Mary Steenburgen – Inside The Life of Ted Danson’s Wife

Mary Steenburgen is an award-winning American actress and singer known for her roles as Lynda Dummar in Melvin and Howard, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek, and Karen Buckman in Parenthood among many others. She has won many awards, including one Academy Award and one Golden Globe Award both for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the character of Lynda Dummar in the 1980 film Melvin and Howard. 

Her excellent performance in various works has also earned her 9 nominations some of which are two Golden Globe nominations for the films Goin’ South and Ragtime, a Primetime Emmy nomination for The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank and a BAFTA TV Award nomination for the miniseries Tender is the Night. 

Mary Steenburgen’s Age and Early Life

Born as Mary Nell Steenburgen on the 8th of February 1953, in Newport, Arkansas, the actress is the daughter of Nellie Mae and Maurice Hoffman Steenburgen, both late. Her mother was a school-board secretary while her father, a freight-train conductor, worked at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Mary was raised by her parents alongside her sister Nancy (Steenburgen) Kelly, an educator.

As a young girl, Mary Steenburgen had a special liking for the arts and literature. Growing up, she was a tap-dancer and her natural talent made way for her to perform in various talent hunt shows and school functions. She was also a member of her school’s drama group where she appeared in a number of high school stage plays.

After graduating from high school, Mary moved over to Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, in 1971, to study drama. However, acting on the suggestion of her drama teacher, she left the college in 1972 and traveled to Dallas to study acting on a professional level. She auditioned for a spot in New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and was successful. In a bid to take care of herself while studying under Will Esper, Mary Steenburgen worked as a server at The Magic Pan and for the publishing company, Doubleday.

Acting Career

In 1978, she landed her breakthrough role as Julie Tate in Jack Nicholson’s second directorial work which was the western-comedy film Goin’ South. This happened after the director discovered her in the reception room of Paramount’s New York office. The following year, she was again cast in a lead role in the film Time After Time, alongside her future first husband, Malcolm McDowell.

In 1980, Mary Steenburgen played the role of Lynda Dummar in her third film, Melvin and Howard, and this earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also made a notable appearance in the 1983 film Cross Creek, portraying the character of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the novel The Yearling.

The actress had a starring role in the 1985 movie, One Magic Christmas, playing the role of Ginny Grainger, a wife, and mother of two who falls on hard times at Christmas and relies only on a Christmas miracle to rescue her family. From 1987 to 1989, Mary Steenburgen appeared in five movies, including Dead of Winter, The Whales of August, End of the Line, Miss Firecracker, and  Parenthood. 

The next year, she yielded to the persuasion of her children and fans of the Back to the Future films, to appear in its third part as Clara Clayton. She also voiced the character in Back to the Future: The Animated Series. The talented actress has also featured in many other films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Nixon (1995), Elf (2003), Step Brothers (2008), Four Christmases (2008), The Proposal (2009) Dirty Girl (2010), The Help (2011), Last Vegas (2013), A Walk in the Woods (2015), and Book Club (2018).

Music Career

On April 17, 2007, Mary Steenburgen underwent minor surgery on her arm which required a general anesthetic. After the surgery, she became passionate about singing and songwriting and consequently, started writing down everything. By 2017, she had already composed more than 40 songs. Mary has worked in collaboration with various musicians from Nashville and was also signed to Universal Music as a songwriter.

Details of Her Husband and Children

Mary Steenburgen met her co-actor, Malcolm McDowell while both of them were starring the film Time After Time in 1978. They dated for two years and eventually got married in 1980. The couple’s union produced two children, a son and a daughter named Charlie McDowell and Lilly respectively. Nine years later, the duo got separated and subsequently divorced in 1990.

Mary Steenburgen
Mary Steenburgen
and Ted Danson Image Source

In 1993, the actress met another actor, Ted Danson, on the set of the film Pontiac Moon and they started dating. On the 7th of October 1995, they tied the knot and consequently, Mary Steenburgen became the stepmother of Ted’s daughters, Kate, and Alexis whom he had with his former wife, producer Cassandra Coates.

It’s been more than 2 decades since they got married and until now, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen are still very much together, living with their family in the Los Angeles area.

Other Facts About Ted Danson’s Wife

1. She is the third consecutive winner of Oscar Award’s Best Supporting Actress to have the initials “M.S.” and the 84th actress to receive an Academy Award.

2. On December 16, 2009, Mary Steenburgen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

3. The actress had her first child, Lilly Amanda McDowell at the age of 27 and was 30 when she gave birth to the second, Charles Malcolm McDowell.

4. She became a grandmother for the first time at the age of 58. This was when her daughter Lilly gave birth to a baby girl named Clementine Mae in 2012.

5. Mary Steenburgen is actively involved in humanitarian activities and works with a number of groups.

6. A former student of Hendrix College, Mary Steenburgen was honored in 1989 with a doctorate from the institution. She also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas, in 2006.

7. Mary has known former president Bill Clinton personally from the time he was governor of Arkansas when she lived in Little Rock. This explains why the ex-president and his wife were present at her wedding to Ted Danson, why Clinton celebrated his 51st birthday at Mary’s home in Martha’s Vineyard on a Massachusetts island and why the actress, alongside her husband, supported Bill Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

chidimma Eze
I enjoy writing especially about the people, businesses, and events that impact our lives, but when I am not writing, you will find me catching up with family or the next movie release.


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