Barney Rosenzweig’s memories of Farrah Fawcett admittedly were exactly the same as every other guy remembers…“her beauty, her smile, her easy laugh and welcoming manner. She was not one to intimidate and it was easy to feel comfortable with her.”
Fawcett, 62, succumbed to her courageous three-year battle with anal cancer on June 25 in the intensive care unit of St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. She is probably best remembered as showing off her perfect female form in a red swimsuit poster that was first published in Life magazine in 1976. On the wish list of every young red-blooded American male, it was reportedly the best-selling pinup poster of all time, with more than 12 million copies sold.
During that same year, Fawcett-Majors (married then to sex symbol Lee Majors) became known as the sexy private investigator Jill Munroe in an Aaron Spelling/Leonard Goldberg produced television series. Simply called fluff or “jiggle” TV, the first season of Charlie’s Angels was panned by the critics but became a huge ratings success for Fawcett-Majors, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson.
Almost six years before he was to executive produce the 1980s award-winning groundbreaking “buddy drama” series, Cagney & Lacey, Rosenzweig was hired by Spelling to “turn things around” on the private detective series. With eager anticipation, he took over the reins of Charlie’s Angels’ first season nearly mid-way in the production process, but before any of the episodes had been broadcast.
Rosenzweig strongly suggested that the story emphasis be placed more on the trio’s intelligence and less on cheap, sexist jokes. In short, he would argue that the show’s primary audience was not prepubescent males, as Spelling would assert, but rather young girls searching for the ideal role model to idolize and it would be absolutely insane to insult them by belittling their heroes.
The author of Cagney and Lacey… and Me, his memoirs, Rosenzweig has devoted Chapter 4 in his book for recollections of Charlie’s Angels. He recently disclosed that his memories on the set were mostly about how difficult it was to work with Spelling and Goldberg.
“That was arguably the worst professional environment I have ever encountered. Farrah was a respite from all that and someone who, as I remember it, often made the experience tolerable. She didn’t have much training, but she was a gifted and natural comedienne with whom it was a joy to work.”
Rosenzweig continues by describing his relationship with Fawcett as strictly professional. “I had enormous respect for her talent and work ethic. I feel she had some bad counseling over the years and made a great mistake when she unilaterally announced she was leaving Charlie’s Angels after the first season. That decision all but destroyed what I feel could have been an incredible career.”
Fawcett did later appear in often challenging roles displaying some rather fervent acting chops in TV movies, specifically one entitled The Burning Bed. Earning her the first of three Emmy Award nominations, that project is noted as being the first TV movie to provide a nationwide 800 number to offer help for the victims of domestic abuse.
She also won critical acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination for her 1983 role in the off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities. Replacing Susan Sarandon in the role, she played a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker. In 1997 she appeared with Robert Duvall in the film The Apostle and received an Independent Spirit award nomination for her performance.
Those unyielding, tenacious characters she represented in the “make believe” world of acting seem to have also defined the woman herself as witnessed during her final valiant struggle. Fawcett was laid to rest on July 1 at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, a district in western Los Angeles.
Article by Melissa Parker
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