Marlo Thomas: A Woman of Independent Means
Much like her That Girl
alter ego, Ann Marie, a young and prescient Marlo Thomas
knew about "Girl Power" long before the Spice Girls
hit the scene.
"I remember thinking at a very early age, 'I'm always going to know where I'm going,'" she says in a Lifetime Intimate Portrait airing tonight (7 pm/ET). "Nobody's ever going to say to me 'What does she know? Where is she going to go?'"
As the single-minded daughter of legendary entertainer Danny Thomas and a junior member of Hollywood royalty, where Thomas went was straight into the family business. And in the early '60s buoyed by a breakout performance in the London stage production of Barefoot in the Park television beckoned.
"The head of ABC at the time called me in and, just like the old story, said 'Kid, you can be a TV star. I'm gonna find a series for you.'" Unfortunately, he didn't have a concept but Thomas did. "There [was] all this stuff happening in the country with women, [yet] everybody on television is either the daughter of somebody, the wife of somebody or the secretary of somebody. [I said], 'Why don't you just do a show where the girl is the somebody?'"
Thus, That Girl was born. The series, which ran from 1966-71, was immensely popular a fact Thomas attributes in large part to the late Ted Bessell, who played her on-screen comic and romantic foil Don Hollinger. "Half the show was Teddy," she says. "There was no show without [him]."
Even off-screen, Bessell made quite an impression. "[We] definitely had a romance," Thomas admits. "I was crazy about him. Every girl wanted to go to bed with Teddy. He had all the male stuff."