking during a set of three one-act plays (The New York Times called Thomas' performance "sublime"). The other two plays were written by Woody Allen and Ethan Coen.

Off-Broadway, Thomas has appeared in The Guys, The Exonerated (in which she also appeared in Chicago and Boston, co-starring with Brian Dennehy), The Vagina Monologues and Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Also off-Broadway, she appeared opposite Greg Mullavey in the 2015 New York debut of Joe DiPietro's play Clever Little Lies at the Westside Theatre. +more Regional theatre productions include: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Hartford Stage; Woman In Mind at the Berkshire Theatre Festival; Paper Doll, with F. Murray Abraham at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre; and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds at the Cleveland Playhouse. In 1993, she toured in the national company of Six Degrees of Separation. In the spring of 2008, she starred in Arthur Laurents's last play, New Year's Eve with Keith Carradine, at the George Street Playhouse.

Thomas has published seven best-selling books (three of them #1 best-sellers): +more_You_and_Me'>Free to Be. You and Me; Free to Be. A Family; The Right Words at the Right Time; The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn; Marlo Thomas and Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long (the CD version of which won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children); her 2009 memoir, Growing Up Laughing; and It Ain't Over. Till It's Over: Reinventing Your Life and Realizing Your Dreams Anytime, At Any Age.

Thomas serves as the National Outreach Director for St. +more Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which was founded by her father, Danny Thomas. She donated all royalties from her 2004 book and CD Marlo Thomas and Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long (also produced with Christopher Cerf) and her two Right Words at the Right Time books to the hospital.

In 2010, Thomas created [url=https://web. archive. +moreorg/web/20100423065516/http://www. marlothomas. com/]MarloThomas. com[/url], a website for women aged 35+, associated with AOL and the Huffington Post.


Thomas is the recipient of four Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Grammy Award, a Jefferson Award, and the Peabody Award.

In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Thomas's name and picture.

In 1996, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.

On November 20, 2014, the Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration was opened as part of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. +more Hillary Clinton presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

On November 24, 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Thomas the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, at a White House ceremony.

Personal life

Thomas was in a long relationship with playwright Herb Gardner.

In 1977, Thomas was a guest on Donahue, the television talk show, when she and host Phil Donahue fell in "love at first sight". They were married on May 21, 1980 and Donahue moved with some of his sons and his daughter from Chicago to New York City to live with Thomas and to produce his talk show there. +more Thomas is the stepmother to Donahue's four sons and daughter from his first marriage. Concerning her relationship with her stepchildren, Thomas told the AARP magazine in May 2012, "from the very first day, I decided that I was not going to try to be a 'mother' to Phil's children in the traditional sense - they already had a mom - but, instead, to be their friend. I'm proud to say that the friendships I established with them are as strong today as they were 30 years ago - even stronger. ".

Despite Thomas’ public identification with feminist issues for many years and despite regular discussions of them on her husband’s talk show, in their home life she had difficulty empathizing with a pregnant working woman, ironically. At the Fifth Avenue penthouse where Thomas, Donahue, some of his sons and his daughter lived, a household staff waited on them. +more Majordomo of the staff from February 1986 to December 1988 was Desmond Atholl. Atholl claimed publicly in 1990 that in 1988, Thomas had discriminated against the household’s laundress, a Chinese immigrant with the first name Linda. Linda, who lived in the borough of Queens with her husband, already was singlehandedly doing laundry for the large family prior to Thomas hiring Atholl in February 1986. Atholl revealed, “Linda was not Marlo's favorite employee . . . because she arrived at 9 A. M. and left at 5 P. M. on the dot. Marlo's perfect employee was someone who would put aside any private life and be available twenty-four hours a day to cater to her every whim. ”.

In 1988, after Linda became visibly pregnant, Thomas wanted to fire her without Donahue getting involved in the situation. Atholl explained in a book he co-wrote with Michael Cherkinian, published in hardback in 1990:

Eventually, when [Linda] became visibly pregnant, she had to confront Marlo with her news. As predicted, Marlo was not overjoyed. +more As the days went by, Linda grew larger in size, which made it increasingly difficult for her to maneuver the large laundry baskets. Phil, always the gentleman, helped her carry the baskets down the stairs to the elevator and insisted that I also help Linda, which I was happy to do.

Marlo, in the meantime, felt that Linda having a baby would lead to a serious problem of absenteeism once the child was born. Even though the infant was to be cared for by its grandmother, it was certain to get sick at times and require the attention of its mother. +more Marlo, a self - proclaimed feminist, asked me to find a replacement for Linda, devising a plan so that it would not appear obvious to anyone that Linda was being fired because of her condition. Thus, Linda would be told that Marlo needed a laundress who could also serve as her lady's maid and travel with her to [her and Donahue's vacation house in Westport,] Connecticut and on trips out of town. Marlo felt that Linda would accept this excuse for letting her go as she obviously would be unable to travel with a new baby at home.

Thomas did not want to face the laundress to tell her she was fired, and she instructed Atholl to do so, which he did. The situation worsened because Thomas did not want Donahue to find out what was going on, but he did anyway because Linda, who got along very well with him, and her husband sent a letter to his office with all the details. +more (Linda and her husband previously had sent Donahue a letter at the penthouse, but Thomas had intercepted it and thrown it away. ) “Phil had recently [video]taped a[n episode of the Donahue] show about discrimination against pregnant women,” says the book by Atholl and Cherkinian, “and was especially furious with Marlo for putting him in such an awkward position. A dreadful fight was heard by all. ”.

This unpleasant episode in the marriage of Thomas and Donahue continued for a while, as did Thomas’ lack of empathy with the pregnant woman, eventually becoming resolved when “Linda ended up giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. . +more . . Marlo paid Linda full salary to stay at home with her daughter for many months to come. ”.



1970JennyJennyNominated - Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year - Actress
1977ThievesSally Cramer
1990In the SpiritReva Prosky
1993Falling DownKTLA Reporter
1997The Real BlondeBlair
1998StarstruckLinda Phaeffle
1999Deuce Bigalow: Male GigoloMargaretUncredited cameo
2000Playing Mona LisaShelia Goldstein
2017The Female BrainLynne
2018Ocean's 8Rene


1960The Many Loves of Dobie GillisFrank's GirlfriendEpisode: "The Hunger Strike"
196077 Sunset StripAminaEpisode: "The Fanatics"
1961Zane Grey TheatreLaurie DubroEpisode: "Honor Bright" (with her dad, Danny Thomas)
1961ThrillerSusan BakerEpisode: "The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell"
1961-1962The Joey Bishop Show (sitcom)Stella10 episodes
1962InsightJeanne BrownEpisode: "The Sophomore"
1964Arrest and TrialAngela TucciEpisode: "Tigers Are for Jungles"
1964BonanzaTai LeeEpisode: "A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay"
1964My Favorite MartianPaula ClayfieldEpisode: "Miss Jekyll and Hyde"
1964Wendy and MeCarolEpisode: "Wendy's Anniversary for --?"
1964McHale's NavyCynthia PrenticeEpisode: "The Missing Link"
1965What's My Line?HerselfPanelist
1965The Donna Reed ShowLouise BissellEpisode: "Guests, Guests, Who Needs Guests?"
1965Two's CompanyCaroline SommersUnsold pilot
1965Ben CaseyClaire SchaefferEpisode: "Three Li'l Lambs"
1966-1971That GirlAnn Marie136 episodes Golden Globe Award for Best Actress on Television (1967) TV Land Award for Favorite Fashion Plate - Female (2004) Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1967-1971) Nominated - TV Land Award for Hippest Fashion Plate - Female (2003)
1967Cricket on the HearthBertha (voice)TV movie
1973The ABC Saturday Superstar MovieAnn Marie (voice)Episode: "That Girl in Wonderland"
1973Acts of Love and Other ComediesVariousTV movie
1976The PracticeJudy SinclairEpisode: "Judy Sinclair"
1977It Happened One ChristmasMary Bailey HatchTV movie; also produced
1980The Body Human: The Facts for GirlsHostTV Documentary
1984The Lost Honor of Kathryn BeckKathryn BeckTV movie; also produced
1985Consenting AdultTess LyndTV movie Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
1986Nobody's ChildMarie BalterTV movie Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
1991Held Hostage: The Sis and Jerry Levin StoryLucille 'Sis' LevinTV movie; also produced
1994Ultimate BetrayalAdult Sharon RodgersTV movie
1994ReunionJessie YatesTV movie; also produced
1996RoseanneTina BeigeEpisode: "Satan, Darling"
1996, 2002FriendsSandra GreenEpisode: "The One with the Lesbian Wedding" Episode: "The One with the Two Parties" Episode: "The One with the Baby Shower" Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (1996)
1999FrasierSophie (voice)3 episodes
2000Ally McBealLynnie BishopEpisode: "Tis the Season" Episode: "Love on Holiday"
2002Two Against TimeJulie PortmanTV movie
2004DeceitEllen McCarthyTV movie; also produced
2004Law & Order: Special Victims UnitJudge Mary Clark4 episodes
2007Ugly BettySandra WinthropEpisode: "Something Wicked This Way Comes"
2012The New NormalNancy NilesEpisode: "Baby Proofing"
2015BallersJason's MotherEpisode: "Ends"
2017Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years LaterVivianTV miniseries
2020The RocketeerSitti / Mrs. +more Abboud (voice)Episode: "Pack-A-Doodle/Sitti's Visit" Episode: "Win Some, Lose Some/The Great RocketPack Heist"
2022A Magical Christmas VillageVivianHallmark Christmas Movie

Best Musical or Comedy Actress Golden Globe (television) winners

Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute alumni

Living people

Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Primetime Emmy Award winners

Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital