Farrah Fawcett: Her Life, Her Career, Her Passing

9 years ago

Farrah Fawcett died this morning at St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica after a three-year battle with cancer. She was 62.

The actress, who became an icon in the 70s, was diagnosed with anal cancer in late 2006. In February 2007, she was declared cancer-free after chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but the cancer returned later that spring. Dissatisfied with the treatment options in the United States, Fawcett went to Germany to seek other options that fall.

At the time of her death, the cancer had reportedly spread to her liver.


Farrah Fawcett played the gun-toting blonde bombshell Jill Munroe on Charlie's Angels. A poster arranged by her agent in the late 70s featuring the blonde in a red bathing suit sold an estimated 12 million copies and kicked off a curling iron frenzy among women that has never fully let up and fed the wildest dreams of men the world over.

Even so, it took some time for Fawcett to prove that she was more than a pretty face. After walking away from Charlie's Angels at the conclusion of the first season to focus on developing her career, Fawcett tried her hand in several theatrical films, but none brought her the critical praise she sought. It wasn't until 1983 that Fawcett received critical acclaim for playing an abused wife in the TV movie The Burning Bed, and scored an Emmy nomination. Still, it would be a decade before Fawcett proved herself on the silver screen.

Last month, NBC aired a documentary about Fawcett titled “Farrah's Story,” about Fawcett, her life and her on-going fight with anal cancer. Fawcett's friend Alana Stewart, who produced the two-hour special, told People magazine recently, "It was never meant to be a documentary. Farrah just took her little hand-held camera to the doctor one day." It was during that same check-up in 2007 that Fawcett discovered the cancer had returned.

This will be her last Hollywood credit.

Farrah Fawcett


Farrah Fawcett was recognized for her all-American good looks from a young age—over three decades later, she would tell Entertainment Weekly that her looks were a curse she could never escape. Indeed, Fawcett was voted campus beauty at the University of Texas at Austin.

Fawcett left Texas for Los Angeles after college, and almost immediately found an agent, who quickly put her to work in commercials for toothpaste and shampoos. It was around this time that she met Lee Majors, the future Six Million Dollar Man. They were married in 1973. Three years later, Fawcett was starring in Aaron Spelling's Charlie's Angels.

Fawcett and Majors split up in 1979 and it wasn't long before she moved in with the actor Ryan O'Neal. Their relationship is one of the most tumultuous and enduring in Hollywood history. The two were never married, but frequently found their way back to one another over the years; just this week, O'Neal announced that he and Fawcett planned to wed as soon as she regained her strength.

O'Neal was at her side this morning when Fawcett died.


O'Neal released the following statement this afternoon: "After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away. Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world."

Fawcett's son with O'Neal, Redmond O'Neal, was not at her side. The youth was informed of his mother's passing at the Los Angeles County jail, where he is serving time for drug-related charges. His father had been trying to get a court-approved visit for the young O'Neal to see his mother before she passed away. It will be granted in time for her funeral.

Response to Fawcett's passing on Twitter and across the blogosphere has been huge. It is evident Farrah Fawcett will not soon be forgotten. There are many tributes to be found online right now, the best of which have been compiled by The TV Zone Blog.

Fawcett's death was announced just hours before the end of voting to determine the nominees for this year's Emmys. While nominated, the highest honor for television long eluded Fawcett during her three decade-long career. There is speculation now that the iconic bombshell may receive a posthumous nomination for “Farrah's Story” under the category of outstanding nonfiction special. It is one of 43 shows competing for one of the five slots on the finalized Emmy ballot.

But Fawcett's legacy is more than her gorgeous smile and iconic hair, more than the hard work she put into breaking out of the stereotype of pretty-girl-turned-second-rate-actress. Fawcett spent much of her last years educating the public about colorectal cancer and advocating of early prevention.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations to support cancer research be made to The Farrah Fawcett Foundation: P.O. Box 6478, Beverly Hills, Calif., 90212.

Sources: USA Today, KTLA, The TV Zone Blog, Los Angeles Times' Awards Insider.


A Sex Symbol Who Wanted to Be More, by Alessandra Stanley, for The New York Times: "Ms. Fawcett died Thursday at 62. And her last poignant appearances sometimes obscure a smaller, more gratifying story line of a celebrated beauty who worked against type to construct a more dignified second act. Long before Charlize Theron gained weight to make Monster and Nicole Kidman put on a fake nose to play Virginia Woolf, Ms. Fawcett scrubbed off her tawny good looks to play battered — and battering — women in The Burning Bed and Extremities."

An Angel Goes To Heaven, by Blue State Cowgirl: “It wasn't as simple as boys wanting her and girls wanting to be her. No, speaking as one who was a girl in the Seventies, her Angel heyday, it wasn't that we wanted to be her. We wanted to be her friend. Because, in spite of her sexiness, what Farrah projected was a lot of niceness. Of course, if she'd been transported to your high school, she would have been the most popular girl. But she would have been nice to the Math Geeks and let the unpopular girls sit at her table in the lunch room. You could see yourself playing tennis with Farrah or going to the beach or just talking girlfriend stuff. She was undeniably sexy, but her sexiness seemed real and natural and athletic. And given an extra glow by all that niceness.”

Farrah Fawcett dies at 62, by Donna Freydkin, for USA Today: “She was Hollywood's penultimate golden girl. And, now, Farrah Fawcett, who epitomized the all-American ideal of beauty, has died after a three-year battle with cancer. She was 62. Her spokesman, Paul Bloch, says Fawcett died Thursday morning in a Santa Monica hospital.”

Farrah Fawcett Loses Battle With Cancer, by Maureen Dempsey: “Legendary style icon Farrah Fawcett succumbed to cancer today at the age of 62. Throughout her nearly 40 years in the entertainment industry, Fawcett set record sales and gained the public's affection of almost everything she touched.”

The story behind the iconic Farrah Fawcett poster is revealed in Fawcett Photographer Recalls an Iconic Shoot by Bruce McBroom for TIME: "Farrah had made a deal in which she had control of the image — she got to pick the picture and kill everything that wasn't used — and this guy said, 'I've hired two photographers, had two photo shoots, spent all this money, and she hates the pictures. She said, "Call Bruce McBroom."'" (Thanks Hedonia for the link!)

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