Do you remember the character Danny Williams? What about Jake Hatton or Dr. Benjamin Douglas? And what about the Founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital?
Well, the one thing that all these persons had in common is that Danny Thomas was behind all of them. Danny Thomas was an American entertainer who had a rich career as an actor and producer. Danny Williams, Jake Hatton, and Dr. Benjamin Douglas were some of his most famous roles on television.
And the Founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was his best known philanthropic achievement and it’s what he’s left as his legacy. Not only was he a great entertainer but also a great human being. But did you know what Danny Thomas was doing 2 days before he died?
Join Facts Verse to learn about the scene that Danny Thomas filmed 2 days before his fatal heart attack…
DANNY’S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Danny Thomas was born as Amos Muzyad Yaqoob Kairouz on January 6th, 1912, in Deerfield, Michigan. His parents were Lebanese Catholic immigrants and raised young Amos mostly in Toledo, Ohio.
He was raised by devout parents and was active in his church. He was confirmed into the Catholic Church by Bishop Samuel Stritch who served as Amos’s spiritual advisor until his death in 1958. No doubt the Bishop played a huge role in Amos’s life and his spiritual worldview.
Amos had a keen interest in entertainment and decided to pursue it as a career in his early twenties. By the time he got married to Rose in 1936, he had been working regularly in radio. He performed in a variety of roles on the popular radio program The Happy Hour Club on WMBC in Detroit.
At this time, he was performing under the name Amos Jacobs Kairouz. In 1940, he moved to Chicago to perform in nightclubs. It was during this time that he decided to adopt a new moniker as he was worried his family would be upset knowing that he was performing in nightclubs!
He adopted the moniker “Danny Thomas” and this is how he’d be remembered for the remainder of his life. Over the next several decades, he’d pursue a remarkable and multifaceted career in show business. Join Facts Verse to learn about the scene that Danny Thomas filmed 2 days before his fatal heart attack.
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DANNY’S RADIO, FILM, and MUSIC CAREER
While Danny Thomas began his entertainment career in the early 1930s, it was in the 1940s when his career really began to take off. He played a character named Amos in a comedy show called The Bickersons. His talents were so remarkable that he ended up voicing a second character on this very show.
He had bit parts and supporting roles on several popular radio programs including The Baby Snooks Show and The Big Show. He eventually became the lead character in his own radio show called The Danny Thomas Show.
This was a popular variety sketch comedy show that had 2 successful runs. The first was a one year radio program on ABC from 1942 to 1943. Another run was from 1947 to 1948 to CBS.
He moved away from radio in the 1950s. In the 1940s, he took a keen interest in film and television and decided to stick to these mediums to express his creativity. A brief mention should made of Danny’s music career, however.
While Amos might have changed his name to Danny, he never forgot his Arab roots. From 1952 to 1974 he released many albums and even collaborated with other artists. He often sung Arabic folk songs with prominent Arab singers. He would later create a record that would serve as a fundraising item for a charity he would set up.
Danny’s first film role was a supporting role as “Mr. Paneros” in the 1947 film The Unfinished Dance. This musical film became a huge hit and it helped Danny get more work in films even though he wasn’t the lead star!
The following year he appeared in a drama film, once again in a supporting role. He played Cantor David Irwin Feldman in The Big City. Once again, he won acclaim for his work in the film. He continued to appear in major Hollywood productions throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1952, he played the lead character Jerry Golding in the film The Jazz Singer. He won praise for his sympathetic portrayal of a young man who wants to pursue a music career – strongly against his conservative Jewish father’s wishes. With this role, Danny Thomas established himself as a star.
While it might have made sense to continue acting in films, Danny took a turn away from the medium and only appeared in a few more films throughout his career. His final feature film role was in a 1979 Jerry Lewis film called That’s Life – which still hasn’t been released and for which there isn’t much information available.
So why did Danny Thomas step away from a successful film career especially as he seemed to receive endless praise for his incredible talents?
It’s because he soon realized that his talents were best suited for another medium that was becoming popular in every American’s home!
As his film career was taking off, he began making appearances on popular television shows. He found roles in shows such as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Jack Benny Program, Zane Grey Theatre, The Joey Bishop Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Join Facts Verse to learn about the scene that Danny Thomas filmed 2 days before his fatal heart attack.
But his big break came with another iteration of The Danny Thomas Show…
ROBERT’S TV CAREER
The TV version of The Danny Thomas Show had a few similarities to the radio show that Danny appeared in the 1940s. He played Danny Williams – a New York based entertainer who has to juggle his career along with his wife and kids. The show had some similarities to Danny’s life and was the perfect vehicle to show off his comedic talents.
This was the show that solidified Danny Thomas as a major star. The show ran for 343 episodes from 1953 to 1964. The Danny Williams character was so popular that he briefly played the role again in a short-lived TV show called Make Room for Granddaddy.
He continued to act in TV shows for the remainder of his career until his death in 1991. His other major TV shows included:
- The Danny Thomas Hour
- The Practice
- Danny Thomas: Young and Foolish
- I’m a Big Girl Now and
- One Big Family
He also continued to make guest appearances on popular TV shows such as Here’s Lucy, Kojak, McCloud, Happy Days, Benson, and It’s a Living. His final role was as Dr. Leo Brewster in Empty Nest.
While best known as an actor, Danny Thomas was also a prominent producer. He predominantly served as an executive producer for some of the most popular American TV shows of all time. These shows included:
- The Andy Griffith Show
- The Real McCoys
- The Tycoon
- The Bill Dana Show
- The Joey Bishop Show
- The Dick Van Dyke Show
- The Guns of Will Sonnett
- Make Room for Granddaddy and
- Mod Squad
TV was truly Danny’s medium, and this is what made him a huge star! But while he dedicated his life to acting and creating excellent television shows, films, and radio programs, there was still a higher purpose he had in life. Join Facts Verse to learn about the scene that Danny Thomas filmed 2 days before his fatal heart attack.
ST. JUDE and DANNY’S FINAL DAYS
While Danny Thomas was struggling as an actor, he depended on his Catholic Faith to help him get through the challenges of an artist’s life. He made a vow that if he became successful, he would open a shrine in the honor of St. Jude Thaddeus. St. Jude was the patron saint who helped those who felt hopeless.
When he became a star in the 1950s, Danny and his wife Rose traveled around the United States to raise funds for a Children’s Hospital. This hospital would help children who were suffering from rare and often deadly diseases.
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital was founded in Tennessee in 1962 and is now one of the leading charities in the United States. While Danny Thomas is known as a star to some, he’s known as a hero to many.
Over 3 decades since his passing, St. Jude’s is still running and conducts research to help find treatments and cures for suffering children.
In fact, on February 4th 1991, Danny Thomas filmed the final scene of his acting career. While his professional acting career ended with Empty Nest, the last piece of work he appeared in was a commercial for St. Jude!
Two days after filming the commercial for St. Jude, he died of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was also a recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.
For his incredible acting and philanthropic efforts, he definitely deserves the praise. Danny Thomas is survived by his wife Rose and 3 children.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Danny Thomas? Did you know about his philanthropic work as well as his acting career?
Here’s what we’d like to know from you:
Do you think that more entertainers need to play their part in helping out society?
Or are there enough entertainers who make positive contributions to the wider society?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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