Phil Donahue

Talk show host, Newscaster, Radio announcer
A pioneer of the television talk show, Phil Donahue was the host of "The Phil Donahue Show" (WLWD/syndicated, 1967-1996), which paved the way for the tide of afternoon chat programs that followed in its wake while also ... Read more »
Born: 12/21/1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Filmography

Actor (49)

Finding Vivian Maier 2014 (Movie)

(Himself)

Real Time with Bill Maher 2008 (Tv Show)

Actor

Sex: The Revolution! 2007 - 2008 (TV Show)

Actor

An Unreasonable Man 2007 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Manufacturing Dissent 2007 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

After Innocence 2005 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Popping the Question with Star Jones 2004 - 2005 (TV Show)

Actor

Madalyn Murray O'Hair 2001 - 2002 (TV Show)

Actor

The 70s: The Decade That Changed Television 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)

Actor

The 27th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life 1998 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Ellen 1990 - 1991, 1997 - 1998 (Tv Show)

Actor

L.A. Law 1990 - 1991, 1997 - 1998 (Tv Show)

Actor

The 25th Daytime Emmy Awards 1997 - 1998 (TV Show)

Actor

Talked to Death 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)

Actor

Donahue 1967 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

The 23rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Actor

Breakthroughs: Amazing Things to Come 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Talk Back America III 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

The 22nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)

Actor

Talk Back America II 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)

Actor

Donahue: The 25th Anniversary 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

Talk Back America Special 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

The Issue Is Race 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

What Is This Thing Called Love? 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)

Actor

In a New Light 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The 19th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

The Barbara Walters Special (01/29/92) 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

This Week With Pozner and Donohue 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Blossom 1990 - 1991 (Tv Show)

Actor

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Better World Society Awards Dinner 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Actor

Just One Step: The Great Peace March 1989 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

The 16th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)

Actor

Sesame Street, Special 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

The 15th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Bob Hope Buys NBC? 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Drinking and Driving: The Toll, The Tears 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Phil Donahue Examines the Human Animal 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Love, Sex... And Marriage 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Narrator

First Steps (TV Show)

Actor
Producer (2)

Body of War 2008 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)

Body of War 2008 (Movie)

(Producer)
Director (1)

Body of War 2008 (Movie)

(Director)

Biography

A pioneer of the television talk show, Phil Donahue was the host of "The Phil Donahue Show" (WLWD/syndicated, 1967-1996), which paved the way for the tide of afternoon chat programs that followed in its wake while also establishing a thoughtful, informative tone that many of them eschewed in favor of verbal fireworks. Donahue's screen persona - passionate, deeply liberal and sympathetic - made him a favorite among like-minded viewers, especially women, and a target for conservative figures. Donahue's fascination with stories from both high and low roads helped to fashion the modern talk show in all its permutations, from feel-good chats and news-driven roundtables to trashy exposes of sordid lives before the camera. In doing so, Phil Donahue was among the most important media figures of the late 20th century.

Phillip John Donahue was born into a middle-clash Irish family in Cleveland, OH on Dec. 21, 1935. His parents were both retail workers who sent their son to a variety of Catholic educational institutions, including St. Edward High School in Lakewood and the University of Notre Dame. His on-air debut came while he was working as a production assistant at Cleveland's KYW radio when the regular announcer failed to show up for work. Donahue stepped in and was captivated by the idea that his voice was being transmitted to a listening audience. Shortly after graduation, he landed the news director position at WABJ in Adrian, MI, which gave him invaluable experience as a reporter. This led to stints as a stringer for the "CBS Evening News" (1963- ) and later, the morning news anchor at WHIO-TV in Dayton, OH. While there, he launched his first talk show with "Conversation Piece," an afternoon phone-in program from 1963 to 1967. There, he put his liberal focus on full display by interviewing civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and his televised talks with such controversial figures as Jimmy Hoffa and Billie Sol Estes were picked up for national re-broadcast.

In 1967, Donahue left WHIO and took his talk show, now called "The Phil Donahue Show," to WLWD-TV in Dayton. His first guest was noted atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, which was soon followed by footage of a woman giving birth, a phone-in vote to determine if an anatomically correct male doll toy was morally offensive, and the inner workings of the funeral business. Such topics quickly boosted the profile of "The Phil Donahue Show," and the program was picked up for national syndication in 1972. Though such topics would, at first blush, align him with later shock-oriented programs like those featuring Morton Downey, Jr. or Geraldo Rivera, Donahue devoted considerable airtime to serious issues, with a special focus on women's issues. Shows covered topics like abortion, tubal ligation and featured conversations with pioneering sex researchers Masters and Johnson, which earned him a sizable female audience, as well as status as a figurehead for the "sensitive man" movement of the 1970s. Though certain broadcasters refused to air episodes of Donahue's show that they found too adult for their audience's tastes, the quality of his program and the maturity of his coverage made him a national phenomenon. In 1974, he moved the show to Chicago, where it was taped at WGN. Three years later, he and his program won the first of 19 eventual Daytime Emmys.

Other networks and syndicates observed Donahue's rise carefully, and by the dawn of the 1980s, there was a host of similar talk shows elbowing for space on the daytime airwaves. "Donahue," as the show eventually became known, carved out its niche by maintaining a balance between integrity and showmanship. Where other shows focused on the salacious and the voyeuristic, Donahue divided his attention between political and social issues like the AIDS crises and the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s and more titillating topics. The dichotomy maintained his core audience, as well as critical respect. Around this time, Donahue had as a guest on his program, actress Marlo Thomas, daughter of Danny Thomas. The two openly flirted on-camera during the course of the interview. By 1980, they were married and enjoying one of the more stable celebrity marriages in the business. During this period, Donahue also contributed to "Today" (NBC, 1952- ) and co-hosted a weekly roundtable discussion program called "Pozner/Donahue" (CNBC, 1991-94) with Soviet journalist Vladimir Pozner.

In 1992, Donahue celebrated his 25th anniversary with a special produced at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. A host of fellow talk show hosts paid tribute to him on the special; ironically, several of them, like Oprah Winfrey, who had established herself in Donahue's former home turf of Chicago, and Sally Jessy Raphael, were trouncing him in the ratings at that time. The talk show circuit itself had become over-saturated, and Donahue's political views, which included open criticism of the early 1990s Gulf War, had earned him diminished ratings and banishment from several stations. Among those programmers who removed "Donahue" from their time slots was WNBC in New York, who owned the show's studio. He was eventually forced to find a new home in Manhattan, but by 1996, Donahue's program was a shadow of its former self in the ratings. On May 2, 1996, he brought the show to a close with considerable fanfare. Its 29 year-run, comprised of some 7,000 episodes, represented the longest continuous run of any syndicated talk show in American history.

In July 2002, Donahue returned to the airwaves with another eponymous program, this time for cable programmer MSNBC, which was designed as a liberal alternative to "The O'Reilly Factor" (Fox, 1996- ). The show was heavily promoted by its network, and debuted to high numbers, but after three weeks, its ratings had plunged. Despite being the network's highest rated program, "Donahue" was canceled on February 25, 2003. Its demise was eventually credited to an internal NBC memo that described Donahue's liberal stance as "difficult" for NBC to embrace during the tidal wave of conservative breast-beating in the early days of the Iraq War. Donahue kept a low profile in subsequent years until 2007, when he served as executive producer and co-director on the documentary "Body of War." The film, which followed an Iraq War veteran as he learned to adjust to life in a wheelchair after being injured in combat, earned top honors from the National Board of Review, and was on the shortlist for the 2007 documentary Oscar. In 2010, he appeared alongside Raphael, Rivera, Ricki Lake and Montel Williams on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (ABC, 1986-2011).

Relationships

Margaret Cooney

Wife
Married February 1, 1958 divorced 1975

Phillip Donahue

Father

Catherine Donahue

Mother

Mary Donahue

Daughter
Mother, Margaret Cooney

Daniel Donahue

Son
Mother, Margaret Cooney

Jim Donahue

Son
Mother, Margaret Cooney

Kevin Donahue

Son
Mother, Margaret Cooney

Michael Donahue

Son
Mother, Margaret Cooney

Marlo Thomas Actor

Wife
Met in 1977 when she was a guest on Donahue's talk show Married May 1980

Tony Thomas

Brother-In-Law

Danny Thomas

Father-In-Law
Best known for starring in the sitcom "The Danny Thomas Show" (ABC, 1953-57 CBS, 1957-64) produced the popular shows "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1961-66) and "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68) died in 1991, of a punctured lung at the age of 79

EDUCATION

University of Notre Dame

South Bend , Indiana 1957

St. Edward High School

Lakewood , Ohio
Was a member of the first graduating class

Milestones

2007

Executive Produced the feature documentary film, "Body of War," which he also co-directed with independent filmmaker Ellen Spiro

2002

Returned to television with the short-lived MSNBC show, "Donahue"

1996

Taped final episode of "The Phil Donahue Show" on May 2

1991

Co-hosted, "This Week With Pozner and Donahue" (aired both on CNBC and in syndication)

1980

Contributed special segments to "The Today Show" (NBC)

1969

"The Phil Donahue Show" was syndicated; produced in Chicago and later in NYC

1967

Hosted "The Phil Donahue Show" on WLWD-TV Dayton

1963

Hosted "Conversation Piece" on WIHO-Radio, Dayton

1958

Named program and news director of WAJB-Radio, Adrian, MI

1958

Moved to KYW-TV, Cleveland

1957

Worked as announcer at KYW-Radio, Cleveland, OH

Was news reporter and anchor at WIHO-Radio, Dayton, OH

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