Danny Thomas (January 6, 1914 - February 6, 1991) was an American nightclub comedian and radio, television and film actor, best known for starring in the television sitcom Make Room for Daddy, or The Danny Thomas Show. He is also the founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Thomas was born Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yaqoob in Deerfield, Michigan, on January 6, 1914, to Charles and Margaret Yaqoob (Jacobs). His parents were immigrants from Lebanon. He first performed under his Anglicized birth name, Amos Jacobs, before settling on the stage name, Danny Thomas, which were the first names of two of his brothers. He lived in various cities as a child, including Toledo, Ohio, and Rochester New York.
Thomas first reached large audiences on network radio in the 1940s, most notably playing shifty brother-in-law Amos in The Bickersons, which began as sketches on the half-hour music-comedy show Drene Time, co-hosted by Don Ameche and Frances Langford. Thomas also portrayed himself as a slightly scatterbrained Lothario on this show. His other network radio work included period appearances on the legendary NBC variety program, The Big Show, hosted by stage legend Tallulah Bankhead.
In films, he starred in The Jazz Singer, a 1952 remake of the 1927 original and played songwriter Gus Kahn opposite Doris Day in the 1951 film biography I'll See You in My Dreams. During his successful run on Make Room for Daddy, which was later known as the Danny Thomas Show, Thomas became a successful television producer, working on many popular shows including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Mod Squad. Thomas also produced two series for Walter Brennan: The Tycoon and The Guns of Will Sonnett, both on ABC during the 1960s.
He often appeared in cameos on shows he produced, perhaps the most memorable being his portrayal of the tuxedoed, humourlessly droll alien Colac, lord of the planet Twylo, in the classic Dick Van Dyke Show science-fiction spoof, "It May Look Like a Walnut."
In the early seventies, he reunited most of his second Daddy cast (Marjorie Lord, Rusty Hamer, and Angela Cartwright) for a short-lived update of the show, Make Room for Granddaddy. Premised around Danny and Kathy Williams caring for their grandson by daughter Terry, who was away with her husband on a long business assignment, the show barely lasted a season.
A generous philanthropist, Thomas founded the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962. The hospital has treated thousands of children for childhood cancers. In 1996, Peter Doherty, Ph.D., of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, was corecipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work related to how the immune system kills virus-infected cells. As a "starving actor" Thomas made a vow: If he found success, he would open a hospital dedicated to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. A 33° Freemason, he was an active member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, especially in their hospital work for children.
Thomas was one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins, along with Joe Robbie, although he sold his share soon after purchase. He was also an avid golfer. He claimed a ten golf handicap and once competed with Sam Snead in a charity event.
His children are also performers, the most famous being his daughter, Marlo, who is married to Phil Donahue. His son, Tony Thomas, is a television producer, and another daughter, Terre Thomas, is a former actress.
A devout Roman Catholic, Thomas was awarded a papal knighthood by Pope Paul VI. He was named a Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in recognition of his services to both the church and the community. President Ronald Reagan presented Thomas with a Congressional Gold Medal honouring him for his work with St Jude's Hospital.
Thomas died on February 6, 1991, of a punctured lung at age 77. He had completed filming a commercial for St. Jude Hospital a few days before his death and this final commercial aired as a tribute to him.
Danny Thomas and his wife (who died in 2000) are interred in a crypt in a mausoleum on the grounds of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. He was a posthumous recipient of the 2004 Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.
- What's My Line? 10/06/1957 (Episode # 383) (Season 9, Ep 6) Mystery Guest