Farrah Leni Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, the younger of two daughters. Her mother, Pauline Alice (née Evans), was a homemaker, and her father, James William Fawcett, was an oil field contractor She was of French, English and Choctaw Native American ancestry. Fawcett once said that the name "Farrah" was "made up" by her mother because it went well with their last name.
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 in 1965. From 1965–68, Fawcett attended the University of Texas at Austin, living one semester in Jester Center, and became a sister of Delta Delta Delta Sorority. She appeared in a photo of the "Ten Most Beautiful Coeds" from the university, which ran in Cashbox magazine. A Hollywood publicist saw the photo, called Fawcett and urged her to move to Los Angeles, which she did in 1969 according to one source, but in 1968 according to another, leaving after her junior year with her parents' permission to "try her luck" in Hollywood.Career
Early career – TV commercials
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fawcett appeared in TV commercials for consumer products, including Noxzema shaving cream, Ultra Brite toothpaste, Wella Balsam shampoo, and the 1975 Mercury Cougar. Beginning in 1978, after achieving TV stardom, she developed her own brand of hair care products, marketed by Fabergé, for which she appeared in a series of commercials and print ads.
Early TV series appearances
Fawcett's first TV series appearance was a guest spot on I Dream of Jeannie in the 1968–1969 season, followed by guest appearances in Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law. She later appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man with Lee Majors, which first aired in 1974, The Dating Game, and several episodes of Harry O alongside David Janssen. In 1976, Pro Arts Inc., pitched the idea of a poster of Fawcett to her agent, and a photo shoot was arranged. The company hired photographer Bruce McBroom. From 40 rolls of film, Farrah selected 6 pictures, marking as favourite the one that made her famous. The resulting poster, of Farrah in a one-piece red bathing suit, was a best-seller; sales estimates ranged from over 5 million to 8 million to as high as 12 million copies.
On March 21, 1976, the first appearance of Fawcett playing the character Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels was aired as a movie of the week. The movie starred Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Fawcett (then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors) as private investigators for Townsend Associates, a detective agency run by a reclusive multi-millionaire 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 earned a huge Nielsen rating, causing the network to air it a second time and approve production for a series, with the pilot's principal cast except David Ogden Stiers.
The series formally debuted on September 22, 1976. Fawcett emerged as a fan favorite in the show, and the actress 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."
Her appearance in the TV 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" or "Farrah Hair" and the hairstyle was even spoofed in various media, including Redd Foxx's variety show on ABC and Dynamite magazine.
Fawcett left the show after only one season and Cheryl Ladd replaced her on the show, portraying Jill's younger sister Kris Munroe.
The show was a major success throughout the world, maintaining its appeal in syndication, spawning a cottage industry of peripheral products, particularly in the show's first three seasons, 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.
The series ultimately ran for five seasons. As part of a settlement to a lawsuit over her early departure, Fawcett returned for six guest appearances over seasons three and four of the series.
In 2004, the TV 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.
Following a series of commercial and critical flops, Fawcett won critical acclaim for her 1983 role in the off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities, written by William Mastrosimone. Replacing Susan Sarandon in the role, 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 TV movie The Burning Bed earned her the first of her four Emmy Award nominations. The project is noted as being the first TV movie to provide a nationwide 800 number that offered help for others in the situation, in this case victims of domestic abuse. It was also the highest-rated TV movie of the season.
In 1986 Fawcett appeared in the movie version of Extremities, which was also well-received by critics, and for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
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. 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 films or magazines throughout the 1970s and 1980s, caused a major stir by posing nude in the December 1995 issue of Playboy magazine, which became the best-selling issue of the 1990s, with over four million copies sold worldwide. At the age of 50, she returned to the pages of Playboy with a pictorial for the July 1997 issue, which also became a top seller. That same year, Fawcett was chosen by Robert Duvall to play his wife in an independent feature film he was producing, The Apostle. Fawcett received an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Actress for the film.
In 2000, she worked with director Robert Altman and an all-star cast in the feature film Dr. T and the Women, playing opposite Richard Gere. Also that year, Fawcett's collaboration with sculptor Keith Edmier was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, later traveling to the Andy Warhol Museum. The sculpture was also presented in a series of photographs and a book by Rizzoli.
In November 2003, Fawcett was appearing on Broadway in previews of Bobbi Boland, the tragicomic tale of a former Miss Florida. However, the show never officially opened, closing after a week of previews. Fawcett was described as "vibrating with frustration" at the producer's decision to stop the process before it had a chance to succeed or fail. Only days earlier the same producer closed an off-Broadway show she had been backing.
Fawcett continued to work in television during the period, with well-regarded appearances 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.
Fawcett was married to Lee Majors, star of TV's The Six Million Dollar Man, from 1973–1982, though the couple separated in 1979. During her marriage, she was known and credited in her roles as Farrah Fawcett-Majors.
From 1997-98, Fawcett had a relationship with filmmaker James Orr, and a relationship with film producer Mark Burg from 1999 to 2000.
On June 5, 1997, Fawcett received some negative commentary after giving a rambling and distracted interview on Late Show with David Letterman. Months later, she told the host of The Howard Stern Show that her behavior was in fact just her way of joking around with the television host, explaining that what appeared to be random looks across the theater was just her looking and reacting to fans in the audience. Though the Letterman appearance spawned speculation and several jokes at her expense, after Joaquin Phoenix's mumbling act on a February 2009 appearance on The Late Show, Letterman wrapped up the interview by saying, "Joaquin, I'm sorry you couldn't be here tonight" and recalled Fawcett's earlier appearance by noting "[w]e owe an apology to Farrah Fawcett."
Fawcett's elder sister, Diane Fawcett Walls, died from lung cancer just before her 63rd birthday, on October 16, 2001. The fifth episode of her 2005 Chasing Farrah series followed the actress home to Texas to visit with her father, James, and mother, Pauline. Pauline Fawcett died soon after, on March 4, 2005, at the age of 91.
Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, and began treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery. Four months later, on her 60th birthday, the Associated Press wire service reported that Fawcett was, at that point, cancer free.
Less than four months later, in May 2007, Fawcett brought a small digital video camera to document a doctor's office visit. There, she was told a malignant polyp was found in the area where she had been treated for the initial cancer. Doctors contemplated whether to implant a radiation seeder (which differs from conventional radiation and is used to treat other types of cancer). Fawcett's U.S. doctors told her that she would require a colostomy. Instead, Fawcett traveled to Germany for treatments described variously in the press as "holistic," "aggressive," and "alternative." There, Dr. Ursula Jacob prescribed a treatment including surgery to remove the anal tumor, and a course of perfusion and embolization for her liver cancer by Doctors Claus Kiehling and Thomas Vogl in Germany, and chemotherapy back in Fawcett's home town of Los Angeles. Although initially the tumors were regressing, their reappearance a few months later necessitated a new course, this time including laser ablation therapy and chemoembolization. Aided by friend Alana Stewart, Fawcett documented her battle with the disease.
In early April 2009, Fawcett, back in the United States, was rushed to a hospital, reportedly unconscious and in critical condition. Subsequent reports, however, indicated that the severity of her condition was not as dire as first reported. On April 6, the Associated Press reported that her cancer had metastasized to her liver. Fawcett had learned of this development in May 2007 and her subsequent treatments in Germany had targeted this as well. The report denied that she was unconscious, and explained that the reason for Fawcett's hospitalization was not her cancer but a painful abdominal hematoma that had been the result of a minor procedure, according to the Los Angeles cancer specialist treating Fawcett, Dr. Lawrence Piro. Her spokesperson emphasized she was not "at death's door", adding "She remains in good spirits with her usual sense of humor ... She's been in great shape her whole life and has an incredible resolve and an incredible resilience." Three days later, on April 9, Fawcett was released from the hospital, picked up by longtime companion O'Neal, and, according to her doctor, was "walking and in great spirits and looking forward to celebrating Easter at home."
A month later, on May 7, Fawcett was reported as being critically ill, with Ryan O'Neal quoted as saying that she now spends her days at home, on an IV, often asleep. The Los Angeles Times reported that Fawcett was in the last stages of her cancer and had the chance to see her son Redmond in April 2009, although shackled and under supervision, as he was then incarcerated, Fawcett seemed not to notice. Her 91-year-old father, James Fawcett, flew out to Los Angeles to visit.
Her doctor, Lawrence Piro, and Fawcett's friend and Angels co-star Kate Jackson—a breast cancer survivor—appeared together on The Today Show dispelling tabloid-fueled rumors, including the suggestions that Fawcett had ever been in a coma, had ever reached 86 pounds, and had ever given up her fight against the disease or lost the will to live. Jackson decried such fabrications, saying they "really do hurt a human being and a person like Farrah." Piro recalled when it became necessary for Fawcett to undergo treatments that would cause her to lose her hair, acknowledging that "Farrah probably has the most famous hair in the world", but acknowledged that it is not a trivial matter for any cancer patient, whose hair "affects [one's] whole sense of who [they] are." Of the documentary, Jackson averred that Fawcett "didn't do this to show that 'she' is unique, she did it to show that we are all unique ... (T)his was ... meant to be a gift to others to help and inspire them."
The two-hour documentary Farrah's Story, which was filmed by Fawcett and friend Alana Stewart, aired on NBC on May 15, 2009. The documentary was watched by nearly 9 million people in its premiere airing and it was re-aired on the broadcast network's cable stations MSNBC, Bravo and Oxygen. Fawcett earned her fourth Emmy nomination posthumously on July 16, 2009, as producer of Farrah's Story. The winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Special, announced September 12, 2009, was the History Channel production 102 Minutes That Changed America, an eyewitness-video look at the events of September 11, 2001.
Fawcett died at approximately 9:28 a.m., PDT on June 25, 2009, in the intensive care unit of Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, with O'Neal and Stewart by her side. A private funeral was held in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 30. Fawcett's son Redmond was permitted to leave his California detention center to attend his mother's funeral, where he gave the first reading.
The night of her death, ABC aired an hour-long special episode of 20/20 featuring clips from several of Barbara Walters' past interviews with Fawcett as well as new interviews with Ryan O'Neal, Jaclyn Smith, Alana Stewart, and Dr. Lawrence Piro. Walters followed up on the story on Friday's episode of 20/20. CNN's Larry King Live planned a show exclusively about Fawcett that evening until the unexpected death of Michael Jackson several hours later caused the program to shift to cover both stories. Cher, a longtime friend of Fawcett's, and Suzanne De Passe, executive producer of Fawcett's Small Sacrifices mini-series, both paid tribute to Fawcett on the program. NBC aired a Dateline NBC special "Farrah Fawcett: The Life and Death of an Angel" the following evening, June 26, preceded by a rebroadcast of Farrah's Story in prime time. That weekend and the following week, television tributes continued. MSNBC aired back-to-back episodes of its Headliners and Legends episodes featuring Fawcett and Jackson. TV Land aired a mini-marathon of Charlie's Angels and Chasing Farrah episodes. E! aired Michael & Farrah: Lost Icons and the Biography Channel aired Bio Remembers: Farrah Fawcett. The documentary Farrah's Story re-aired on the Oxygen Network and MSNBC.
Larry King said of the Fawcett phenomenon,
“TV had much more impact back in the '70s than it does today. Charlie's Angels got huge numbers every week — nothing really dominates the television landscape like that today. Maybe American Idol comes close, but now there are so many channels and so many more shows it's hard for anything to get the audience, or amount of attention, that Charlie's Angels got. Farrah was a major TV star when the medium was clearly dominant."
Kate Jackson said,
“She was a selfless person who loved her family and friends with all her heart, and what a big heart it was. Farrah showed immense courage and grace throughout her illness and was an inspiration to those around her... I will remember her kindness, her cutting dry wit and, of course, her beautiful smile...when you think of Farrah, remember her smiling because that is exactly how she wanted to be remembered: smiling.” She is buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
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