After “That Girl” proved a comedy success and a sort of personal triumph last season for the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl who played the title role, ABC executives suggested that the series be called “The Marlo Thomas Show.”
Since that tag means stardom in television, Marlo’s immediate rejection of the idea is an indication of how much this woman in her mid-20s has matured in a few months.
It was, in fact, only a year ago when furiously engaged in advance promotion and publicity for her first television series, Marlo was getting progressively more discouraged.
“Every time I have an interview, the only thing they ask is about my father,” mourned the oldest daughter of entertainer Danny Thomas.
“I love my father, but I don’t want to spend my life giving interviews about him.”
It has been months since she was in that situation. Danny is invariably mentioned, but now Marlo is an important television star in her own right. She also is president of her company, Daisy Productions, lives like a successful career girl in her own apartment in the Hollywood Hills, and inhabits a star-type two-room dressing suite on the Desilu lot where the series is filmed.
“I’d forgotten about being annoyed,” she said. “It’s amazing how fast you heal up once a source of irritation disappears.”
She turned down the suggestion about retitling the show, she said, “because that’s what the show is about, that girl. It is not about Marlo Thomas.”
A famous, affluent parent can help only up to a point. He can steer his child in the right direction, advise about associates. But television stars and successful shows are made by the public, not influence. And on the heels of Mario’s victory over television have come a four-year movie contract with an important studio, endless offers of starring roles in “specials” and a Christmas show in which she will costar with her father.
“That Girl” is one series which is very fashion conscious. In a scene with costar Ted Bessell being shot this week, Marlo was wearing giddy Roman-striped culottes whose hem ended at midthigh, white fish-net stockings and buckled, black patent-leather shoes, and looked as if she had stepped out of a fashion magazine illustration.
Is it not dangerous to dress up to fashion’s last word? The clothes might be distractingly dated a few seasons hence when “That Girl,” presumably, will be around in reruns.
“Did you ever notice Jean Hagen’s clothes in my father’s early shows?” she replied. “Her dresses actually flap around her ankles – and it hasn’t hurt the reruns a bit. No, I think it’s great to wear nice clothes good for the women in the audience, too, because you don’t see much fashion in television.
“Most of the time, women in television are in the kitchen or cleaning house. I don’t play a housewife, like most of the others, so I’m using my chance to wear interesting contemporary clothes.”
Television stardom, for all its rewards, is hard work, and Marlo is a hard worker. She routinely spends a 14-hour day at the studio, goes to bed early and arises at dawn.
She’s a contract bridge nut, and “usually arranges a Friday night game since Saturday and Sunday are free — except to learn lines. But by about the second hand, I’m so tired from the earlier part of the week that I’m falling asleep over the cards,” she said.
“But it’s worth it. It’s worth every bit of it. I love it.”
Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell on the cover of TV Guide – August 8-14, 1970