June 25, 2009

Courageous Screen Icon Farrah Fawcett Dies

Long Battle with Cancer Ends for Charlie's Angels Star

Bea A.
Farrah Fawcett
Bea A.

Farrah Fawcett wih fellow "angels" Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, backstage in 2006 at the 58th Primetime Emmy® Awards.

Photo Credit (all): Mathew Imaging

Actress Farrah Fawcett, who became a pop-culture icon in the 1970s as one of the stars of the television series Charlie’s Angels and the subject of a multimillion-selling swimsuit poster, died on June 25, 2009, in Santa Monica, California. She was 62.

In recent years, Fawcett drew international attention for her courageous fight against a rare anal cancer, which was diagnosed in 2006, and ultimately resulted in her death.

In 2007, three months after having been declared cancer-free, Fawcett learned that the cancer had returned, and spread to her liver. Determined not to yield, she pursued experimental treatment in Germany.

She chronicled her efforts in an unflinching video diary that eventually became Farrah’s Story, a television special that aired on NBC in May of this year.

Although initially celebrated primarily for her beauty and signature feathered hairstyle, Fawcett overcame the superficial assessment of her talent to become a respected performer.

After one season as Jill Munroe, one of the three gorgeous detectives in Charlie’s Angels, she left the show in 1977 to pursue more challenging opportunities.

The show continued on with her original costars, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, who were joined first by Shelley Hack and, later, Tanya Roberts.

In 1984, Fawcett garnered plaudits for her performance as a battered wife in The Burning Bed, a television movie that brought her the first of three Primetime Emmy nominations.

She went on to receive additional praise in the feature film Extremities, in which she played a rape victim who exacts revenge on her assailant.

Farrah Leni Fawcett was born February 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas, to James Fawcett, who founded a pipeline construction company, and his wife, Pauline.

At the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied painting, Fawcett was so renowned for her striking looks that when she matriculated in 1965, male students reportedly lined up at her sorority to meet her. After she was voted one of the 10 most beautiful women on campus, a Hollywood publicist summoned her to California.

She moved west after her junior year, and within two weeks of her arrival in Los Angeles, she had an agent and a high-profile male admirer—actor Lee Majors, who had arranged an introduction after seeing her photograph.

In short order, Fawcett signed a contract with Screen Gems, Columbia’s television division, and landed small roles on such popular series as The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family.

In 1973, she married Majors, who became star of The Six Million Dollar Man on ABC a year later.

While on location in 1979, Majors arranged for his friend Ryan O’Neal to look in on Fawcett. What began as a favor later resulted in a disruption of the marriage when Fawcett and O’Neal became a couple.

Fawcett and O’Neal remained together for 17 years but never married, although O’Neal said this week that Fawcett had accepted his latest marriage proposal.

In 1985, the couple had a son, Redmond, who developed problems with drugs in his teens and has continued to struggle with substance abuse, resulting in drug-related arrests and stints in treatment programs.

Earlier this year, 24-year-old Redmond was allowed to temporarily leave jail to visit Fawcett at her home. In April, he was arrested on charges of trying to smuggle drugs into a jail facility in Castaic and recently was admitted to a court-ordered rehabilitation program.

Fawcett and O’Neal broke up in 1997. They were off and on as a couple in the years since then, and drew close more recently as they both faced health problems. Fawcett helped nurse O’Neal back to health after he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2001. Similarly, he drew close to her when she was diagnosed with cancer.

Fawcett’s other feature films include Somebody Killed Her Husband, Sunburn, The Apostle, in which she earned critical acclaim as the wife of Robert Duvall, and Dr. T and the Women.

For her television work, she earned Primetime Emmy nominations for The Burning Bed, the 1989 made-for-TV movie Small Sacrifices and a 2003 guest role on the CBS drama The Guardian. In 1991, she and O’Neal starred in the CBS sitcom Good Sports.

In 2006, the original Charlie’s Angels—Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith—reunited for an appearance during the Primetime Emmys telecast in tribute to the late Aaron Spelling, the show’s executive producer.

In addition to her son, Fawcett is survived by her father.

Bea A.
Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith make a special appearance at the 58th Primetime Emmy® Awards in 2006.

Photo Credit: Mathew Imaging

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