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Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue Share What Makes a Marriage Last (@MarloThomas)


"That Girl” Marlo Thomas and her husband, talkshow host Phil Donahue join Laura and Johnnie for a star-studded conversation about the secrets to a long lasting marriage. Marlo and Phil have almost 30 Emmy-awards between the two of them, but their new book "How to Make a Marriage Last” is the first and only project (aside from their 40 year marriage) that they’ve worked on together. They share details about many of the celebrity and luminary couples they interviewed for their book including Sting and Trudie Styler, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, and many others. Marlo also surprises us with her observations on where lust ranks in a long marriage. 

Highlights of what we discussed include the following:

  • The New York Times article about the Taiwanese octogenarian couple Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er:

About Marlo (from her bio):

  • Marlo Thomas is an award-winning actress, author and activist whose body of work has earned her four Emmy Awards, the George Foster Peabody Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy, and an induction into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
  • She is the author of seven bestselling books including: Free To Be...You & Me (a project that became a platinum album, Emmy Award-winning television special and a stage show) and Free To Be…A Family (which also won an Emmy).
  • In 2014, she published It Ain’t Over … Til It’s Over: Reinventing Your Life – and Realizing Your Dreams – Anytime, at Any Age, which chronicles the inspiring stories of women who reinvented their lives and careers.
  • Also that year, in 2014, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive.
  • Marlo is also the National Outreach Director for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

About Phil (from his bio):

  • Phil Donahue is a writer, producer, journalist, and media pioneer who revolutionized the talk-show format.
  • The Donahue show was honored with twenty Daytime Emmy’s (ten for the show, ten for Outstanding Host), and in 1996, Phil was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to television journalism.
  • He has been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award.

How they met? (from CBS This Morning & their book galley)

2020 – On May 21st of this year, iconic couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue celebrated their 40th anniversary with the release of their new book, What Makes a Marriage Last. (From their book galley)

  • In honor of their 40th wedding anniversary they released their book about marriage, which they created together.
  • Acknowledgement (at the beginning of the book):
  • For each other. Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.
  • This is the first project that the two of them have ever collaborated on, and they say what makes it most exciting is that it’s not just a great gift to each other, but to other couples, too—from newlyweds to long-marrieds like them.
  • What Makes a Marriage Last (Harper Collins | Published May 5, 2020)
  • They travelled the country, sitting down on double-dates with long-married couples they admire.
  • They uncover that unique combination of work and play, and give and take, that creates the magic at the heart of these marriages.
  • The book is an inspiring and insightful collection of in depth interviews with 40 long-married celebrity couples—from award-winning actors, athletes and newsmakers, to writers, comedians, musicians and a former U.S. president and First Lady (Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter).

About What Makes Marriage Last

40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets to a Happy Life

Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue

Marlo and Phil traveled the country, sitting down on double-dates with long-married couples they admired. The stories they revealed to them about their marriages were both surprising and inspiring. As in the implies, WHAT MAKES A MARRIAGE LAST in not a ‘how to’ book. It’s a ‘what’ book – a captivating collection of deeply personal tales in which they uncovered that unique combination of work and play, and give and take, that created the magic that lay at the heart of their marriages.

Celebrity couples in the book include:

  • Alan and Arlene Alda
  • Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick
  • Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter
  • James Carville and Mary Matalin
  • Deepak and Rita Chopra
  • Patricia Cornwell and Staci Gruber
  • Bryan Cranston and Robin Dearden
  • Billy and Janice Crystal
  • Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest
  • Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
  • Viola Davis and Julius Tennon
  • Gloria and Emilio Estefan
  • Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan
  • Joanna and Chip Gaines
  • Sanjay and Rebecca Gupta
  • Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann
  • Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka
  • Ron and Cheryl Howard
  • Jesse and Jacqueline Jackson
  • Elton John and David Furnish
  • John and Justine Leguizamo
  • LL COOL J and Simone I. Smith
  • Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone
  • John McEnroe and Patty Smyth
  • Mehmet and Lisa Oz
  • Rodney ahd Holly Robinson Peete
  • Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Bert Pogrebin
  • Rob and Michele Reiner
  • Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos
  • Al Roker and Deborah Roberts
  • Ray and Anna Romano
  • Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams
  • Judges Judy and Jerry Sheindlin
  • George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth
  • Sting and Trudie Styler
  • Chesley “Sully” and Lorrie Sullenberger
  • Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner
  • Judith and Milton Viorst
  • Judy Woodruff and Alan Hunt
  • Bob Woodward and Elsa Walsh

About That Girl!


  • 2020 – New recording released of “Free to Be You and Me” sung by Sara Bareilles (video link here)
  • On June 26th The Free To Be…You and Me episode of Stars In The House aired on the Stars in the House YouTube channel
  • Stars In The House creators and hosts Seth Redetsky and James Wesley interview Thomas and preview the song
  • Joined by Harry Belafonte, Gloria Steinem, Drew Barrymore, and others
  • 1972 – Original Album recorded
  • A children's entertainment project, conceived, created and executive-produced by actress and author Marlo Thomas.
  • It was a record album and illustrated book first featuring songs and stories sung or told by celebrities of the day.
  • 1974 - An ABC television special, also created by Thomas, using poetry, songs, and sketches
  • The basic concept was to encourage post-1960s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one's identity. A major thematic message is that anyone—whether a boy or a girl—can achieve anything.