Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner

Danner in 1980
Born Blythe Katherine Danner
(1943-02-03) February 3, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Alma mater Bard College
Occupation Actress
Years active 1965–present
Spouse(s) Bruce Paltrow
(m. 1969–2002; his death)

Blythe Katherine Danner (born February 3, 1943) is an American actress of film, television and stage.

She is known for her role as Marilyn Truman, mother of Will, on the sitcom Will & Grace, and for co-starring opposite Robert De Niro in the three Meet the Parents franchise films. She is the mother of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jake Paltrow. In 1970 she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Butterflies Are Free. She won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role as Izzy Huffstodt on Huff.

Her other film work includes roles in 1776 (1972), The Great Santini (1979), Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), The Prince of Tides (1991), Husbands and Wives (1992), and I'll See You in My Dreams (2015).

Early life

Danner was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Katharine (née Kile; 1909–2006)[1] and Harry Earl Danner, a bank executive.[2][3] 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 (to a family of European descent).[4][5][6]

Danner graduated from George School, a Quaker high school located near Newtown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1960.[7] She began her Friends School experience in Kindergarten at Media-Providence Friends School, then known as Media Friends in Media, Pennsylvania.


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 (2004) and Little Fockers (2010).

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.[8]

In 2006, Danner was awarded an inaugural Katharine Hepburn Medal by Bryn Mawr College's Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center.[9]

In 2015, Danner was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[10]

Environmental activism

Danner has been involved in environmental issues such as recycling and conservation for over 30 years.[11] 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,[12] and won the 2002 EMA Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award.[13] In 2011, Danner joined Moms Clean Air Force,[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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,[17] 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.

Regarding meditation practice, Danner said: "I have found transcendental meditation very helpful and comforting. It centers me."[18]


Primetime Emmy Awards
Tony Awards
Other Awards



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 Homage 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[20] 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 Stolen 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 Nominated – Gotham Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture
2015 Tumbledown Ellen


Year Title Role Notes
1970 George M! Agnes Nolan Cohan Television movie
1971 Dr. Cook's Garden Janey Rausch Television movie
1972 Columbo Janice Benedict 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 The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer 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"
2016 Madoff Ruth Madoff TV miniseries

Theater work


  1. Social Security Death Index accessed 12-3-2015
  2. "Blythe Danner Biography (1944?-)". Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  3. "Dan Gross: Gwynnie had no time for granny" April 28, 2011,
  4. Hughes, Mike (November 20, 2004). "'Grownups' star finds role is a welcome distraction". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  5. "Hollywood celebrity finds family links in Barbados" Archived January 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Barbados Advocate, March 31, 2011.
  6. Profile,; accessed February 3, 2016.
  7. George School profile Archived October 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.; accessed February 3, 2016.
  8. "Trustees". Williamstown Theatre Festival. Archived from the original on October 21, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  9. "Danner wins medal" Bryn
  10. "Theater Hall of Fame Ceremony, Honoring Susan Stroman, F. Murray Abraham, Philip J. Smith and more, presented tonight". Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  11. "City Council Minutes". City of Santa Monica. June 24, 2003. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  12. "Board of Directors". Environmental Media Association. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  13. "12th Annual Environmental Media Awards". Environmental Media Association. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  14. "Moms Clean Air Force". Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  15. "The Oral Cancer Foundation". Oral Cancer Fund. December 7, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  16. "Bruce Paltrow Fund". Oral Cancer Fund. December 7, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  17. "Bruce Paltrow Fund". OCF Inc. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  18. Douglas, Clare; Whitwell, Carli (May 27, 2015). "Blythe Danner: 'A part of me feels like I have never grown up'". Hello! Canada; retrieved June 3, 2015.
    "I have found transcendental meditation very helpful and comforting. It centers me."
  19. Lucy Award, past recipients WIF web site Archived August 20, 2011, at WebCite

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