In 1932, he began performing on radio on the happy Hour Club at WMBC. It was after moving to Chicago in 1940 that he changed his name to Danny Thomas.
All throughout the 1940s, he worked for various shows including The Bickersons, the music-comedy show ‘Drene Time’ and as ‘Jerry Dingle’ on The Baby Snooks Show. Furthermore, he made appearances on the popular NBC program ‘The Big Show’.
Not limiting himself to radio, he appeared in films as well. He played the character of a songwriter Gus Kahn in the film ‘I'll See You in My Dreams’ opposite Doris Day. Eventually, he was seen in the 1952 film ‘The Jazz Singer’ which was a remake of the original film of 1927 opposite Peggy Lee.
Venturing further, in 1953, he bagged a role in the television show, ‘Make Room For Daddy’. Later known as The Danny Thomas Show, it went on a 13 year stint, until 1965. It was his on and off screen chemistry with junior artist Angela Cartwright that went on to make the television series a big hit.
Meanwhile, in 1959, he starred along with child actors, Angela Cartwright and Rusty Hamer in an episode of NBC’s ‘The Ford Show’.
After his successful stint as a television actor, he turned into a television producer for the show, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show. He went on to produce several more shows, including ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, ‘The Mod Squad’ amongst others.
Furthermore, he produced three series of the shows, ‘Walter Brennan: The Real McCoys’, ‘The Tycoon’ and ‘The Guns of Will Sonnett’. Other than producing the shows, he made guest appearances on his shows.
Other than coming up with new shows for audiences, he promoted new talent as well and was responsible for launching Mary Tyler ‘Moore’ in the television screen thus giving her ther first big break.
Towards the beginning of the 1970s, ‘Make Room for Daddy’ was revived for a second league, titled, ‘Make Room for Granddaddy’. Short lived, the series circled around the plot wherein he looked after his grandson while his daughter was away with her husband on a long business tour.
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Following his reprising his role in ‘Make Room for Granddaddy’, he played a small role in the 1986-1987 season of ‘One Big Family’. A situational comedy, the show revolved around a semi-retired comedian whose grandchildren were orphaned after the death of their parents in car accident.
Other than starring in numerous television shows, films and radio, he made his presence felt in commercials as well endorsing a lot of products
Awards & Achievements
He was honoured with the title of Knight Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre by Pope Paul VI for his services to the church and the community.
In 1983, he was felicitated by the Congressional Medal of Honor by the then US President Ronald Reagan for his work with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Posthumously, he was bestowed with the 2004 Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.
Personal Life & Legacy
It was during his struggling days as an actor that he met Rose Marie Mantell, who was an accomplished singer with her customized show. The two went into the wedlock on January 15, 1936.
The couple was blessed with three children - Margaret, Theresa and Charles Anthony.
During his struggling days, he had vowed to open a shrine someday when he was successful. Keeping up with his promise, he along with his wife inaugurated the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1962.
He was an active member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.
Not many know the fact that he was an avid golfer and had two PGA Tournaments named after him.
He was the first non-Jewish member of the Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.
He breathed his last due to heart failure on February 6, 1991. He was interred in a mausoleum on the grounds of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis
Posthumously, he was seen in a commercial of St Jude Hospital which he had shot right before his death.
For his humanitarian work and contribution as an entertainer, the US Postal Service honoured him by issuing a first class forever stamp, which had him enrobed in a tuxedo outside St. Jude Children's Research Hospital