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Before Lynda Carter, there was another Wonder Woman

By: H&I Staff     Posted: February 12, 2020, 11:34AM

Lynda Carter has solidified her place as the iconic Wonder Woman, and there is absolutely nothing that could change that. Her portrayal of the Amazonian princess gave new rise to bringing comics to screens across America. 

We adore Carter's portrayal of this purveyor of justice, but Wonder Woman has one less-sung heroine to thank for her current popularity. 

That person is actress Cathy Lee Crosby who, in 1974, played Prince in the first made-for-television movie Wonder Woman. Crosby had been in the acting pool for a few years — up until 1967, she had been a Wimbledon-worthy professional tennis player.

Between 1967 and 1970, she made the transition from athlete to actress, taking on roles in projects like It Takes a Thief and The Laughing Policemen. Wonder Woman would be her first experience as a title character. 

While fans were excited to see Wonder Woman in live-action on the small screen, the movie followed its own set of rules for establishing her character. (Fun fact: Wonder Woman actually made her television debut on The Brady Kids cartoon, of all places.) The plot of the film heavily deviated from its comic book origins, trying to build a new persona for Diana. This Wonder Woman had no clear super-human powers and no secret identity. Instead of the uniform donned in the comic books, she wore a skirted jumpsuit. They even let Crosby keep her hair blonde. 

In the film, Prince is an assistant to government agent Steve Trevor as they pursue a villain who has stolen a set of codebooks containing classified information. Along the way, she will have to battle nefarious henchman and track down those books to save the world. 

Everett CollectionCathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman, 1974.

The goal of the movie was to drum up excitement over the prospect of a future series. The ratings, however, didn't support this decision. The numbers didn't hit their projected goals, with many calling them "respectable, but not exactly wondrous." Because of this, the idea for a follow-up series was thrown out, for the time being, only to be resurrected again in 1975.

By this time, Carter had accepted the title role of Diana Prince and some significant changes had been made to the show. The entire look of Wonder Woman, from her hair to her boots, mirrored that of the comic book artwork, as did the major plot points that start the action. 

While the first movie's changes may have been scrapped, the overall creation of the movie did have a major impact on comic book adaptations breaking into mainstream media. The overall positive, if not enthusiastic, reception of the film let ABC and, eventually, CBS know that viewers wanted to continue to see their favorite superheroes on screen, continuing to launch the major franchises we know and love today. 

Did you see the movie when it first aired on television? What were your first thoughts about those changes?