Emmy and Golden Globe winning American actress and TV producer Marlo Thomas became a household name with her role of Ann Marie on the ABC sitcom “That Girl” (1966-1971), where she netted a Golden Globe award and four Emmy nominations for her work in the series. She first gained attention as the protagonist's sister on the comedy series “The Joey Bishop Show” (1961-1962). Following a strong performance in the TV film “It Happened One Christmas” (1977), she nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for the ABC film “Consenting Adults” (1984) and for her role as a former mental patient in the CBS movie “Nobody's Child” (1986). Returning to series TV, Thomas took home an Emmy nomination for her recurring role as Sandra Green on the popular sitcom “Friends” (1996).
Thomas has also acted on the big screen and was seen in “Jenny” (1970), “Thieves” (1977), “In The Spirit” (1991), “The Real Blonde” (1997), “Playing Mona Lisa” (2000) and in such Broadway productions as “Social Security” (1986) and “Paper Doll” (2002).
Thomas, who founded Hart, Thomas & Berlin Productions with Carole Hart and Kathie Berlin in the 1980s, has also been a successful producer. She collected Emmy Awards for the children's specials “Free to Be... You & Me” (1974) and “Free to Be... a Family” (1988). Other TV projects she has produced/executive produced include “Leap of Faith” (1988), “Taken Away” (1989), “Reunion” (1994), “Two Against Time” (2002) and “Deceit” (2004).
The 1996 recipient of Women in Film Lucy award was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 11, 1992, for her television work.
Thomas has been married to talk show icon Phil Donahue since 1980. She was once romantically linked to Herb Gardner and David Geffen. An avid supporter of social and political issues, Thomas has followed in the footsteps of her late father, Danny Thomas, as both spokesperson and humanist for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which was founded by his father.
“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.” Marlo Thomas
Childhood and Family:
The daughter of the late show business legend Danny Thomas (born in 1912, died in 1991) and Rose Marie Thomas (died in July 2000), Margaret Julia Thomas was born on November 21, 1937, in Detroit, Michigan, but was raised in Beverly Hills, California, in which she once attended the prestigious Beverly Hills High School. Known by the nickname Margie Thomas during her school years, she went on to graduate from the Marymount High School in Los Angeles and later received a teaching degree from the University of Southern California. Before pursuing a career in acting, Margaret was a schoolteacher.
Margaret was married to Phil Donahue on May 21, 1980. Her husband was a popular TV talk show host during the 1980s to 1990s thanks to his work in “The Phil Donahue Show” (1970-1996). The ex-member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta has a brother, Tony Thomas, who is a film and television producer, and a sister named Theresa Thomas, who was a former actress.
Thomas made her debut as an actress in the early 1960s with guest roles in the TV series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Zane Grey Theater” and “Thriller” and received her first stellar break when she landed the role of Stella Barnes on the 1961 sitcom “The Joey Bishop Show.” She played Joey Bishop's sister from 1961 to 1962 and after leaving the show, she was seen making guest appearances in various shows like “Insight” (1963), “Bonanza” (1964), “My Favorite Martian” (1964), “McHale's Navy” (1964), “The Donna Reed Show” (1965) and “Ben Casey” (1965).
Her next breakthrough arrived in 1965 when she was cast as the female lead in the London production of Neil Simon's comic play, “Barefoot in the Park.” Under the direction of Mike Nichols, she earned praise for her work in the play. Thomas enjoyed even more recognition when she won the starring role of Ann Marie on the television comedy series “That Girl” (ABC, 1966-1971). Portraying a single young woman attempting to make it as an actress in New York City, she became an immediate star and was handed a 1967 Golden Globe for Best TV Star-Female and four Emmy nominations in the category of Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. Later, she also picked up a TV Land for Favorite Fashion Plate- Female (2004). In addition to acting, Thomas also served as one of the executive producers of the long-running sitcom.
Following the end of “That Girl,” Thomas found herself stereotyped as a buoyant, wide-eyed innocent and had difficulty getting work. In attempts to break her lightweight image, she took a sedate film role as an unmarried pregnant girl in her big screen debut, “Jenny” (1970), alongside Alan Alda. She picked up a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer-Female for her work in the drama. Thomas resurfaced in 1974 when she debuted on Broadway in the Herb Gardner play “Thieves,” playing Sally Cramer. She reprised her stage role for a big screen adaptation of the play in 1977. In between the movies, the actress turned her attention to producing and in 1974 she developed and produced the children's special “Free to Be... You & Me.” The show brought her an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Special, a recognition she shared with her producing partner Carole Hart.
Back to acting, Thomas was seen in the made-for-TV film “It Happened One Christmas” (1977), a remake of the 1946 movie “It's a Wonderful Life.” She picked up a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming – Performers for her work in the documentary “The Body Human: Facts for Girls” (1980), in which she appeared as an ideal mother, and enjoyed critical praise for the made-for-TV dramas “The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck (CBS, 1984) and “Consenting Adult” (ABC, 1985), where she was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role as a loving mother whose son discovers his attraction for men. For her outstanding starring turn as ex-mental patient Marie Balter in the based-on-true-story “Nobody's Child” (CBS, 1986), she won a Best Actress Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination. Also in 1986, Thomas revisited Broadway with “Social Security,” which reunited her with Mike Nichols.
Thomas, who owns Hart, Thomas & Berlin productions, a production company she formed with Carole Hart and Kathie Berlin, won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program for her work in the 1988 children's special “Free to Be... a Family.” She also served as executive producer for the made-for-TV films “Leap of Faith” (1988) and “Taken Away” (1989) as well as the CBS Summer Playhouse episode “Baby on Board” (1988).
In 1990, Thomas had a supporting role in the independent film “In The Spirit,” her first film appearance since 1977. She, however, soon returned to the small screen and was seen in such TV films as “Held Hostage: The Sis and Jerry Levin Story” (1991), “Ultimate Betrayal” (1994) and “Reunion” (1994, also an executive producer) as well as in a 1996 episode of the sitcom “Roseanne.” It was also in 1996 that Thomas was brought into the limelight thanks to her memorable recurring role as Jennifer Aniston's mother, Sandra Green, on the hit series “Friends.” The rest of the decade saw Thomas in three movies: “The Real Blonde” (1997), “Starstruck” (1998) and the Rob Schneider starring vehicle “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” (1999), and providing the voice of Sophie on three episodes of “Frasier” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Thomas played Sheila Goldstein on the festival-screened “Playing Mona Lisa” (2000) and guest starred in two episodes of the David E. Kelley-created sitcom “Ally McBeal” (also 2000). She then starred in and executive produced the TV film “Two Against Time” (2002), teamed up with Vondie Curtis-Hall and Brett Cullen for the made-for-TV drama “Deceit” (2004, also executive produced) and played the recurring role of Judge Mary Clark in the top-rated crime series “Law & Order: SVU” (2004).
Recently appearing as Sandra Winthrop in an episode of “Ugly Betty,” Thomas will return to the wide screen in the Jennifer Elster-directed “ItW” (2008), in which her costars are Terrence Howard, Alan Cumming, Debra Winger, Rosie Perez and Karen Black.
Apart from acting, Thomas is known as a Grammy winner thanks to the 2004 album “Marlo Thomas & Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long.” The album won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for Children in 2006. Previously, she had released the albums “Free to Be...You and Me” (1972) and “Free to Be...A Family” (1988).
Grammy: Best Spoken Word Album for Children, “Marlo Thomas & Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long,” 2006
TV Land: Favorite Fashion Plate – Female, “That Girl,” 2004
Women in Film Lucy: Lucy Award, 1996
Emmy: Outstanding Children's Program, “Free to Be... a Family,” 1989
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special, “Nobody's Child,” 1986
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming – Performers, “The Body Human: Facts for Girls,” 1981
Emmy: Outstanding Children's Special, “Free to Be... You & Me,” 1974
Golden Globe: Best TV Star – Female, “That Girl,” 1967