If you had to define the image and iconography of the 1970’s you could do far worse than look to Farrah Fawcett as the template for that era. With a mane of hair that was only slightly smaller than some postal codes, a golden California tan and one of those floodlit smiles that only Americans can ever seem to muster, for a time she was the be all and end all of 70’s femininity.
Fawcett shot to to fame in 1976 playing the character Jill Monroe in Charlie’s Angels. The show was considered by some at the time to be just shy of soft porn with plots that rarely stood up to scrutiny, soft lens visuals and the overriding focus on the imagery of its stars. It saw the cast become household names but none more so than Fawcett who proceeded to leave the show after its first series. Her intention was to be taken seriously as an actress and although she was considered credible in a number of made for television films she never quite managed to shed the cotton candy image which had served to assist her rise to celebrity.
Fawcett was married to another icon of the 1970’s in the form of Lee Majors who will most famously be remembered as The Six Million Dollar Man. At the time it would have been easy to cast them as Hollywood’s golden couple but they had separated before the decade’s end.
She shared the screen with Kirk Douglas in the Martin Amis vehicle Saturn 3 although this was a film that nobody would come out of unscathed. Considered by many to be a somewhat leaden piece of work it didn’t do the careers of anybody involved any particular favors.
She reinvented herself in the eighties taking grittier roles in made for television movies such as a battered wife in The Burning Bed, a rape victim in Extremities and a mother accused of murdering her children in Small Sacrifices.
During the nineties Fawcett was attracting headlines not for her artistic contributions but more for aspects of her personal life which focussed around her relationship with Ryan O’Neal. At the age of 47 she appeared in Playboy (the issue sold four million copies, proving that even with the passing of time she could still draw a crowd).
At the age of 50 she enjoyed an all too brief career renaissance starring opposite Robert Duvall in The Apostle. In 2006 Farrah was diagnosed with cancer, a documentary covering her battle with the disease was broadcast on US television garnering almost nine million viewers.
Farrah Fawcett was undeniably a woman who represented a certain era. At seven years old I remember watching Charlie’s Angels and seeing this woman on the screen as a marked contrast to pretty much every other woman I had encountered up till that point. If all you were used to at that time were siblings, teachers and perhaps your mother. Farrah Fawcett was akin to seeing someone from another planet. Still from cultural standpoint her place in history is assured.
Farrah Fawcett had one son, Redmond with her long term partner Ryan O’Neal.