Marlo Thomas (born Margaret Julia Thomas on November 21, 1937) is an American actress, who first achieved fame on the TV series That Girl in the 1960s.
She is the daughter of the late Lebanese-American comedian Danny Thomas and sister of Tony Thomas, a TV and film producer, and Terre Thomas, a former actress. Her mother, Rose Marie Mantell (born Rose Marie Cassaniti), was of Italian descent and died in 2000.
Thomas was born in Detroit, but grew up in Beverly Hills, California, and went by the nickname of Margie Thomas while attending school. After graduating from the University of Southern California with a teaching degree, Thomas appeared as a regular on The Joey Bishop Show (1961-1962). She followed the series with guest shots on Ben Casey, My Favorite Martian, and Bonanza, but it was not until 1966 that she hit her professional stride as wannabe 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.
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 (a remake of It's a Wonderful Life, with Thomas in the rewritten James Stewart role), Nobody's Child, and The Lost Honor Of Kathryn Beck, while she starred in Jenny (1970) and Thieves (1977) on the big screen.
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 Free to Be . . . A Family (1987, with Christopher Cerf), which were born out of an attempt to teach her then-young niece Dionne 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.
In recent years, Thomas has appeared in guest shots on Ally McBeal, Friends (as Rachel's mother), and Law & Order: SVU. She also appeared in the 2000 comedy Playing Mona Lisa with Alicia Witt and Harvey Fierstein.
Thomas's favorable public image came under severe attack in 1990 when her former butler Desmond Atholl wrote a book called That Girl And Phil. This was an expose of sorts of the years he worked for her. Atholl claimed that contrary to her public image, Marlo Thomas was very cruel and incredibly foul mouthed towards her staffers, servants and pretty much everyone else. There were many people who came forward to corroborate Atholl's charges. One observer even claimed Thomas was profane towards a group of sick children in one of her Saint Jude commercials.
Thomas is the recipient of four Emmy Awards. She has been married to talk show host Phil Donahue since 1980. She has no children, but is step-mother to Donahue's five children from his previous marriage. The couple live in New York City, but Marlo will travel to Los Angeles for work or to receive donations to her charity, St. Jude's Research Hospital. (Producer David Geffen contributed $1,000,000 by simply writing Marlo a check when she was on location in L.A. filming Friends some years ago.)