Actress, ’70s Icon Farrah Fawcett Dies After High-profile Cancer Battle

BY Arts Desk  June 25, 2009 at 3:27 PM EST

Actress Farrah Fawcett, best known for starring in the 1970s TV hit “Charlie’s Angels,” died Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif., following a battle with cancer. She was 62.

Mary Farrah Leni Fawcett was born on Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas. At less than a month old, she needed surgery to remove a digestive tract tumor but recovered fully. She attended a Roman Catholic grade school and W.B. Ray High School before enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin. After students voted her one of the 10 most attractive people on campus, publicist David Mirisch saw some of her photos and encouraged her to go into acting.

Farrah Fawcett poses for photographer, in May 1998 at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Fawcett began her career with appearances on television shows including “That Girl,” “The Flying Nun,” “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Partridge Family.” She married actor and “Six Million Dollar Man” star Lee Majors in 1973. Three years later, she took on the “Charlie’s Angels” role that made her famous, starring as part of a female crime-fighting trio that included Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Fawcett left the show after just one season, but it was during this time that she posed for what would become an iconic image of her: sitting in a red swimsuit with a large smile and her trademark feathered blonde hair.

Following her departure from “Charlie’s Angels,” Fawcett embarked on a film career but never found the same kind of acclaim on the silver screen as she had in her television work. Throughout the 1970s, she appeared in such films as “Logan’s Run,” “Somebody Killed Her Husband” and “Sunburn,” none of which were commercial or critical successes.

Fawcett’s made-for-TV movies, “Murder in Texas,” “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “The Burning Bed,” earned her better reviews. In 1984, she received an Emmy nomination for “The Burning Bed” and appeared in the off-Broadway theater production “Extremities,” which some critics felt further established her as a serious actress.

In 2006, Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer at age 59 and reconnected with her one-time companion, actor Ryan O’Neal, throughout the course of her treatment. O’Neal is the father of Fawcett’s son, Redmond, born in 1985. In May, Fawcett detailed her struggle with the disease and her treatments in the television documentary “Farrah’s Story,” which NBC estimated 9 million people watched.