Marlo Thomas Turned 85 — She & Husband Made It to 42 Years after He Changed Her Mind about Marriage

In 2022, Marlo Thomas turned 85, and the other milestone she reached was celebrating 42 years of marriage after her husband, Phil Donahue changed her mind about marriage.

The “That Girl” star and her husband raised five children after the actress refused to be an evil fairy-tale-like stepmother.

On November 21, 2022, Marlo Thomas celebrated her birthday by turning 85! The star spent the day enjoying it with her long-term husband, Phil Donahue, with whom she celebrated decades of marriage.

The “That Girl” actress first met Marlo when she was on his talk show as a guest in 1977. Their meeting was later described as love at first sight, and by 1980, the pair were married!


Marlo was 40 when she married the talk show host, and it was her first marriage. On the other hand, Phil had been married before and welcomed five children, making his new wife a stepmother.

In a December 1977 article, the actress recalled how Phil was a modern man and a single parent when they met. They had a deep conversation about divorce, marriage, and children; they were both Catholic.

The star said they connected “fantastically,” but their first date was awkward, with them staring at each other! The pair “hung in there” despite the date setting them back to the starting stages of their relationship.

The second time they went out was fine, and the duo phoned each other two or three times daily and saw each other on weekends because Phil was based in Chicago. The actress was so private but called the host’s telecast when her father, Danny Thomas, noted a hilarious observation.


Danny said the female audience was lucky to spend an hour with “two of the world’s most attractive men.” Before they married, Marlo had no interest in the institution, but her husband managed to twist her arm.

How Did Phil Donahue Change Marlo Thomas’ Mind about Marriage?
During a May 2020 “Sunday Morning” interview, Marlo explained that the interview she had with Phil all those years back wasn’t really one. She recalled one of the questions he asked her, saying:

“And he said to me, ‘How come you’ve never married?’ I said, I just don’t believe it’s for me.”

The actress continued explaining her reasoning: “It seems like it’s only a place for one-and-a-half persons, you know, the person that has the dream and the other person who supports the dream.” The “Sunday Morning” interviewer wanted to know where Marlo got the idea.

The star said one example was her parents, as the actress’s mother gave up her singing career to settle herself to marry the star of the “Danny Thomas Show.” Ironically, weeks after being on Phil’s show, Marlo was a regular guest at his Winnetka, Illinois home, where he raised four sons.

The “Sunday Morning” thought being independent and single had become the star’s brand. Marlo agreed, revealing she had planned never to get married, and like her character in “That Girl,” she was focused on her career and not a husband.

She explained how she’d tried to portray a first for television – a young girl who wasn’t thinking about marriage and instead about who she could be in the world. The actress’s stance made sense as she was one of the leaders in the women’s movement.

Marlo revealed that even in 2020, she still wasn’t sure she believed in marriage. However, she explained she thought in hers but didn’t have the same feelings toward the institution of marriage because she wasn’t sure it was “rigged against the woman.”

So, talking about marriage with Phil on his show wasn’t easy for her. The actress said, “It was a very big thing for me to see that marriage could be a roomy enough place for my dream and his dream.”

She further elaborated, “I had to meet the right kind of man, and the world had to change a lot, and I had to change a lot.” In 2022, the star and her husband married for 42 years after giving their union a chance, and she nailed stepmotherhood!

Do Marlo and Phil Have Children?
Even though Marlo had never intended to marry, she once admitted that it was “awful” being away from her husband. She explained how she felt a union of two whole people could work compared to one of one and a half.

The star said she liked her husband’s children and it was a “treat” to be around them in 1977, Phil’s daughter lived with his ex in Illinois. Marlo shared how her dreams of becoming a mother were frustrated by her ambitions and society.

The star [Marlo Thomas] became more caring and interested in the boys the more she lived with them, and eventually “more mothering.”
However, in 1997 she thought she still had a chance, but she and Phil never had any of their own. The star complained at the time that no one asked men if they wanted to be fathers of doctors, and she felt women’s choices shouldn’t be that linear either because she wanted it all.

On her YouTube channel in 2012, Phil’s wife confessed how no one dreamt of being a stepmother. Marlo said as little girls, some women dreamt of becoming brides, mothers, actresses, wives, and ice skaters but never stepmothers.

She noted how no one wanted to be a stepmother cause they were seen as villains in children’s stories. So she had to figure out how to be nice and good and realized early on that she shouldn’t try to fill a mother-like role because they might resent that.

Instead, she became a friend of the four boys’, and when she got to know them and vice versa, they trusted her and accepted her in their lives. The star became more caring and interested in the boys the more she lived with them, and eventually, “more mothering.”

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