Marlo Thomas: First Single Working Woman on Television
Marlo Thomas on breaking the mold with her forward-thinking 1960s TV series "That Girl" and the power of TV to change minds.
Marlo Thomas on breaking the mold with her forward-thinking 1960s TV series That Girl and the power of TV to change minds.
MARLO THOMAS: You know, my father was one of nine boys. So I observed nine Lebanese marriages. And when they had a fight with their wives, the comment would be, where is she going to go? And the truth is, she had nowhere to go. So I really had it in my soul very early that I was always going to have somewhere to go.
I was this young actress, you know, struggling and doing auditions. And I got a call from the head of the network, Edgar Sherrick. And he said, we believe that you can be a television star. I said, look, everything I've read that you sent me, the girl is either the daughter of somebody, or the wife of somebody, or the secretary of somebody. Have you ever considered doing a show where the girl is the somebody? And he looked at me and he said, would anybody watch a show like that?
I said, today's girls, we don't want to be our mothers. We want something completely different. I want her to be a girl like me, who's got a college education, who wants to be an actress, who wants to be independent, who doesn't want to get married, who wants to find out who she is. That's what I want to play.
- Now, daddy, just a minute. Before you go any further, yes, Don and I are very fond of each other. But at the moment, marriage is the furthest thing from our mind.
- It's time it got a little closer.
- Well, besides, I don't want to get married just yet. I have my career to think about.
MARLO THOMAS: I had called her Miss Independence was the name I gave the show. And they called it That Girl, which is a way better name.
And the opening night, you know, we got a 40 share. And in fact, it wasn't just young girls. It was moms and grandmothers. I would get letters, because a lot of women in those days, like my mother, had given up their dreams. And they were kind of encouraging me to stick with it, kid.
[MUSIC PLAYING - "THAT GIRL" THEME SONG]
The big conflict for the last show was that the network and the sponsors, even my writing staff, wanted there to be a wedding. They wanted Anne Marie and Donald to have a wedding at the last show. And I just couldn't do it.
And I said, I just can't. I have the feeling that there's these millions of girls who've been hanging on Ann Marie's every word and following her journey. And if she gets married at the end, it means that's the only happy ending. So in the last show, I took Donald to a women's lib meeting, which made everybody mad. But I thought it's the perfect end, that she's going to continue to try to change him and bring him into her way of thinking.
- You just keep forgetting that as a woman, you can't do everything.
- There are very few things we can't do as well as any man.
MARLO THOMAS: And I think television changes minds. I mean, I know it does. I know from the fact that to this day, women stop me on the street and say, I would have never come to New York if it hadn't been for you.
The creator of That Girl, Bill Persky, used to say that Ann Marie threw the hand grenade into the bunker, and all the other women's shows got to walk through it. That's a great feeling. That's a really great feeling.