When I grow up, I want to be Ann Marie. She’s sweet, adorable, charming, anxious, intelligent, brave, clever, witty, an impeccable dresser and, of course, one of the most lovable characters I’ve ever come across. Marlo Thomas was the perfect actress for the part; she made Ann Marie a part of TV history in That Girl, and a character dear to my own heart. One day, I would love to meet her.
Until then, I watch and rewatch That Girl in the comforts of home. Ann Marie is an aspiring actress who dreams of making it, but until that day comes she finds herself in various parts in commercials and the theatre, and doing random odd jobs to pay the bills along the way.
Ann has her moments when she fears her career isn’t going where she wants it to, but for the most part she happily lives her life without the fear of failure hanging over her head. That’s one of the things I admire most about her—she pursues her dream, but at the same time she doesn’t stop living her life to do it. She still does the things she wants to do, she still makes time for those most important to her (like her boyfriend, Don Hollinger, and her parents), and she remains humble, never allowing one job or another to change who she is, and never allowing herself to be used. She has character and integrity—also personality aspects that I admire.
There are a variety of reasons why I love That Girl, and several more as to why I would love to learn more from her, especially when it comes to life lessons.
Sweet and Innocent in Every Way
That Girl premiered in 1966, a very different time in pretty much every way. Even the most innocent of situations could look racy at that time, though we would think nothing of it now. For instance, in “Dark on Top of Everything Else”, Ann finds herself back in her parents’ house for the weekend and, naturally, jumps at every noise. She heads downstairs to try to close a window, but in a series of circumstances ends up trapped inside a rollaway bed instead. Don (Ted Bessell) finds her there, and after he’s freed her they share a sweet kiss, only for Ann’s father and mother to arrive. Ann’s father, who is very protective and old-fashioned, immediately fears the worst.
Considering Lew (Lew Parker) already doesn’t trust Don with his daughter, it only worsens the situation. It’s not the first time Ann and Don have had to explain themselves to Lew. Even though each time there’s a perfectly innocent explanation, Lew always fears that Don and Ann have slept together prior to marriage, and insists on keeping them apart. Nonetheless, it does make for a hilarious storyline each time.
Ann is very positive; I remember one particular episode where she’s auditioning for a part and the man in charge is very hard on her, critiquing everything about Ann. Harsh words are said, but instead of deflating or running from the room crying, Ann only wonders how she can do better and isn’t completely devastated at his words. Taking criticism isn’t necessarily a favorite thing among people, but Ann takes it in stride and even applies it where she can, despite the fact that the criticism may be overdone or brutal at times. She takes it constructively, not personally. She finds a way to apply it without letting the words run over and over in her head, or allowing them to really hurt her. I’d never seen anything like it before—suffice it to say, it was a great life lesson on how to not allow criticism to rule your thoughts, despite the fact that the criticism was very personal and close to home.
Ann’s also very good about handling herself in situations where people ask too much of her, or take advantage of her. She’ll do what she can to make others happy, but she does draw a line somewhere.
I recently rewatched “Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year, Hopefully”, in which Ann tries to make everyone’s favorite dish for Thanksgiving dinner. She invites her parents and Don’s parents to her apartment, and rushes back and forth from her kitchen to her neighbor’s to prepare everything. Unfortunately for Ann, it doesn’t quite work out as planned, but her effort is a kind gesture, and she tries her best. Don’s mother is very critical and judgmental of Ann, but she doesn’t let it get to her. In fact, she goes out of her way to please Don’s mother, though she doesn’t necessarily deserve it. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving didn’t turn out like she’d hoped, Ann still made the best out of it, and even joked that there would be no dessert. Even in disaster, Ann can still find a way to laugh.
Ann can also be very silly—something I quite enjoy about her character. One of my favorite episodes is where Ann, after reading an article about someone who could bowl with their feet, gets her toe stuck in a bowling ball, and has a terrible time trying to get it removed. Hopping around in New York City with a bowling ball stuck to her foot was quite the sight, and made for a hilarious episode. Not everyone would have tried bowling with their feet, but Ann would. She’s a unique individual, especially in how she thinks. Don has mentioned that Ann is illogical—she doesn’t always think things through and she doesn’t necessarily consider consequences (especially where bowling with her feet is concerned), but it’s just who she is. Her illogical mannerisms are a charming part of her personality, because she sees the world differently from everyone else, and she makes life more fun and adventurous because of it. After all, who wants to be logical all the time?
Ann and Don
Ann and Don were definitely made for each other; however, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. The two first meet while Ann is working in a shop in Don’s building, and he finds her strange, given that she’s making faces in a mirror (unbeknownst to Don, she is practicing for a part in a commercial).
The commercial calls for Ann to be kidnapped, and Don just so happens to arrive in time to see it. He knocks out her kidnappers and whisks her away to safety. However, he doesn’t realize it isn’t real until Ann lets him know and, embarrassed, he hides out while Ann returns to finish filming the commercial. The two later clash some more over a desk, but despite their frustrating debacle that follows, there’s an obvious attraction there that leads to something more.
Ann and Don were truly ahead of their time; Don certainly didn’t expect Ann to marry him right away or to give up her career to be a housewife. Instead, he supported her, and she supported his writing career in turn. Neither discouraged the other from taking every opportunity, though if they had concerns they did voice them to one another. They made time for each other as well, despite being busy trying to establish and further their careers.
I love how Don and Ann are together as well. Ann has a tendency to talk fast and go over every concern she has, and Don patiently listens instead of growing frustrated every time. Likewise, Ann pays attention to Don’s needs and concerns (some memorable storylines have actually resulted from her overthinking Don’s point of view, especially in “Dark on Top of Everything Else”, when she leaves for the weekend fearing that Don thinks they spend too much time together). Ann needed someone to listen to and be patient with her; Don was perfect for her. Likewise, Don needed someone like Ann to keep him on his toes, and someone who understood the importance of his career—Ann was in a creative industry herself and also had great ambitions in her career.
I relate to various characters for different reasons, but with Ann it’s different, because this isn’t a character who has supernatural powers or who is going for something I can’t relate to. She’s universally relatable in a lot of ways, actually. She’s a young woman striving for a career in show business, making ends meet as she does everything she can to make her dreams of being a movie star come true. For anyone trying to realize their dreams, Ann’s pretty relatable.
Ann’s fast talking and tendency to rattle off everything she’s thinking are things I do too, and thus they make her that much more relatable for me. The way she takes criticism, the way she lives her life pursuing her dream (but at the same time doesn’t let it hold her back), and her desire to help others are all relatable for me too. She’s an admirable and inspirational person, and on top of that, she definitely knows how to dress her best. I wouldn’t mind going back to the 1960s and shopping with Ann!
Ann’s kindness is my favorite quality. Though it can sometimes get her in trouble (Don will often warn her against interfering in other’s lives without their permission), her heart is always in the right place. She pays attention, she listens, and she does everything she can to make their dreams come true as well, never letting her own ambition get in the way of seizing an opportunity to help someone else. This is what I love most about her, and why I will always hold Ann near and dear to my heart.