Thomas, Marlo 1938-
THOMAS, Marlo 1938-
PERSONAL: Born November 21, 1938, in Detroit, MI; daughter of Danny Thomas (a comedian and entertainer); married Phil Donahue (a talk-show host), May 21, 1980; stepchildren: five. Education: Attended University of Southern California.
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, McGraw Hill Ryerson Ltd., 300 Water St., Whitbey, Ontario L1N 9B6, Canada.
CAREER: Actress, producer, entertainer, and activist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fame and Photoplay, Most Promising Newcomer Award for performance in TV series, That Girl; Emmy Awards for TV specialsFree to Be . . . You and Me, 1974, The Body Human: Facts for Girls, 1981, Free to Be . . . a Family, 1989, and Nobody's Child.
(Editor, with Carole Hart and others) Free to Be . . . You and Me, McGraw Hill (New York, NY), 1974.
(Editor, with Christopher Cerf and others) Free to Be . . . a Family, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
(Creator and coauthor) Free to Be . . . You and Me: Stories, Songs, and Poems, Running Press Book Pub. (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.
ADAPTATIONS: TV adaptation and recording of Free to Be . . . You and Me, 1974.
SIDELIGHTS: Marlo Thomas, daughter of celebrity comedian Danny Thomas, has enjoyed a successful television and theater career as an actress and producer, with several Emmy Awards to her credit. She also produced two popular children's anthologies, which were released as books, records, and TV specials. Born in 1938 in Detroit, Michigan, Thomas grew up in Beverly Hills, California, and attended the University of Southern California. She began acting with minor television roles and in summer stock. After appearing in the TV series The Joey Bishop Show, she starred in her own hit sitcom, That Girl, for which she received the Most Promising Newcomer Awards from both Fame and Photoplay. This role made Thomas a celebrity in her own right.
An outspoken feminist, Thomas developed the children's book Free to Be . . . You and Me, also released as a recording and a TV special, in 1974. This was a compilation of nonsexist stories, songs, and poems gleaned from a wide variety of sources and aimed at promoting healthy attitudes toward identity in young children. Such notable authors as Judy Blume, Judith Viorst, and Shel Silverstein contributed to the project, which covered subjects such as divorce, sibling rivalry, friendship, and stereotypes. Critics appreciated the book's laudable intentions and found it visually attractive but were less enthusiastic about the textual sections. A School Library Journal reviewer was troubled by the book's confusing mix of reading levels, while a Booklist critic noted that some of the material "falls flat." Though reviewers' praise for the book remained moderate, it proved a popular success. The TV special, which Thomas produced, won an Emmy Award.
Thomas followed Free to Be . . . You and Me with several other TV projects related to feminist principles. The educational program The Body Human: Facts for Girls, in which she appeared, won an Emmy Award in 1981. She also appeared in and co-produced another educational special, Love, Sex . . . and Marriage. In 1987 Thomas produced a sequel to her first book, this time aimed at issues surrounding divorce, stepparents, single parents, and nontraditional family structures. Like its predecessor, the new volume, Free to Be . . . a Family, is an anthology of songs, poems, jokes, and stories from leading children's writers. The book, Thomas explains in the introduction, focuses on all "the different kinds of families you can imagine, all the different kinds of households we love in and live in." As with the first volume, critics found this effort a mixed bag. Thomas served as host and executive producer for the TV version of Free to Be . . . a Family, which won an Emmy Award in 1989.
In 1980 Thomas surprised her fans by marrying popular talk-show host Phil Donahue. Though several in the entertainment community doubted that the marriage would survive Thomas's feminist ideals, they were proven wrong. Despite the strains of maintaining two high-profile careers and raising four of Donahue's five teenagers from his previous marriage, the couple remained together. Thomas continued to take acting roles in television, appearing in It Happened One Christmas, The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck, Consenting Adult, Nobody's Child, Leap of Faith, Held Hostage: The Sis and Jerry Levin Story, Ultimate Betrayal, and Reunion. Her theater credits include Thieves, Social Security, The Shadow Box, and Six Degrees of Separation, and she appeared in the films Jenny, Thieves, and In the Spirit. In addition to her Emmys for the two "Free to Be . . ." productions, Thomas won an Emmy Award for Nobody's Child. Thomas and her husband live and work in New York City and have a second home at the Connecticut shore.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1974, p. 944; December 15, 1987, p. 705.
Good Housekeeping, June, 1995, pp. 94.
Publishers Weekly, December 25, 1987, p. 74.
School Library Journal, May 1974, p. 1470.*