Marjorie Lord (1918 - 2015)

Marjorie Lord, a stage and screen actress who starred opposite Danny Thomas on TV's "Make Room for Daddy," died Nov. 28 of natural causes at her home in Beverly Hills, California. She was 97.

Born Marjorie Wollenberg July 26, 1918, in San Francisco, California, Lord had a lengthy career playing ingénues onstage and in films, before her most famous turn as Danny Thomas' second wife, Kathy (O'Hara) Williams, on "Make Room for Daddy," also known as "The Danny Thomas Show," from 1957 to 1964.

The show was a classic 1950s sitcom featuring comedian and nightclub singer Thomas playing a character based on himself and his struggles to maintain a career and happy home life. However, Thomas' original TV wife, Jean Hagen, left following the third season because she was dissatisfied with her role. Her character was said to have died off-screen, which was an unusual move for a sitcom. The show, renamed "The Danny Thomas Show," continued without an adult female lead for a season, which garnered poor ratings.

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In the fourth year, Lord was cast as a charming nurse, Kathy O'Hara, who helped Thomas' daughter recover from the measles. O'Hara was a widow with a daughter of her own, and romance bloomed between the two single parents. The ratings were still disappointing, and ABC canceled the show in 1957.

CBS, however, thought the show would be an ideal replacement for the departing "I Love Lucy," so the network picked up the series for the 1957-58 season. By this point, Thomas' and Lord's characters were married, and the ratings improved dramatically as the actors generated great on-screen chemistry. For many fans, Lord was Danny Thomas' definitive TV wife.

The series continued for another six seasons and became a TV staple, often finishing in the top 10 for ratings. After the original series ended, there were several reunion specials, one of which spawned a new series, "Make Room for Granddaddy." Both Thomas and Lord reprised their roles, this time raising their grandchild. It aired for one season, from 1970-71, but was canceled as a new generation of shows with younger characters took over television.

Following "Make Room for Daddy," Lord found herself typecast as a loving mother on television. She returned to the stage and found success acting and directing on the burgeoning dinner theater circuit. She said, "I didn't want to do the roles offered me" on television, "but in the theater I could play anything."

After the death of her second husband, theatrical producer and manager Randolph Hale, she wound down her acting career. After meeting and marrying businessman Harry Volk, she became active in other areas, including several arts and culture charities and organizations.

In her later years, Lord wrote a memoir, "A Dance and a Hug," documenting her life and career as an actress, beginning with her Broadway debut at age 16 in "The Old Maid." It also covered her years appearing in Hollywood films alongside stars such as Basil Rathbone, as well as her troubled marriage to fellow actor John Archer, which ended in divorce in 1955.

She was preceded in death by husbands Randolph Hale and Harry Volk. She is survived by her daughter, actress Anne Archer, and son, Gregg Archer, as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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