Blythe Danner

Blythe Katherine Danner (born February 3, 1943) is an American actress of film, television, and stage. She is known for the television role of Marilyn Truman, mother of title character Will, in the sitcom Will & Grace, and for co-starring opposite Robert De Niro in the three Meet the Parents franchise films. She is also a Tony Award-winning stage actress. She is the mother of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jake Paltrow.

    Early life

    Danner was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Katharine (née Kile) and Harry Earl Danner, a bank executive. She has a brother, opera singer/actor Harry Danner; a sister-in-law, performer-turned-director Dorothy (Dottie) Danner; and a half-brother, violin maker William Moennig. Danner has Pennsylvania Dutch (German), and some English and Irish, ancestry; her maternal grandmother was a German immigrant, and one of her paternal great-grandmothers was born in Barbados. Danner graduated from George School, a Quaker high school located near Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1960. She started her Friends School experience in Kindergarten at Media-Providence Friends School, then known as Media Friends, in Media, PA.


    A graduate of Bard College, Danner's first roles included the 1967 musical Mata Hari (closed out of town), and the 1968 off-Broadway production, Summertree. Her early Broadway appearances included roles in Cyrano de Bergerac (1968) and The Miser (1969). She won a Best Supporting Actress Tony playing a free-spirited divorcee in Butterflies Are Free (1969).

    In 1972, Danner portrayed Martha Jefferson opposite Ken Howard's Thomas Jefferson in the movie version of 1776. That same year, she played a wife whose husband has been unfaithful opposite Peter Falk and John Cassavetes in the Columbo episode "Etude in Black".

    Her earliest starring film role was opposite Alan Alda in To Kill a Clown (1972). Danner appeared in the episode of M*A*S*H entitled "The More I See You", playing the love interest of Alda's character Hawkeye Pierce. She played lawyer Amanda Bonner in television's Adam's Rib, also opposite Ken Howard as Adam Bonner. She played Zelda Fitzgerald in F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles' (1974). She was the eponymous heroine in the film Lovin' Molly (1974) (directed by Sidney Lumet). She appeared in Futureworld, playing Tracy Ballard with co-star Peter Fonda (1976). In the 1982 TV movie Inside the Third Reich, she played the wife of Albert Speer. In the film version of Neil Simon's semiautobiographical play Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), she portrayed a middle-aged Jewish mother. She has appeared in two films based on the novels of Pat Conroy, The Great Santini (1979) and The Prince of Tides (1991), as well as two television movies adapted from books by Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe and Back When We Were Grownups, both for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

    Danner at the Metropolitan Opera opening, September 22, 2008

    Danner appeared opposite Robert De Niro in the 2000 comedy hit Meet the Parents, and its sequels, Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers.

    From 2001 to 2006, she regularly appeared on Will & Grace as Will Truman's mother Marilyn. From 2004 to 2006, she starred in the TV series Huff. In 2005, she was nominated for three Emmy Awards: for her work on Will & Grace, Huff, and Back When We Were Grownups. Emmy host Ellen DeGeneres poked fun at Danner during the awards ceremony, saying that Danner should not be nervous because she was almost certain to win at least one Emmy, which she did, for Huff. In July 2006, she won a second consecutive Emmy award for Huff. For 25 years, she has been a regular performer at the Williamstown Summer Theater Festival, where she also serves on the Board of Directors.

    In 2006, Danner was awarded an inaugural Katharine Hepburn Medal by Bryn Mawr College's Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center.

    In 2015, Danner was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

    Environmental activism

    Danner has been involved in environmental issues such as recycling and conservation for over 30 years. She has been active with INFORM, Inc., is on the Board of Environmental Advocates of New York and the Board of Directors of the Environmental Media Association, and won the 2002 EMA Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award. In 2011, Danner joined Moms Clean Air Force, to help call on parents to join in the fight against toxic air pollution.

    Health care activism

    After the death of her husband Bruce Paltrow from oral cancer, she became involved with the Oral Cancer Foundation, a national 501(c)3 nonprofit charity. In 2005, she filmed a public service announcement that played on TV stations around the country about the risks associated with oral cancer, and through that shared the personal pain associated with the loss of her husband publicly to further awareness of the disease and the need for early detection. She continues to donate her time to the foundation, and has appeared on morning talk shows, and has done interviews in high profile magazines such as People to further public awareness of the disease and its risk factors. Through The Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund, administered by the Oral Cancer Foundation, she continues to raise awareness and funding for oral cancer issues, particularly those involving communities in which disparities in health care exist. She appeared in commercials for Prolia, a brand of denosumab for injection.

    Personal life

    Danner is the widow of producer/director Bruce Paltrow, who died from complications of pneumonia while battling oral cancer in 2002, and the mother of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jake Paltrow. Danner first co-starred with her daughter in 1992 in the TV movie Cruel Doubt and then again in the 2003 film Sylvia playing Aurelia Plath, mother to Gwyneth Paltrow's title role as Sylvia Plath.


    Primetime Emmy Awards
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress – Drama Series
      2005 Huff
      2006 Huff
    Tony Awards
    Other Awards
    • Women in Film Lucy Award



    Year Title Role Notes
    1972 To Kill a Clown Lily Frischer
    1972 1776 Martha Jefferson
    1974 Lovin' Molly Molly Taylor
    1975 Hearts of the West Miss Trout
    1976 Futureworld Tracy Ballard Saturn Award for Best Actress
    1979 The Great Santini Lillian Meechum
    1983 Man, Woman and Child Sheila Beckwith
    1986 Brighton Beach Memoirs Kate
    1988 Another Woman Lydia
    1990 Mr. and Mrs. Bridge Grace Barron
    1990 Alice Dorothy
    1991 The Prince of Tides Sally Wingo
    1992 Husbands and Wives Rain's parent
    1995 Napoleon Mother Dingo
    1995 Katherine Samuel
    1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Beatrice
    1997 The Myth of Fingerprints Lena
    1997 Mad City Mrs. Banks
    1998 The Farmhouse aka Eye of the Storm Irma Miller
    1998 The Proposition Syril Danning
    1998 No Looking Back Claudia's mom
    1998 The X-Files Jana Cassidy
    1999 Forces of Nature Virginia Cahill
    1999 The Love Letter Lillian MacFarquhar
    1999 Things I Forgot to Remember Mrs. Bradford
    2000 Meet the Parents Dina Byrnes Nominated—Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress in a Comedy
    2003 The Quality of Light Mary
    2003 Three Days of Rain Woman in Cab
    2003 Sylvia Aurelia Plath
    2004 Howl's Moving Castle Madam Sulliman
    2004 Meet the Fockers Dina Byrnes
    2006 Isabella Stewart Gardner
    2006 The Last Kiss Anna Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
    2008 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Greta
    2008 Side by Each Daisy
    2009 Waiting for Forever Miranda Twist
    2009 The Lightkeepers Mrs. Bascom
    2010 Little Fockers Dina Byrnes
    2011 Paul Tara Walton
    2011 What's Your Number? Ava Darling
    2011 Detachment Mrs. Perkins
    2012 The Lucky One Ellie
    2012 Hello I Must Be Going Ruth
    2014 Murder of a Cat Edie
    2015 I'll See You in My Dreams Carol Petersen Pending – Gotham Award for Best Actress
    2015 Tumbledown Ellen Filming


    Year Title Role Notes
    1970 George M! Agnes Nolan Cohan Television movie
    1971 Dr. Cook's Garden Janey Rausch Television movie
    1972 Columbo Janice Bendict Episode: "Etude in Black"
    1973 Adam's Rib Amanda Bonner 13 episodes
    1974 F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles' Zelda Fitzgerald Television movie
    1974 Sidekicks Prudy Jenkins Television movie
    1975 Great Performances Nina Episode: "The Seagull"
    1976 M*A*S*H Carlye Breslin Walton Episode: "The More I See You"
    1976 A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story Eleanor Gehrig Television movie
    1976 Great Performances Alma Winemiller Episode: "Eccentricites of a Nightingale"
    1977 Mrs. Custer Television movie
    1978 Are You in the House Alone? Anne Osbourne Television movie
    1979 Too Far to Go Joan Barlow Maple Television movie
    1979 You Can't Take It with You Alice Sycamore Television movie
    1982 Inside the Third Reich Margarete Speer Television movie
    1983 In Defense of Kids Ellen Wilcox Television movie
    1984 Guilty Conscience Louise Jamison Television movie
    1984 Helen Keller: The Miracle Continues Anne Sullivan Television movie
    1988–1989 Tattingers Hillary Tattinger 13 episodes
    1989 Money, Power, Murder Jeannie Television movie
    1990 Judgment Emmeline Guitry Television movie
    1992 Getting Up and Going Home Lily Television movie
    1992 Cruel Doubt Bonnie Van Stein Television movie
    1992 Tales from the Crypt Margaret Episode: "Maniac at Large"
    1992 Lincoln Elizabeth Todd Edwards Television movie
    1993 Tracey Ullman Takes On New York Eleanor Levine Television movie
    1993 Great Performances Narrator Episode: "The Maestros of Philladelphia"
    1994 Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All Bianca Honicut Television movie
    1994 Leave of Absence Elisa Television movie
    1997 Thomas Jefferson Martha Jefferson Television movie
    1997 A Call to Remember Paula Tobias Television movie
    1998 From the Earth to the Moon Narrator Episode: "Le voyage dans la dune"
    1998 Saint Maybe Bee Bedloe Television movie
    1998 Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery Mrs. Murphy Television movie
    2001–2006 Will & Grace Marilyn Truman 11 episodes
    Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (2005–06)
    2002 We Were the Mulvaneys Corinne Mulvaney Television movie
    Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
    2002 Presidio Med Dr. Harriet Lanning 3 episodes
    2003 Two and a Half Men Evelyn Harper Episode: "Most Chicks Won't Eat Veal"
    2004 Back When We Were Grownups Rebecca Holmes Davitch Television movie
    Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
    Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
    2004–2006 Huff Isabelle Huffstodt 25 episodes
    Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2005–06)
    2009 Medium Louise Leming Episode: "A Taste of Her Own Medicine"
    2009 Nurse Jackie Maureen Cooper Episode: "Tiny Bubbles"
    2011–2012 Up All Night Dr. Angie Chafin 3 episodes
    2015 The Slap Virginia Episode: "Anouk"

    Theater work


    External links