Angela Cartwright couldn't escape romantic rumors in the Seventies
One rumor claimed she got engaged to Kurt Russell at 19.
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In a bright yellow dress, Angela Cartwright appears in her guest role for Adam-12 as the picture of alarm. She's whisked from a heliport to the hospital where she hopes to donate her own blood to save her brother's life.
When "Assassination" aired in 1971, Cartwright was officially no longer a child star, having turned 19 just two months prior to the episode air date.
At this point in her career, she was ready to leave behind her image from wholesome TV shows like Make Room for Daddy and Lost in Space and movies like The Sound of Music. But even a few years later, meatier roles like this Adam-12 guest spot seemed harder to come by for the actor.
"I would like to try a part with a little more depth sometime, though," she told The San Francisco Examiner in 1973.
Although she may have experienced some trouble being taken seriously as an actor, the fan magazines knew her selling power. They had already begun churning out rumors linking the young and blossoming Cartwright to emerging leading men, including a whopper regarding her and Kurt Russell.
The same year she appeared on Adam-12, a fan wrote into The Hartford Courant asking, "Is there any truth to the rumor that Angela Cartwright of Make Room for Grandaddy and Kurt Russell are engaged?"
The columnist dashed the fan's hopes by confirming that not only was Russell not dating Cartwright, but he was already taken.
The young Russell was still smitten with his high school sweetheart, a girl named Liz who the columnist described as "really the apple of his eye, although he insists there's [sic] no marriage plans ahead."
As for Cartwright, she would continue to be romantically linked to celebrities she wasn't dating, and she thought this was because she kept her private life so private.
"None of my close friends are in the business," Cartwright told The San Bernardino County Sun in 1973. "With my parents and my friends, I'm just a regular person."
Cartwright didn't just prefer her quiet life with regular friends. She actually struggled to connect with other stars. She said that from a young age, she always made a point to say hi to other young actors onset, but, "I never know if they'll say hi back."
This didn't slow the rumors, though, linking Cartwright to any handsome young man she was glimpsed even briefly talking to. This happened once with Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, at a time when Cartwright said she did have a boyfriend, "and he's not Mark Spitz."
"You know, I met [Spitz] once at a party, and he's really a nice guy," Cartwright explained. "So, this fan magazine writes that there's something going on between us."
Despite dealing with having to dispel occasional romantic rumors, Cartwright adjusted well to fame, learning to stay modest from her non-show business parents and learning to be a star from TV legend Danny Thomas, her onscreen stepdad.
"When I was working with Danny Thomas, I'd watch him all the time," Cartwright said. "He had a perfect sense of timing, and a knack for timing is a big part of it."
She said Danny Thomas was her greatest teacher, helping her become a more natural actor, unlike other actors who were formally trained. "I have my doubts about acting schools," Cartwright said.
Thomas was proud of his star pupil Angela.
"Angela Cartwright, I saw you on the screen again today and if you continue to steal this show from me, there's going to be trouble!" Thomas was quoted as saying in 1970 in The San Bernardino County Sun.
Cartwright's star continued shining long after she graduated from Thomas' "acting school" on Make Room for Daddy. She said what drove her to take on bigger challenges as an actor wasn't the need for fame or to date the hottest actors coming up in Hollywood, but something much more relatable.
"I never had a complex about thinking I was a big star," Cartwright said. "If anything, I had a complex about being a nobody."
Although she wasn’t rushing to marry Kurt Russell at 19 or Mark Spitz at 21, Cartwright did foresee a future where she started her own family — when she was ready.
"I can see myself settling down and having a family someday," Cartwright said. "But I don't know just when."