'Make Room for Daddy' actress Marjorie Lord still busy at age 89

offBeat with PHILIP POTEMPA
2008-03-21T00:00:00Z 'Make Room for Daddy' actress Marjorie Lord still busy at age 89PHILIP POTEMPA ppotempa@nwitimes.com 219.852.4327 nwitimes.com

Ever elegant

It's hard to believe actress Marjorie Lord will turn 90 this summer.

The elegant actress will forever be remembered as the sweet and kind "second" wife of Danny Thomas' character on the popular ABC (and later, CBS) series "Make Room for Daddy," and the woman who became the perky stepmother to Angela Cartwright and the rest of the brood.

The series, which aired from 1953 to 1965, garnered five Primetime Emmy Awards and received a total of 16 nominations.

Lord is promoting the release of the fifth season of the series, just released in January, the same season she joined the show.

She was added the cast after the departure of actress Jean Hagen, who was nominated for an Oscar for playing a squeaky-voiced silent film star in the 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain."

After four seasons of playing wife and mother alongside Thomas, Hagen (whose family hails from my own home town of North Judson, Ind.) left the popular show not wanting to play "second banana."

Lord was only too happy to step in, after Thomas wrote Hagen out of the series by having her die unexpectedly.

At the time, "Make Room for Daddy" was not only popular, it also was responsible for helping launch the TV career of Andy Griffith's popular alter-ego sheriff character, Andy Taylor, after Griffith guest-starred as Sheriff Taylor in an episode of Thomas' show that had his character caught speeding through the town of Mayberry. And it was that single episode that became the pilot that launched the "The Andy Griffith Show."

Lord will be honored this spring when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents "A Salute to TV Moms" on May 6 at the Academy's Leonard Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood. The evening will include a panel discussion with favorite TV Moms including Lord, Barbara Billingsley, Diahann Carroll, Doris Roberts, Cloris Leachman, Meredith Baxter, Bonnie Franklin, Vicki Lawrence, Catherine Hicks and Marion Ross.

With the help of her daughter Anne Archer, who played the long-suffering wife of Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction," Lord has released her memoirs, recorded in her own voice on a 5-disc CD audio and titled "A Dance and A Hug" ($19.95). It features a prologue and epilogue read by Archer, and it's only available at Lord's interesting Web site at www.marjorielord.com.

And with a last name like Lord, it's easy to understand how important Lord says her faith has been throughout her career.

In fact, ideal for Good Friday, I have to mention that in later years, Lord became well known for her staged readings portraying Claudia, the wife of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who tried to warn her husband that she was troubled by a dream about Jesus, a man she had never met, which she interpreted as an ominous omen.

"Claudia's Letter" is now a dramatic recording by Lord of an authentic letter from the wife of Pontius Pilate, written while in exile after the crucifixion. It is available on CD for $11.95 at her Web site.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or 219.852.4327.

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