THE FALL GUY BOUNCES BACK AGAIN
By Lesley Salisbury in Hollywood – TV Times, July 1984
For most of the Seventies, Lee Majors, star of Sunday’s ITV thriller ‘Weekend of Terror’, was one half of Hollywood’s golden couple – the seemingly perfect marriage that ended in the divorce court. His wife discarded Majors from her name and her life and went back to being Farrah Fawcett, the Texan girl who married a TV star and then became one herself. The premise that the couple who jogged together would stay together had not worked.
Although, it is now more than two years since the divorce rumbled through the courts, Majors still carries the pain of the emotional upheaval. With the world-wide success of The Fall Guy, he again has the high-profile television stardom he has enjoyed for the past twenty years.
Of his former wife, he says he wishes only good things. “I’ll always be 100 percent behind her. I was with her for 11 years and I’m grateful for those years. We discovered that the heart doesn’t grow fonder through distance. These things happen, but life goes on.”
But Farrah is now in the arms of Ryan O’Neal, formerly a long-standing friend of Majors. They no longer speak – Majors was the fall guy in the marriage.
Majors was in Toronto making the thriller Agency when the break-up began. Tatum O’Neal was also filming in the city. When Tatum’s father, Ryan, turned up to visit her on location, he also spent time with his old friend Majors. Before he returned to Los Angeles , O’Neal asked Majors to watch over his daughter. Majors also asked a favour. Would his friend make sure his wife was fine because she might also need some companionship?
The romance of O’Neal and the former star of Charlie’s Angels became headline news and Majors became bitter and disillusioned. Hopes of a reconciliation in his struggling marriage faded. Although he has been linked with a string of women he has not replaced Farrah in his life.
His career took off in 1965 when he found instant success as one of the stars of the popular The Big Valley. ‘Linda Evans and I tested and got our parts the same day. Barbara Stanwyck sort of took both of us under her wing. She helped me a lot.’
Then there was a year on The Men From Shiloh (1970), followed by four years on Owen Marshall, Attorney-at-Law (1971-1974). The phenomenon of The Six Million Dollar Man began in 1973, making Majors a worldwide bionic hero for five years. The Farrah phenomenon was also happening at this time.
While his wife’s star was ascending, Majors turned to movies. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. “Although, I’ve always worked, it’s difficult for actors to make the transition from television to motion pictures.” His fears proved too true. He had made his film debut in the fine but little seen western Will Penny (1967), with Charlton Heston and the late Joan Hackett.
That standard didn’t hold for The Norseman (1978), Killer Fish (1978) , Steel (1979), Agency (1980) and The Last Chase (1980). He did better back on television with High Noon II (1980).
He got no comfort from Farrah’s disappointing departure to movies which resulted in three flops. What brightened him up was the idea for The Fall Guy, which started in 1981. The series would present a different Lee Majors and the show’s producer Glen Larson sees it this way: “There was no audience sitting out there by the dial waiting for Lee Majors. The only people who thought the show would be a hit were the few who had seen the pilot before it went on air. And everyone who saw it said, “I had no idea Lee Majors had had that humour and charm.”
“Unfortunately, Lee had always been cast as a plastic man and never got a shot at this kind of role. That’s the only reason he came back to television.”
But Majors has not given up hope of success on the big screen. “I’ll make as many films as I have to until the right one clicks,” he says. “You just have to hope you’ll attract better scripts and work with good actors, producers and directors. Look at Burt Reynolds. He told me if you do 19 terrible movies and the next one is a smash, they forget about the other 19.
“You stick with the kind of thing you do best, then once you’re established, you can gamble on the meatier roles. I’m keeping busy.”