In 2022, Marlo Thomas turned 85 and commemorated 42 years of marriage, 42 years after Phil Donahue, her husband, persuaded her to do so. This was a major accomplishment. The “That Girl” star and her husband raised five children after the actress refused to play an evil stepmother from a fairy tale.
On November 21, 2022, Marlo Thomas celebrated his 85th birthday! As they celebrated their decades-long marriage, the actress had a great day with her longtime partner Phil Donahue.
The “That Girl” actress first encountered Marlo in 1977 when she was a guest on his chat show. They met and reportedly fell in love at first sight; by 1980, they were married!
Marlo Thomas and her husband Phil Donahue in New York, circa 1970 | Source: Getty Images
Marlo married the chat show host for the first time at 40. In contrast, Phil had been married once and adopted five children, making his new wife his caregiver.
The actress remembered Phil’s modern appearance and status as a single parent when they first met in a December 1977 article. As Catholics, they engaged in a lengthy discussion about divorce, marriage, and raising children.
The celebrity claimed they connected “fantastically,” but their first date was awkward because they kept gazing at each other. The couple “hung in there” despite the date setting them back to the beginning stages of their relationship.
Since Phil was stationed in Chicago, their second date went smoothly. They kept in touch over the phone two to three times a day and caught up on the weekends. The actress, typically so reserved, phoned the host’s telecast when her father, Danny Thomas, made an amusing comment.
Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue during the Iris Awards Banquet on March 4, 1978, in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images
According to Danny, the female audience was fortunate to spend an hour with “two of the world’s most attractive men.” Marlo had no desire to attend the institution before they got married, but her spouse was able to persuade her.
How did Phil Donahue influence Marlo Thomas’ views on marriage?
Marlo clarified that the interview she conducted with Phil all those years ago wasn’t one in a May 2020 “Sunday Morning” conversation. She remembered one of the inquiries he made to her: “And he asked me, ‘How come you’ve never married?'” I remarked, “I just don’t think it’s for me.”
“It seems like it’s only a place for one-and-a-half persons, you know, the person who has the dream and the other person who supports the dream,” the actress continued as she gave her justification. The “Sunday Morning” interviewer questioned Marlo about where she received her inspiration.
According to the celebrity, one example was her parents, who gave up their performing careers so that the actress could settle down and wed the star of the “Danny Thomas Show.” Ironically, weeks after appearing on Phil’s program, Marlo was a frequent visitor at his Winnetka, Illinois, home, where he had raised four boys.
Marlo Thomas making her Broadway debut at the Broadhurst Theater in “Thieves” with her father, Danny Thomas, and mother, Rosemary Thomas, at the opening night performance on April 7, 1974, | Source: Getty Images
The “Sunday Morning” idea was that the celebrity’s independence and unmarried status had become her brand. Marlo concurred, saying she had never intended to wed and, like her character in “That Girl,” she was more concerned with her job than finding a husband.
She described her efforts to depict a young girl who was not considering marriage but who she could be in the world, a first for television. The actress’s position made sense because she pioneered the women’s movement.
Marlo admitted that she was unsure of her matrimony beliefs even in 2020. She clarified that although she shared her perspective, she did not share her emotions regarding the institution of marriage because she did not believe it was “rigged against the woman.”
Therefore, she found it difficult to discuss marriage with Phil on his program. “It was a very big thing for me to see that marriage could be a roomy enough place for my dream and his dream,” the actress remarked.
“I had to meet the right kind of man,” she continued, “and the world had to change a lot, and I had to change a lot.” After giving their relationship a chance, the star and her spouse were married for 42 years in 2022, and she did an excellent job as a stepmother.
Are there kids between Marlo and Phil?
Marlo once acknowledged that being apart from her husband was “awful,” even though she had never planned to get married. She discussed why she thought a union of two whole individuals would be more successful than one of one and a half.
In 1977, when Phil’s daughter was still living with his ex-wife in Illinois, the actress gushed about how much fun being around her husband’s kids was. Marlo talked about how her aspirations and society thwarted her desire for children.
The more time the star [Marlo Thomas] spent with the boys, the more interested and caring she became toward them, and ultimately, “more mothering.”
She believed she had a shot in 1997, but she and Phil never had any of their own. The actress lamented at the time that no one had ever asked males if they wanted to be the fathers of medical professionals and that women’s options shouldn’t be so limited because she wanted it all.
Phil’s wife admitted that no one ever imagined becoming a stepmother on her YouTube account in 2012. According to Marlo, some women never dreamed of becoming stepmothers as young girls. Instead, they aspired to be brides, mothers, wives, actresses, and ice dancers.
Because stepmothers are typically portrayed as bad in children’s literature, she observed that no one wished to be one. As a result, she had to learn how to be kind and decent. Early on, she also learned not to attempt to act like a mother to them because they might find that annoying.
Instead, she grew close to the four boys and became friends. As a result, they trusted her and welcomed her into their lives. The more time the star spent with the boys, the more she developed a caring and keen interest in them, and ultimately, she became “more mothering.”
Marlo offered some guidance in 2021 on how to maintain a union. According to Phil’s wife, a marriage requires trust that the other partner has your back. She claimed that her union was the safest place she could be, and the talk show presenter was her everything and support system.