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‘That Girl’ Cast: A Look Back at the Groundbreaking ’60s Sitcom

Catch up with 'Miss Independence' herself and see all that's happened to the beloved stars!


An aspiring actress moves from her small hometown to make her mark as an actress in New York City. There she has to take several temp jobs to support herself in between various auditions, modeling assignments and bit parts. Sound familiar? It’s the story of so many wanna-be actresses that have dreams of starring on Broadway or in the latest box office hit. But in this case, it’s the story of Ann Marie, as played by Marlo Thomas, lead of the That Girl cast.

Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie in That Girl, 1966
Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie in That Girl, 1966Daisy Productions/ABC/MoviestillsDB

This popular sitcom ran from 1966 to 1971 with Ann moving from Brewster, New York to the Big Apple, balancing career ambitions with finding time for the rest of the That Girl cast, including Ted Bessell as boyfriend Donald Hollinger, and Lew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp as her constantly-worrying parents, Lew and Helen Marie.

Unique about That Girl is that this was one of the first sitcoms focusing on an unmarried woman who is not a housewife, a mother or living with her parents — characteristics that paralleled Marlo’s real life, earning her the nickname Miss Independence. 

Promo shoot for That Girl with Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell, 1967
Promo shoot for That Girl with Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell, 1967Silver Screen Collection/Getty

That Girl reflected the changing attitudes and roles of American women during this time period. With a combination of dry wit and goofy charm, the series was a hit with a formulaic storyline, always beginning with a small teaser sequence that would conclude with the camera locking on Ann as somebody refers to her as “that girl,” followed by a freeze frame of a surprised look on her face. Audiences loved it!

Throughout the show’s 136 episodes, the relationship between Ann and Donald continued to evolve with the original intent being for them to get married in the final episode. Marlo herself vetoed the idea — despite the fact that she was the one who wanted the show to end in 1971. “I felt the series finale with a wedding was giving the wrong message to the female audience. I said, I just can’t do that to these women and girls who followed Ann Marie’s adventure,” Thomas has reflected. “I can’t say that the only happy ending is a wedding because I don’t believe it. There was a big ruckus about it, but I wouldn’t do it.”

Instead, the That Girl finale showed Ann Marie taking Donald to a women’s lib meeting, which made Thomas very happy, a sentiment not shared by many others within the production team. “I loved it,” she proclaimed.

That Girl cast — where are they now?

While most of the That Girl cast have since passed away, let’s have a recap of their combined talents.

Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie in the That Girl Cast

Marlo Thomas from That Girl. Left: 1967; Right: 2023
Marlo Thomas Left: 1967; Right: 2023Bettmann/Getty; Leon Bennett/Getty

Marlo Thomas was approached by an ABC executive who saw her in a screen test for a failed pilot, but was captivated by her energy and beauty, so he gave her several scripts to read for possible starring roles. Unfortunately, she didn’t like any of them because they all focused on a woman who was either a traditional girlfriend, wife or secretary to someone else.

Thomas wanted a show that would focus on a young, modern woman who had her own dreams and inspirations. Thus came That Girl and Ann Marie, an independent spirit who wanted nothing more than to be an accomplished actress. 

Born Margaret Julia Thomas in Detroit, but raised in Beverly Hills into a show biz family – comedic actor Danny Thomas being her dad  – Marlo grew up with George Burns, Bob Hope, Sid Caesar and Milton Berle in her living room telling jokes and making each other laugh.

Milton Berle, Marlo Thomas and Danny Thomas, That Girl cast
Marlo’s reel life reflected her real one, as she’s seen here with comedy legends Milton Berle and her dad, Danny Thomas©ABC/courtesy

While many think That Girl was Marlo’s acting debut, she had appeared in many TV programs, including Bonanza, The Joey Bishop Show, The Donna Reed Show amongst a slew of others. Her big break came in 1965 when she was cast by Mike Nicholas in the London production of Barefoot in the Park. After That Girl went off the air, Thomas expanded her horizons and attended the Actors Studio and studied with famed Lee Strasberg. At her 1986 Emmy win for Nobody’s Child, she thanked her mentor.

Daniel Massey and Marlo Thomas: That Girl Cast
Daniel Massey and Marlo Thomas appearing in the London production of Barefoot In The Park Express/Express/Getty Images)

Guest appearances on several TV shows dot her resume as do Broadway credits in such plays as Thieves, Social Security and more. Her independent spirit had her venture into other creative endeavors with the publishing of seven books, three of them becoming #1 best sellers. 

The year 1977 was a pivotal one for Marlo when she was a guest on The Phil Donahue Show. Three years later, the pair were married. Marlo was 40 and it was her first marriage. “We just clicked on his show. It was obvious that we were very attracted to each other,” she said. “We make each other laugh, which is a big deal in making a marriage last.” 

Marlo Thomas and husband Phil Donahue, 1992
Marlo Thomas and husband Phil Donahue, 1992 Robin Platzer/Getty

Another important component to Marlo’s life is maintaining her father’s legacy with St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which was founded by him in 1972. Marlo is the National Outreach Director and devotes herself to the cause: “I honestly can’t tell you where my thoughts of St. Jude begin and where they end.” While the hospital’s purpose is serious, the result is joyful.  “Comedy built St. Jude”, Thomas has said.

President Obama awarded Thomas the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24, 2014. “The honor made me think about my grandparents who were immigrants. The tears were coming down my face. I kept thinking this is the possibility of America. We must remember that.” 

Related: Marlo Thomas Shares Her Secrets to Happiness at Age 85: “Lust and Laughter”

Ted Bessell as Don Hollinger

Ted Bessell Left: 1970; Right: 1980
Ted Bessell Left: 1970; Right: 1980Martin Mills/Getty; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

After Don Hollinger met Ann Marie in the lobby of fictional NewsView magazine, where he worked as a writer, they became a couple. In fact, after a few years, Donald proposed and became engaged to the aspiring actress. 

Born in Flushing, New York, Ted Bessell, second lead of the That Girl cast, was initially preparing for a career as a classical musician — as a 12 year-old child prodigy, he performed a piano recital at Carnegie Hall — but acting in guest spots in soap operas Lover Come Back (1961) and playing college student Tom DeWitt on the short lived It’s a Man’s World (1962) had him leave the piano behind and enter the thespian arena. Episodic work such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and 12 o’clock High led to a regularly featured part on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. as Private Frankie Lombardi. 

Ted Bessell and Marlo Thomas, leaders of the That Girl cast
Actress Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell pose for a portrait circa April, 1970 in Los Angeles, California Martin Mills/Getty Images

Clearly, it was playing That Guy to Marlo’s That Girl that brought him fame and recognition. After the series went off the air, he stepped into the role of Mike Reynolds, a dentist who takes in a runaway chimp in Me and the Chimp (1972), and in 1975 played Mary Richards’ boyfriend for two episodes on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Bessell found himself stereotyped as the good ole boyfriend and found stepping out of that role difficult. “Donald Hollinger made me a name, but took away what was the heart of me”, he told People. “The role was an imposition on my creative needs.”

For years, Bessell strived to portray anything but Milquetoasts, so he ventured into stage work as well as directing and producing in television. He directed episodes of The Tracey Ullman Show and Sibs. In 1989, he shared an Emmy as a producer on the former. 

At the time of his death at age 61 from a ruptured aortic aneurysm , he was preparing to direct a movie version of the TV series Bewitched.

Lew Parker as Lew Marie in the That Girl Cast

Lew Parker in That Girl, 1960s
Lew Parker in That Girl, 1960s@FilmRiseTelevision/YouTube; @FactsVerse/YouTube

Born in Brooklyn, Lew Parker was not only a TV personality, but also a stage and musical theater actor. His most notable role was as part of the That Girl cast playing Lew Marie, the arrogant, but doting father of Marlo Thomas’ character, Ann Marie. Parker appeared in many 60s television series such as Gidget and F Troop as a mayoral candidate. Not limiting himself to the small screen, Parker enjoyed a career on Broadway as early as 1928 in Rainbow. Some other credits include The Front Page (1946), Mr. Wonderful (1956) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1972) among others. 

In 1972, Parker passed away from cancer in New York City.

Bernie Kopell as Jerry Bauman

Bernie Kopell Left: 1970; Right: 2023
Bernie Kopell Left: 1970; Right: 2023Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; Paul Archuleta/Getty

Not a major part of the That Girl cast, but a memorable one as a fellow employee of Donald’s at Newsview magazine. After the first season of the series, Jerry and wife Ruth lived next door to Ann in Apartment C. During the 60s and early 70s, Bernie Kopell appeared in numerous television sitcoms, including The Love Boat, The Jack Benny Program, Green Acres, The Flying Nun, Petticoat Junction, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched and Get Smart amongst many others.  

At 90 years of age, Kopell still appears regularly in film and television productions. 

Related:The Dick Van Dyke Show’: Inside Secrets on the Series and Cast

Rosemary DeCamp as Helen Marie

Rosemary DeCamp Left: 1951; Right: 1970s
Rosemary DeCamp Left: 1951; Right: 1970s John Springer Collection/Corbis Historical/Getty; @FilmRiseTelevision/YouTube

Not only was Rosemary DeCamp a noted television and film actress, she also was a radio actress who played the role of Judy Price in the long-running Dr. Christian radio series in 1937. Making her film debut in Cheers for Miss Bishop, she appeared in many Warner Bros. films including Yankee Doodle Dandy opposite James Cagney, This is the Army, playing the mother of Ronald Reaganl Rhapsody in Blue and Nora Prentiss

Born in Prescott, Arizona, Rosemary was often cast as the ideal small town American mother, a calming and steadying presence in scores of films throughout the 40s and 50s. This persona fit perfectly into her recurring role as part of the That Girl cast playing Ann’s mother. Following That Girl, DeCamp appeared in several episodes of Petticoat Junction, The Bob Cummings Show, Hazel, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Partridge Family and even entered outer space on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

DeCamp outlived most of her contemporaries, but passed away at age 90 in 2001 from pneumonia. 

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