Farrah Fawcett, who catapulted to national fame in Charlie’s Angels and became a swimsuit poster phenomenon, has died. She was 62.
Her spokesman, Paul Bloch, said Fawcett died Thursday morning at a Santa Monica hospital. Her 2 1/2-year battle with cancer was depicted in the TV documentary Farrah’s Story.
Fawcett separated herself from her bathing-beauty persona with highly charged, critically acclaimed performances. She received three Emmy noms and six Golden Globe nods and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award as best supporting female for The Apostle (1997).
Fawcett discovered she had anal cancer in 2006 and a year later was diagnosed with a malignant rectal polyp. In May, she narrated and shot using her camcorder the documentary Farrah’s Story, which looked at her battle with cancer.
Along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, Fawcett starred as one of the three private detectives on the cheesecake show that bowed in fall 1976. For her portrayal as, essentially, “the blonde,” Fawcett won a People’s Choice Award as favorite female performer in a new TV program playing Jill Munroe in 1977.
Simultaneous with her newfound TV stardom, Fawcett posed in a red, one-piece swimsuit that galvanized the male public. Her mane of blond hair, toothy effervescent smile and her curvaceous build catapulted her to dorm-poster superstar. The poster sold 12 million copies, making it the top-selling female poster of all time, eclipsing such competition as Betty Grable and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
The actress left Charlie’s Angels after 22 episodes, when the program was at its peak, to pursue a movie career. Producer Aaron Spelling threatened her with a breach-of-contract lawsuit, but they reached an agreement wherein she came back for occasional “guest star” roles. Cheryl Ladd replaced her on the series.
Throughout this period, young women emulated her; her feather-blown hairstyle became a national look.
In 1983, Fawcett made a calculated and ambitious change of direction: She set out to do dramatic roles that countered her beauty-queen image. She starred in the miniseries Murder in Texas and received good reviews. She followed up by starring off-Broadway in Extremities, winning acclaim for her portrayal of a victim of attempted rape who turns the tables on her attacker. She began to be noticed for her acting chops rather than her flowing locks.
Fawcett followed up with a highly emotional performance in the 1984 NBC telefilmc The Burning Bed. Playing a battered wife who sets her husband on fire after years of abuse, she garnered her first Emmy nom as well as a Golden Globe nom for her portrayal of Francine Hughes. Her other two Emmy noms were for Small Sacrifices (1989), where she was noted for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a special, and for The Guardian (2001), for outstanding guest actress in a drama series.
Fawcett delivered strong performances of other noted women. She portrayed the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton in 1987’s Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story. In 1986, she played Beate Klarsfeld in the telefilm Nazi Hunter, the Beate Klarsfeld Story, the saga of a German woman who launched a campaign to bring former Nazis to justice. Both performances earned her Globe noms.
Her six Globe noms include five for best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV: Small Sacrifices, Poor Little Rich Girl, Nazi Hunter, The Burning Bed and Extremities. In 1977, her first Globe nom was for Charlie’s Angels.
In 1997, she won praise for her performance in The Apostle, which starred Robert Duvall as a pentecostal preacher. She was nominated for a Spirit Award for her supporting performance as Duvall’s wife.
Born Ferrah(cq) Leni Fawcett on Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas, she majored in art at the University of Texas. In 1965, she appeared as a contestant on TV’s The Dating Game.
She dropped out of college and in 1968 moved to Los Angeles, where she soon garnered action jobs: episodic roles in such series as The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, Mayberry RFD, The Partridge Family and Days of Our Lives.
Fawcett met Lee Majors on the set of the TV series The Big Valley and eventually became a semi-regular on series where Majors starred: Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law and The Six Million Dollar Man.
They married in 1973, and she went under the name of Farrah Fawcett-Majors. She became known as The Bionic Wife. The pair formed Fawcett-Majors Prods.
Fawcett made her movie debut in a European movie, Un Homme qui me plait (1969) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. She appeared as an ingenue in Myra Breckinridge (1970).
On TV, she played in such puff as the ABC telefilm The Feminist and the Fuzz, where she co-starred as a Playboy bunny.
In like vein, Fawcett excelled as a model and in commercials, posing with Ultra-Brite toothpaste, and, most memorably, a Noxzema shaving cream commercial with Joe Namath. In 1979, she starred in a Playboy video, painting “art” with her naked body.
Fawcett parlayed her TV fame into more films, beginning with the sci-fi movie Logan’s Run (1976). She followed with Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978) with Jeff Bridges, Sunburn (1979) with Charles Grodin and 1980’s Saturn 3, with Kirk Douglas and a robot. All three were critical and boxoffice disappointments.
In the ’80s, Fawcett divorced Majors and began a relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal. She co-starred with him in See You in the Morning (1989), and they had a son, Redmond. In 1991, Fawcett starred with O’Neal in a short-lived sitcom called Good Sports, playing cable sportscasters who had been lovers.
She also appeared in the Burt Reynolds vehicle The Cannonball Run in 1981. More recently, she won good reviews for performance as an emotionally unbalanced wife of Richard Gere in Robert Altman’s Dr. T. & the Women (2000).
At age 48, she posed for Playboy in 1995; the issue became the magazine’s best seller of the decade. Ten years later, she starred in a reality series, Chasing Farrah.
Fawcett also performed charitable work with the American Cancer Society and served as a board member of the National Advisory Council for the National Domestic Violence Hot-line.