Farrah Fawcett was an American actress who played Jill Munroe in the first season of the series Charlie's Angels.
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Farrah Fawcett Bio
Farrah Fawcett (February 2, 1947 – June 25, 2009) was an American actress and artist. A four-time Emmy Award nominee and six-time Golden Globe Award nominee, Fawcett rose to international fame when she posed for her iconic red swimsuit poster – which became the best selling pin-up poster in history – and starred as private investigator Jill Munroe in the first season of the television series Charlie’s Angels (1976–77). In 1996, she was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide ’s “50 Greatest TV stars of All-Time”.
Fawcett began her career in 1968 in commercials and guest roles on television. During the 1970s, she appeared in numerous television series, including recurring roles on Harry O (1974–76), and The Six Million Dollar Man (1974–78) with then husband, film and television star Lee Majors. Her breakthrough role came in 1976, when she was cast as Jill Munroe in the ABC series Charlie’s Angels, alongside Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. The show propelled all three to stardom, but especially Fawcett (then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors). After appearing in only the first season, Fawcett decided to leave the show which led to legal disputes. Eventually she signed a contract requiring her to make six guest appearances in the show’s third and fourth seasons (1978–80). For her role in Charlie’s Angels she received her first Golden Globe nomination.
In 1983, Fawcett received positive reviews for her performance in the Off-Broadway play Extremities. She was subsequently cast in the 1986 film version and received a Golden Globe nomination. She received two Emmy Award nominations for her roles in TV movies, as a battered wife in the 1984 film The Burning Bed and as real-life murderer Diane Downs in the 1989 film Small Sacrifices. Her 1980s work in TV movies also earned her four additional Golden Globe nominations.
In 1997, she gained some negative press for a rambling appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, but also garnered strong reviews for her role in the film The Apostle with Robert Duvall. She continued in numerous TV series, including recurring roles in the sitcom Spin City (2001) and the drama The Guardian (2002–03). For the latter, she received her third Emmy nomination. Her film roles include, Love Is a Funny Thing (1969), Myra Breckinridge (1970), Logan’s Run (1976), Sunburn (1979), Saturn 3 (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), Extremities (1986), The Apostle (1997), and Dr. T & the Women (2000).
Fawcett was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2006 and, in 2009, the TV documentary Farrah’s Story, chronicling her battle with the disease, aired on NBC. For her work as a producer on the documentary, she posthumously earned her fourth Emmy nomination.
Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, the younger of two daughters. Her mother, Pauline Alice Fawcett (née Evans; January 30, 1914 – March 4, 2005), was a homemaker, and her father, James William Fawcett (October 14, 1917 – August 23, 2010), was an oil field contractor. Her elder sister was Diane Fawcett Walls (October 27, 1938 – October 16, 2001), a graphic artist. She was of Irish, French, English and Choctaw Native American ancestry. Fawcett once said the name “Ferrah” was “made up” by her mother because it went well with their last name. Another theory is that her father, an oilman, reportedly named her “Farah” for the Arabic word for “joy”, and she reportedly asked to change the spelling to “Farrah”.
A Roman Catholic, Fawcett’s early education was at the parish school of the church her family attended, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Corpus Christi. She graduated from W. B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, where she was voted “most beautiful” by her classmates her freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. For three years (1965–68), she attended the University of Texas at Austin, studying art. She lived at Madison House on 22nd street, west of campus. During her freshman year, she was named one of the “ten most beautiful coeds on campus”, the first time a freshman had been chosen. Their photos were sent to various agencies in Hollywood. David Mirisch, a Hollywood agent, called her and urged her to come to Los Angeles. She turned him down, but he called her for the next two years. Finally, in 1968, the summer following her junior year, with her parents’ permission to “try her luck” in Hollywood, Fawcett moved to Hollywood.
Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1968, Fawcett was signed to a $350-a-week contract with Screen Gems. She began to appear in commercials for such products as Noxzema, Max Factor, Mercury Cougar automobiles, and Beautyrest mattresses, among others. Her earliest acting appearances were guest spots on The Flying Nun (1969) and I Dream of Jeannie (1969–70). She made numerous other TV appearances, including on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, Mayberry R.F.D., and The Partridge Family. She appeared in four episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man with husband Lee Majors, on The Dating Game and S.W.A.T, and had a recurring role on Harry O alongside David Janssen. She had a sizable part in the 1969 French romantic-drama Love Is a Funny Thing. She played the lesbian lover of Raquel Welch in Myra Breckinridge (1970).
Rise to stardom
In 1976, after Pro Arts Inc. pitched the idea of a poster of Fawcett to her agent, a photo shoot was arranged with photographer Bruce McBroom, who was hired by the poster company. According to friend Nels Van Patten, Fawcett styled her own hair and did her makeup without the aid of a mirror. Her blonde highlights were further heightened by a squeeze of lemon juice. From 40 rolls of film, Fawcett herself selected her six favorite pictures, eventually the choice was narrowed to the one that made her famous. The resulting poster, of Fawcett in a one-piece red bathing suit, is the best-selling poster in history.
Due to the popularity of her poster, Fawcett earned a supporting role in Michael Anderson‘s science-fiction film Logan’s Run (1976) with Michael York. She and her husband, television star Lee Majors, were frequent tennis partners with producer Aaron Spelling. Spelling and his business partner eventually chose Fawcett to play Jill Munroe in their upcoming made-for-TV movie, Charlie’s Angels, a movie of the week which aired on March 21, 1976, on ABC. The movie starred Fawcett (then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors), Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith as private investigators for Townsend Associates, a detective agency run by a reclusive multimillionaire whom the women had never met. Voiced by John Forsythe, the Charles Townsend character presented cases and dispensed advice via a speakerphone to his core team of three female employees, whom he referred to as “Angels”. They were aided in the office and occasionally in the field by two male associates, played by character actors David Doyle and David Ogden Stiers. The program quickly earned a huge following, leading the network to air it a second time and approve production for a series, with the pilot’s principal cast minus Ogden Stiers.
The Charlie’s Angels series formally debuted on September 22, 1976. Each of the three actresses were propelled to stardom, but Fawcett dominated popularity polls and was soon proclaimed a phenomenon. She subsequently won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Performer in a New TV Program. In a 1977 interview with TV Guide, she said, “When the show was number three, I thought it was our acting. When we got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra.”
Fawcett’s appearance in the television show boosted sales of her poster, and she earned far more in royalties from poster sales than from her salary for appearing in Charlie’s Angels. Her hairstyle went on to become an international trend, with women sporting a “Farrah-do”, a “Farrah-flip“, or simply “Farrah hair”. Iterations of her hair style predominated among American women’s hairstyles well into the 1980s.
Fawcett left Charlie’s Angels after only one season in the spring of 1977. After a series of legal battles over her contract with ABC, Cheryl Ladd eventually replaced her on the show, portraying Jill Munroe’s younger sister Kris Munroe. Numerous explanations for Fawcett’s precipitous withdrawal from the show were offered over the years. Because her husband, Lee Majors, was the star of an established television show himself (ABC’s Six Million Dollar Man which aired from 1974 to 1978), the strain on her marriage due to filming schedules that kept them apart for long periods was frequently cited, but her ambition to broaden her acting abilities in films has also been given as an explanation. She never officially signed her series contract with Spelling owing to protracted negotiations over royalties from her image’s use in peripheral products, which led to an even more protracted lawsuit filed by Spelling and his company when she quit the show. As a result of leaving her contract four years early, she reluctantly signed a new contract with ABC stating that she would make six guest appearances on the series over a two-year period (1978–80).
Charlie’s Angels was a major success throughout the world, maintaining its appeal in syndication and spawning (particularly in the show’s first three seasons) a cottage industry of peripheral products, including several series of bubble gum cards, two sets of fashion dolls, numerous posters, puzzles, and school supplies, novelizations of episodes, toy vans, and a board game, all featuring Fawcett’s likeness. The “Angels” also appeared on the covers of magazines around the world, from countless fan magazines to TV Guide (four times) to Time Magazine.
In 2004, the television movie Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Charlie’s Angels dramatized the events from the show, with supermodel and actress Tricia Helfer portraying Fawcett and Ben Browder portraying Lee Majors, Fawcett’s then husband.
In 1980, Fawcett starred in Stanley Donen‘s science-fiction film Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas, though the film earned unfavorable reviews from critics and poor box office. The following year she starred alongside an ensemble cast, which included Burt Reynolds, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., in the comedy The Cannonball Run (1981). Later that year, she co-starred with Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, and Andy Griffith in the television movie Murder in Texas.
In 1983, Fawcett won critical acclaim for her role in the Off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities, written by William Mastrosimone. Replacing Susan Sarandon, she was a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker. She described the role as “the most grueling, the most intense, the most physically demanding and emotionally exhausting” of her career. During one performance, a stalker in the audience disrupted the show by asking Fawcett if she had received the photos and letters he had mailed her. Police removed the man and were able only to issue a summons for disorderly conduct.
The following year, her role as a battered wife in the fact-based television movie The Burning Bed (1984) earned her the first of her four Emmy Award nominations. The project is noted as being the first television movie to provide a nationwide 800 number that offered help for others in the situation, in this case victims of domestic abuse. It was the highest-rated television movie of the season.
In 1986, Fawcett appeared in the movie version of Extremities, which was also well received by critics and performed well financially. For her performance she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. (At the time there was even talk and buzz about the possibility of her receiving an Oscar nomination for her role in the film.) She appeared in Jon Avnet‘s Between Two Women with Colleen Dewhurst, and took several more dramatic roles as infamous or renowned women. She was nominated for Golden Globe awards for roles as Beate Klarsfeld in Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story and troubled Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton in Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story, and won a CableACE Award for her 1989 portrayal of groundbreaking LIFE magazine photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White in Double Exposure: The Story of Margaret Bourke-White.
Her 1989 portrayal of convicted murderer Diane Downs in the miniseries Small Sacrifices earned her a second Emmy nomination and her sixth Golden Globe Award nomination. The miniseries won a Peabody Award for excellence in television, with Fawcett’s performance singled out by the organization, which stated “Ms. Fawcett brings a sense of realism rarely seen in television miniseries (to) a drama of unusual power”.
Art meets life
Fawcett, who had steadfastly resisted appearing nude in magazines throughout the 1970s and 1980s (although she briefly appeared topless in the 1980 film Saturn 3), caused a major stir by posing semi-nude in the December 1995 issue of Playboy. At the age of 50, she returned to Playboy with a pictorial for the July 1997 issue, which also became a top seller. The issue and its accompanying video featured Fawcett painting on canvas using her body, which had been an ambition of hers for years.
That same year, Fawcett was chosen by Robert Duvall to play his wife in an independent feature film he was producing, The Apostle. She received an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Actress for the film, which was highly critically acclaimed. In 2000, she worked with director Robert Altman and an all-star cast in the feature film Dr. T & the Women, playing the wife of Richard Gere (her character has a mental breakdown, leading to her first fully nude appearance).
Christopher Ciccone, Madonna‘s brother, describes befriending Fawcett around this time, and giving her a studio visit for her abstract paintings and sculpture. In 2000, Fawcett’s collaboration with sculptor Keith Edmier was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, later travelling to The Andy Warhol Museum. The sculpture was also presented in a series of photographs and a book by Rizzoli.
In November 2003, Fawcett prepared for her return to Broadway in a production of Bobbi Boland, the tragicomic tale of a former Miss Florida. However, the show never officially opened, closing during preview performances. Fawcett was described as “vibrating with frustration” at the producer’s extraordinary decision to cancel the production. Only days earlier the same producer closed an Off-Broadway show she had been backing.
Fawcett continued to work in television, with well-regarded appearances in made-for-television movies and on popular television series including Ally McBeal and four episodes each of Spin City and The Guardian. Her work on the latter show earning her a third Emmy nomination in 2004.