Danny Thomas Show, The aka Make Room for Daddy

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




Danny Thomas obtained his own program in 1953 when agent Abe Lastfogel pressured fledgling network ABC into accepting Thomas as part of their terms for acquiring the much-coveted Ray Bolger. ABC, familiar with Thomas' previously ill-received television performances, insisted upon a sitcom, and it was during a prolonged brainstorming session with producer Lou Edleman and writer Mel Shavelson, that Thomas inadvertently came up with the autobiographical premise that was to become Make Room for Daddy. As the three worked futilely into the night, Thomas grew impatient and pleaded that he simply wanted a series so that he could stay put with his family for awhile. The result was, Make Room for Daddy, a show which revolved around the absentee-father dilemmas of a traveling singer-comic "Danny Williams." The title was suggested by Thomas' real-life wife, Rose-Marie, who during Danny's frequent tours, allowed their children to sleep with her. Upon her husband's return, the children would have to empty dresser drawers and leave the master bed to, quite literally, "make room for Daddy."

Incorporating Thomas' singing and story-telling talents, the program was a blend of domestic comedy and variety program (during Danny's fictionalized "nightclub engagements"). It became one of television's most successful comedies, winning numerous awards, including best new show for the 1952-53 season. Despite its success, the program underwent a number of transformations, most notably when Jean Hagen, who played the part of wife Margaret, left the series to attend to her film and stage career. For the fourth season, Danny played a widower, and a succession of guest-stars appeared as potential replacement wives. In the 1956 season finale, Danny proposed to guest-star Marjorie Lord who, along with child star Angela Cartwright, joined the Williams' family for the program's remaining seven years. The start of the 1957 television season also saw the program on a new network (CBS) when ABC president (and Hagen ally) Robert Kintner, lost interest in the series. The newly titled Danny Thomas Show slid into the spot formally occupied by CBS's mega-hit I Love Lucy, where it remained in the top ten until voluntarily leaving the network when the performers sought new avenues of creative expression.

While starring in Make Room for Daddy, Thomas met Sheldon Leonard, a former gangster-type actor with aspirations for directing. Leonard took over as director for the program midway into its first season, eventually becoming executive producer. Together, Thomas and Leonard established Thomas-Leonard Productions, a powerhouse production company based on the Desilu lot that was responsible for a multitude of successful series including The Real McCoy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Bill Dana Show and The Dick van Dyke Show. In 1965 when Leonard left to develop I Spy, Thomas continued independently, producing The Danny Thomas Hour, an anthology series for NBC and joining with Aaron Spelling to create and produce The Mod Squad and other programs. While a 1967 attempt to buy Desilu from Lucille Ball was unsuccessful, Thomas continued to create and produce programs under the banner of Danny Thomas Productions.

Thomas had an enormous positive impact upon the growing medium. The off-camera stand-up routines he performed for the in-studio audience just prior to filming each episode of Make Room for Daddy, were imitated on other programs and institutionalized as the now commonplace "warm-up." The Andy Griffith Show was the first real spin-off for network television, originating in a 1960 episode of The Danny Thomas Show. As a producer he read scripts, and supervised a plethora of number one rated programs and was personally responsible for casting Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie in The Dick van Dyke Show. His influence as producer continued not only in his own projects but through the work of his children, notably daughter Marlo, who became a renowned actress-producer-director, and his son Tony, who with partners Susan Harris and Paul Junger Witt is responsible for veritable catalogue of 1970s and 1980s hit programs, including Soap and The Golden Girls.


Melville Shavelson


Sheldon Leonard, William Asher, Danny Thomas


Danny Thomas

Jean Hagen

Marjorie Lord

Sherry Jackson

Rusty Hamer

Angela Cartwright


Herbert W. Spencer, Earle Hagen (MSI)


Louis F. Edelman


Sheldon Leonard, Charles Stewart 


Original channel ABC (1953-1957)

CBS (1957-1964)

Original run September 29, 1953 – September 14, 1964

Sheldon Leonard on his favorite moments from The Danny Thomas Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show
Who talked about this show

William Asher

View Interview
William Asher on directing The Danny Thomas Show pilot; on working with Sheldon Leonard and difficulties with Danny Thomas

Barbara Billingsley

View Interview
Barbara Billingsley on guesting on Make Room for Daddy in the episode "Danny's Date" (airdate: January 14, 1957)  as a tryout for the role of his new wife

Dann Cahn

View Interview
Film editor Dann Cahn on editing The Danny Thomas Show

Bill Dana

View Interview
Bill Dana on how "Jose Jimenez" came to be a regular character on Make Room for Daddy (The Danny Thomas Show)

Ruth Engelhardt

View Interview
Ruth Engelhardt on packaging The Danny Thomas Show

Rod Erickson

View Interview
Rod Erickson on turning down Danny Thomas' Make Room for Daddy

Mitzi Gaynor

View Interview
Mitzi Gaynor on appearing on The Danny Thomas Show and meeting Bob Mackie

Andy Griffith

View Interview
Andy Griffith on the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which aired as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, on deciding to play straight man to Don Knotts, and on the input of producer Sheldon Leonard

Earle Hagen

View Interview
Earle Hagen on composing and conducting music for The Danny Thomas Show and on working with producer Sheldon Leonard
Earle Hagen on the origin of The Andy Griffith Show, a spin-off of The Danny Thomas Show
Earle Hagen on his professional relationship with Danny Thomas when he was composer/conductor for The Danny Thomas Show
Earle Hagen on using "Danny Boy," or "Londonderry Air" as the theme song to The Danny Thomas Show
Earle Hagen on Sheldon Leonard's philosophy of using original music for his shows like The Danny Thomas Show
Earle Hagen on filming The Danny Thomas Show in front of a live studio audience

Ron Howard

View Interview
Ron Howard on acting in front of a live audience for the pilot of The Andy Griffith Show, that appeared as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show

Irma Kusely

View Interview
Irma Kusely on being hairstylist for Make Room for Daddy  and The Dick Van Dyke Show

Sheldon Leonard

View Interview
Sheldon Leonard on his favorite moments from The Danny Thomas Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show
Sheldon Leonard on his work producing and directing The Danny Thomas Show

Garry Marshall

View Interview
Garry Marshall on writing for the kids on The Danny Thomas Show

Mary Tyler Moore

View Interview
Mary Tyler Moore on auditioning to play one of the daughters on The Danny Thomas Show

Lee Rich

View Interview
Lee Rich on wanting Danny Thomas to be involved with television

Jay Sandrich

View Interview
Jay Sandrich on working with Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas on Make Room for Daddy, and their working relationship
Jay Sandrich on directing The Danny Thomas Show and his philosophy of directing comedy, which he learned from Sheldon Leonard
Jay Sandrich on working with and learning from Sheldon Leonard and a series of great directors on The Danny Thomas Show (Make Room for Daddy)

Bob Schiller

View Interview
Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf on writing as a team for Make Room for Daddy

Alfred Schneider

View Interview
Alfred Schneider on creating, with ABC Executive Jim Stabile, what may have been the very first television package deal -- for The Danny Thomas Show

Mel Shavelson

View Interview
Mel Shavelson on writing The Danny Thomas Show
Mel Shavelson on helping to shape The Danny Thomas Show
Mel Shavelson on how Danny Thomas took to television on The Danny Thomas Show
Mel Shavelson on the writing process of The Danny Thomas Show and on the writers of the show
Mel Shavelson on the network relationship with The Danny Thomas Show

Hazel Shermet

View Interview
Hazel Shermet on acting in The Danny Thomas Show

Marlo Thomas

View Interview
Marlo Thomas on her father Danny Thomas' fame and her thoughts on his television show, Make Room for Daddy

Tony Thomas

View Interview
Tony Thomas on his early home life being the inspiration for the series Make Room for Daddy

Mel Tolkin

View Interview
Mel Tolkin on writing for The Danny Thomas Show, and on working with producer Sheldon Leonard
Mel Tolkin on writing specific episodes of The Danny Thomas Show

Bob Weiskopf

View Interview
Bob Weiskopf on briefly writing for Make Room For Daddy for Danny Thomas
Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf on writing as a team for Make Room for Daddy

Lou Weiss

View Interview
Lou Weiss on packaging game shows and The Danny Thomas Show
Lou Weiss on packaging The Danny Thomas Show  and working with Sheldon Leonard

All Shows