Marjorie Lord, Sitcom Wife of Danny Thomas, Dies at 97

Marjorie Lord - H

Their characters, both widowers, got married at the end of the fourth season of 'Make Room for Daddy.' Earlier, the mother of actress Anne Archer starred in films with James Cagney and Bing Crosby.

Marjorie Lord, who starred as the cheery and supportive wife Kathy Williams on the showbiz-centered hit sitcom Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show, has died. She was 97. 

Lord, who joined the comedy in 1957 near the end of its fourth season and stayed through its finish in April 1964, died of natural causes on Nov. 28 at her home in Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Survivors include her daughter, the Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction), from a marriage to actor John Archer (White Heat).

A former contract player at RKO and Universal with a long list of B-movies and TV shows to her credit, Lord was hired as Thomas’ second wife on the show (known as Make Room for Daddy for its first four seasons). Jean Hagan played his first wife, Margaret, who died between seasons three and four.

Lord’s Kathy was a widowed Irish nurse with a daughter, Linda (Angela Cartwright). She wed Thomas’ character — a nightclub singer-comic who spends a lot of time on the road — on the series’ fourth-season finale and always handled her spouse’s showbiz hyperactivity with aplomb.

The series, which aired on ABC and CBS, also co-starred Rusty Hamer as Thomas’ son, Rusty. (Hamer, who joined the show at age 6, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 42 in 1990.) Sherry Jackson, who played Thomas’ oldest child Terry, departed early in the sixth season.

Lord and everyone else got back together for the 1970-71 ABC revival Make Room for Granddaddy.

While making Make Room for Daddy, Lord put her movie career on the back burner. She made just one feature after the show ended, playing Bob Hope’s wife in the screwball comedy Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966), but worked often in the theater as an actress and director.

Earlier, Lord played the deadpan lead in two Bert Wheeler-Robert Woolsey comedies — On Again-Off Again and High Flyers, both released in 1937. She also appeared in Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) opposite her husband John, who played her fiance in the movie; Johnny Come Lately (1943) with James Cagney; and Riding High (1950), a Bing Crosby musical.

Marjorie Wollenberg was born on July 26, 1918, in San Francisco. She came to New York when her father, a cosmetics executive, was transferred, and at age 16 she landed a role on Broadway in The Old Maid, co-starring Judith Anderson and Helen Menken, Humphrey Bogart’s first wife.

She bounced back and forth between New York and California working in films and theater; at one point, she spent a year touring in Springtime for Henry with Edward Everett Horton.

Lord was active during the early days of live TV and guest-starred on such shows as The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Kit Carson, Ramar of the Jungle and Hopalong Cassidy.

After her 14-year marriage to Archer ended in divorce in 1955, she starred in the play Anniversary Waltz, produced by Randolph Hale, who in 1958 would become her second husband. Thomas and producer Sheldon Leonard saw her in the play in Los Angeles and signed her to play a nurse for four weeks on Make Room for Daddy. It took just one episode for them to realize they had the next Mrs. Williams.

On the big screen, Lord also appeared in the serial The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack, based on the popular comic-book flying ace. Her other film credits include Forty Naughty Girls (1937), Moonlight in Havana (1942), The Argyle Secrets (1948), The Strange Mrs. Crane (1948), Masked Raiders (1949), The Lost Volcano (1950) and Rebel City (1953).

In 1957, Lord guest-starred on the first episode of the Western series Wagon Train, and years later she appeared with her daughter Anne in the 1978 CBS telefilm The Pirate, based on a Harold Robbins novel. Her last onscreen appearance came in a 1988 CBS telefilm, Side by Side, with her old friend Thomas.

Lord and Hale opened and ran Valley Music Theater in Los Angeles, but that business went under and he died of lung cancer in 1974.

She was married to L.A. banker Harry Volk, who helped found many cultural institutions in town, including the Music Center, from 1976 until his death in 2000.

Lord published a memoir, A Dance and a Hug, in 2004.

Anne Archer’s husband is Terry Jastrow, the Emmy-winning producer who worked for years at ABC Sports.

Duane Byrge contributed to this report.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4