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Farrah Fawcett: Death of an Angel

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After a three-year fight with cancer, actress Farrah Fawcett died today at age 62. No one is likely to argue that Charlie’s Angels, the TV series for which she’s best known, was a masterpiece of video storytelling or a landmark for actresses (“There were three little girls…”). But Fawcett herself, as a star during her brief run on the show and as a world-famous sex symbol and poster model, was definitely a landmark in a lot of young lives during the ’70s.

As a hot woman starring in an action show, she was both a gateway pinup for Gen X boys and a bridge between the cheesecake models of earlier decades and the female action stars of today. (For pre-teen boys of my vintage, she provided a kind of sexuality with training wheels: a swimsuit model who blew things up and was in real life, at the time, married to The Six-Million-Dollar Man. How could you beat that!)

Fawcett had a career, and notoriety, after Charlie’s Angels (she made the domestic-abuse movie The Burning Bed and had an infamously scattered appearance on David Letterman), but it was for that work in the ’70s that her death hits so hard today: it just seems dissonant and wrong that someone so well associated with youth, sex and life force should die barely into her sixties. If you have time for a little remembrance, here’s Farrah Fawcett (then Fawcett-Majors) in the pilot of Angels: 

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Goodbye, Farrah. We’ll keep your picture on our walls.

[Update: TIME film critic Richard Corliss has an appreciation here.]