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Ted Bessell; Actor, Director Co-Starred in ‘That Girl’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ted Bessell, an actor best remembered as Marlo Thomas’ boyfriend on the long-running television series “That Girl,” has died. He was believed to be 61, although some reports indicated he was older.

Bessell was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room early Sunday of a suspected heart attack.

In recent years a director and producer, Bessell was preparing to direct a movie version of the television sitcom “Bewitched.”

In “That Girl,” which ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971, Bessell co-starred as Thomas’ love interest, Newsview magazine writer Don Hollinger. Thomas, daughter of comedian Danny Thomas and the wife of talk show host Phil Donahue, played an aspiring young actress in New York named Ann Marie.

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After a guest role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as Mary’s boyfriend in 1970, Bessell went on to star in the considerably less successful series “Me and the Chimp” on CBS in 1972 and “Good Time Harry” on NBC in 1980, in which he played a San Francisco sportswriter and womanizer.

He also co-starred with Patty Duke in the 1985 ABC sitcom about the first female U.S. president, “Hail to the Chief.” Bessell played the First Gentleman, unfaithful spouse of the president.

He appeared in several miniseries and television specials, including one of his own, “The Ted Bessell Show” in 1973. He was also in a few motion pictures including “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Billie,” “Captain Newman, M.D.” and “The Outsider.”

But Bessell claimed his roles as an actor were limited because he was stereotyped by his boyfriend role on Marlo Thomas’ show. So he switched to directing and producing television, and had begun to move into feature films.

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Bessell shared an Emmy as a producer on “The Tracy Ullman Show” in 1989. He was also a director and producer of a 1991 series pilot, “Sibs.”

Born in Flushing, N.Y., Bessell performed a piano recital at Carnegie Hall when he was only 12. But he turned from music to acting in high school and while attending Georgetown University. He also studied at Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where he began his career by acting in soap operas.


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