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Photos: Farrah Fawcett

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  1. Leading ladies

    Farrah Fawcett, right, shares a scene with Raquel Welch in the 1970 film "Myra Breckinridge." It was Fawcett's first major film role. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Major life changes

    Fawcett, right, married actor Lee Majors in 1973. The next year, Majors debuted as Col. Steve Austin in the television series "The Six Million Dollar Man," in which Fawcett guest starred. The couple divorced in 1982. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The blonde 'Angel'

    Fawcett, right, won fame on the television series "Charlie's Angels," in which she played a glamorous private detective along with Jaclyn Smith, left, and Kate Jackson. Fawcett's famous 'do was copied by women across the nation. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Poster girl

    In 1976, just as her career was taking off, Fawcett posed for this pin-up poster, which sold millions of copies and broke sales records. () Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A princely evening

    Fawcett, left, meets the Prince of Wales backstage at the London Palladium after the Royal show Supernight in London on April 9, 1978. Fawcett, who was married to Lee Majors at the time, was the emcee for the benefit event that raised funds for the United World College. (Bob Dear / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Out of this world

    Fawcett starred with Kirk Douglas in the 1980 film "Saturn 3." Despite Fawcett's topless scene, the film was a commercial flop. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Down, but not out

    Fawcett staged a comeback in 1984, earning critical praise when she portrayed a battered wife in the television movie "The Burning Bed." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A new beau

    After her divorce from Lee Majors, Fawcett moved in with Ryan O'Neal. In 1985, they had a son together, Redmond O'Neal. (Rex Usa / Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A taste of revenge

    In 1986, Fawcett starred in "Extremities" with James Russo. The movie is about a woman who takes revenge on a would-be rapist. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Losing her grip

    In 2000, Fawcett played Kate, the mentally unstable wife of gynecologist Dr. Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere), in Robert Altman's "Dr. T & the Women." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Don't judge me

    Fawcett, with actor Charlie Sheen, portrayed Judge Claire Simmons on four episodes of the television series "Spin City" in 2001. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. One big happy family?

    Ryan O'Neal, center, and Fawcett arrive with their son Redmond at the premiere of "Malibu's Most Wanted" at the Chinese Theater on April 10, 2003, in Los Angeles. Ryan O'Neal had a role in the series. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Still cookin'

    Fawcett had a role in 2004's "The Cookout." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. No joke

    In August 2006, Fawcett took part in the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner. Two months later, the actress announced that she was battling cancer. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'Angels' reunite

    Fawcett joins former "Charlie's Angels" co-stars Kate Jackson, left, and Jaclyn Smith, right, onstage at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Aug. 27, 2006, in Los Angeles. (Vince Bucci / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Mother and son

    Farrah Fawcett and her son Redmond O'Neal share an embrace in a scene from "Farrah's Story," a personal look at her battle with cancer. Shot with her own home video recorder, the film chronicles the actress' two and half year battle with cancer. It aired on NBC on Friday, May 15. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. In treatment

    In a scene from "Farrah's Story," Fawcett consults with a health careworker while receiving treatment in Germany in 2008. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Serving as an example

    Farrah Fawcett decided to do the film "Farrah's Story" because she wanted to serve as an example whose health battle would offer a lasting effect — especially in the areas of protecting patient confidentiality and promoting alternative treatments for cancer. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 6/26/2009 1:18:17 PM ET 2009-06-26T17:18:17

Farrah Fawcett, the “Charlie’s Angels” star whose feathered blond hair and dazzling smile made her one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1970s, died Thursday after battling cancer. She was 62.

The pop icon, who in the 1980s set aside the fantasy girl image to tackle serious roles, died shortly before 9:30 a.m. in a Santa Monica hospital, spokesman Paul Bloch said.

Ryan O’Neal, the longtime companion who had reunited with Fawcett as she fought anal cancer, was at her side, along with close friend Alana Stewart, Bloch said.

“After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away,” O’Neal said. “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.”

Other “Charlie’s Angels” stars paid tribute to her.

“Farrah had courage, she had strength, and she had faith. And now she has peace as she rests with the real angels,” Jaclyn Smith said.

Said Cheryl Ladd: “She was incredibly brave, and God will be welcoming her with open arms.” She burst on the scene in 1976 as one-third of the crime-fighting trio in TV’s “Charlie’s Angels.” A poster of her in a clingy swimsuit sold in the millions.

She left the show after one season but had a flop on the big screen with “Somebody Killed Her Husband.” She turned to more serious roles in the 1980s and 1990s, winning praise playing an abused wife in “The Burning Bed.”

She had been diagnosed with cancer in 2006. As she underwent treatment, she enlisted the help of O’Neal, who was the father of her now 24-year-old son, Redmond.

This month, O’Neal said he asked Fawcett to marry him and she agreed. They would wed “as soon as she can say yes,” he said.

Documentary detailed her struggle
Her struggle with painful treatments and dispiriting setbacks was recorded in the television documentary “Farrah’s Story.” Fawcett sought cures in Germany as well as the United States, battling the disease with iron determination even as her body weakened.

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“Her big message to people is don’t give up, no matter what they say to you, keep fighting,” her friend Stewart said. NBC estimated the May 15, 2009, broadcast drew nearly 9 million viewers.

In the documentary, Fawcett was seen shaving off most of her trademark locks before chemotherapy could claim them. Toward the end, she’s seen huddled in bed, barely responding to a visit from her son.

Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Smith made up the original “Angels,” the sexy, police-trained trio of martial arts experts who took their assignments from a rich, mysterious boss named Charlie (John Forsythe, who was never seen on camera but whose distinctive voice was heard on speaker phone.)

The program debuted in September 1976, the height of what some critics derisively referred to as television’s “jiggle show” era, and it gave each of the actresses ample opportunity to show off their figures as they disguised themselves in bathing suits and as hookers and strippers to solve crimes.

Backed by a clever publicity campaign, Fawcett — then billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors because of her marriage to “The Six Million Dollar Man” star Lee Majors — quickly became the most popular Angel of all.

Her face helped sell T-shirts, lunch boxes, shampoo, wigs and even a novelty plumbing device called Farrah’s faucet. Her flowing blond hair, pearly white smile and trim, shapely body made her a favorite with male viewers in particular.

A poster of her in a dampened red swimsuit sold millions of copies and became a ubiquitous wall decoration in teenagers’ rooms.

Thus the public and the show’s producer, Spelling-Goldberg, were shocked when she announced after the series’ first season that she was leaving television’s No. 5-rated series to star in feature films. (Cheryl Ladd became the new “Angel” on the series.)

But the movies turned out to be a platform where Fawcett was never able to duplicate her TV success. Her first star vehicle, the comedy-mystery “Somebody Killed Her Husband,” flopped and Hollywood cynics cracked that it should have been titled “Somebody Killed Her Career.”

The actress had also been in line to star in “Foul Play” for Columbia Pictures. But the studio opted for Goldie Hawn instead. “Spelling-Goldberg warned all the studios that that they would be sued for damages if they employed me,” Fawcett told The Associated Press in 1979. “The studios wouldn’t touch me.”

She finally reached an agreement to appear in three episodes of “Charlie’s Angels” a season, an experience she called “painful.”

She returned to making movies, including the futuristic thriller “Logan’s Run,” the comedy-thriller “Sunburn” and the strange sci-fi tale “Saturn 3,” but none clicked with the public.

Fawcett fared better with television movies such as “Murder in Texas,” “Poor Little Rich Girl” and especially as an abused wife in 1984’s “The Burning Bed.” The last earned her an Emmy nomination and the long-denied admission from critics that she really could act.

As further proof of her acting credentials, Fawcett appeared off-Broadway in “Extremities” as a woman who is raped in her own home. She repeated the role in the 1986 film version.

Not content to continue playing victims, she switched type. She played a murderous mother in the 1989 true-crime story “Small Sacrifices” and a tough lawyer on the trail of a thief in 1992’s “Criminal Behavior.”

She also starred in biographies of Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld and photographer Margaret Bourke-White.

“I felt that I was doing a disservice to ourselves by portraying only women as victims,” she commented in a 1992 interview.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings In 1995, at age 48, Fawcett posed partly nude for Playboy magazine. The following year, she starred in a Playboy video, “All of Me,” in which she was equally unclothed while she sculpted and painted.

She told an interviewer she considered the experience “a renaissance,” adding, “I no longer feel ... restrictions emotionally, artistically, creatively or in my everyday life. I don’t feel those borders anymore.”

Fawcett’s most unfortunate career moment may have been a 1997 appearance on David Letterman’s show, when her disjointed, rambling answers led many to speculate that she was on drugs. She denied that, blaming her strange behavior on questionable advice from her mother to be playful and have a good time.

Fought cancer publicly
In September 2006, Fawcett, who at 59 still maintained a strict regimen of tennis and paddleball, began to feel strangely exhausted. She underwent two weeks of tests and was told the devastating news: She had anal cancer.

O’Neal, with whom she had a 17-year relationship, again became her constant companion, escorting her to the hospital for chemotherapy.

“She’s so strong,” the actor told a reporter. “I love her. I love her all over again.”

She struggled to maintain her privacy, but a UCLA Medical Center employee pleaded guilty in late 2008 to violating federal medical privacy law for commercial purposes for selling records of Fawcett and other celebrities to the National Enquirer.

“It’s much easier to go through something and deal with it without being under a microscope,” she told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in which she also revealed that she helped set up a sting that led to the hospital worker’s arrest.

Her decision to tell her own story through the NBC documentary was meant as an inspiration to others, friends said. The segments showing her cancer treatment, including a trip to Germany for procedures there, were originally shot for a personal, family record, they said. And although weak, she continued to show flashes of grit and good humor in the documentary.

“I do not want to die of this disease. So I say to God, ‘It is seriously time for a miracle,”’ she said at one point.

Born Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas, she was named Mary Farrah Leni Fawcett by her mother, who said she added the Farrah because it sounded good with Fawcett. She was less than a month old when she underwent surgery to remove a digestive tract tumor with which she was born.

After attending Roman Catholic grade school and W.B. Ray High School, Fawcett enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. Fellow students voted her one of the 10 most beautiful people on the campus and her photos were eventually spotted by movie publicist David Mirisch, who suggested she pursue a film career. After overcoming her parents’ objections, she agreed.

Soon she was appearing in such TV shows as “That Girl,” “The Flying Nun,” “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Partridge Family.”

Majors became both her boyfriend and her adviser on career matters, and they married in 1973. She dropped his last name from hers after they divorced in 1982.

By then she had already begun her long relationship with O’Neal. Both Redmond and Ryan O’Neal have grappled with drug and legal problems in recent years.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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