Who Was The Original Wonder Woman?

AP Photo/John Duricka

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It’s been more than 40 years since she turned in her lasso and tiara, but Lynda Carter will forever be Wonder Woman to millions of fans. But here’s the thing, Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, is not actually the original Wonder Woman.

In fact, the first actress to portray the DC Comics superheroine on the silver screen was former tennis pro, Cathy Lee Crosby. She soared onto the screen in a 1974 made-for-TV movie on ABC. With her blonde hair and red and white jumpsuit, the actress didn’t wear a tiara or star-spangled sports and — most crucially — didn’t have any powers. The movie aired in March 1974 to lukewarm reviews.

The Search for the True Wonder Woman

Luckily, ABC wasn’t ready to give up on the Amazon princess just yet. And so Wonder Woman was again brought off the page and onto the screen in a live-action TV series, Wonder Woman produced by Douglas S. Cramer. Cramer and his producers went on an intensive talent hunt before finding the true Wonder Woman: Lynda Carter. When she was cast, Carter had very little acting experience — though she did hold the title of 1972 Miss World USA. Carter won over the directors with her sense of humor, intelligence, and instant likeability. With her dark hair and athletic frame, she looked more like the original comic-book depiction of the heroine created by psychologist William Moulton Marston.

Season 1: The first season of the Wonder Woman TV show kicked off in November 1975 with a movie-length pilot episode, somewhat confusingly titled The New Original Wonder Woman. Set in World War II, the pilot and season one feature Wonder Woman working as a secretary under the alias Diana Prince and fighting Nazis alongside her love interest Major Steve Trevor, played by Lyle Waggoner. Fun fact: Waggoner had been one of the leading candidates to play Batman in the TV series, but Adam West was ultimately chosen. Three episodes guest-star Debra Winger as Wonder Woman’s little sister, Drusilla (also known as Wonder Girl), in one of her first acting gigs.

Season 2: Before the second season, the prime-time television series was picked up by ABC rival network CBS. The network changed the name to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and changed the setting from the ’40s to the then-present-day ’70s. Carter, ageless thanks to her Amazon genes, was the technically only actor whose character continued on to the second season, though Waggoner switched to portraying Trevor’s son, Steve Trevor Jr.

Season 3: The third season also took place in the ’70s, but gave Princess Diana a more teen-friendly edge. The theme song was re-recorded to sound more disco-y, and episodes involved more skateboards, teens, and young adults. The series finale aired on September 11, 1979. Due to falling ratings, CBS canceled the Wonder Woman series to make room for more episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard and Incredible Hulk. 

Wonder Woman Now

However, Wonder Woman lives on.  In 2017, Warner Bros. Pictures released a hugely successful Wonder Woman movie. The Hollywood blockbuster starred Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, alongside Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Directed by Patty Jenkins, the movie was the first sci-fi action hero film with a female superhero directed by a woman. The film went onto receive largely positive reviews, with several praises for its acting, direction visual, and musical score. It grossed over a whopping $821 million worldwide, which was the tenth highest-grossing film of 2017 and became the highest-grossing film by a solo female director. A sequel, Wonder Woman 1984 is said to be released on December 25, 2020, with Gadot and Pine reprising their phenomenal roles.

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