Ferrah Leni Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1947. While studying at the University of Texas at Austin she was named one of the “ten most beautiful coeds on campus” and her 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 and finally, in 1968, Fawcett moved to Hollywood
All flicked and feathered blonde hair and shiny teeth, Farrah was the most popular pin-up to come along in years. A famous 1976 poster of Fawcett in a one-piece red bathing suit (pictured at right) became a best-seller, selling twenty million copies.
For men, that poster spawned a million fantasies; for women, a million bad haircuts. For Farrah Fawcett, of course, it led to her being cast by Aaron Spelling – a frequent tennis partner of Farrah and her husband Lee Majors (star of The Six Million Dollar Man) – in his new TV production, Charlie’s Angels, and cemented her as an icon of Seventies jiggle TV.
As one of the three gorgeous detectives in the hit new TV cop show, Farrah Fawcett-Majors (as she was now known) became the idol of millions of young girls, and the lust object of millions of red-blooded males. Her hairstyle – christened the “Farrah-flip” – went on to become an international trend.
Farrah left Charlie’s Angels after only one season and separated from Majors in 1979, beginning an enduring relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal.
She then turned her efforts to a movie career, beginning with Stanley Donen’s science-fiction film Saturn 3 (1980).
The following year she starred alongside Burt Reynolds, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. in The Cannonball Run (1981).
In 1983, Farrah won critical acclaim for her role as a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker in the Off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities. The following year her role as a battered wife in the television movie The Burning Bed (1984) earned her the first of four Emmy Award nominations.
In 1986, she appeared in the movie version of Extremities, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
She took several more dramatic roles as infamous or renowned women and 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.
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.
Although Farrah steadfastly resisted appearing nude in magazines throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she caused a major stir by posing semi-nude in the December 1995 issue of Playboy. She returned to Playboy with a pictorial for the July 1997 issue (at the age of 50) which also became a top seller.
Farrah was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and although she received treatment – including chemotherapy and surgery – in the US, and travelled to Germany for alternative “holistic” treatments, she passed away on 25 June 2009, at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. She was just 62 years old.