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Farrah Fawcett: The Face of a Generation

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It's hard to believe, but Farrah Fawcett's most famous acting role lasted all of one year — and that was 33 years ago.

But that one year was enough to make her first name alone — like Cher, or Madonna — all you needed to hear. Even now, as her health continues to deteriorate, the public seems to grow more and more fascinated by the all-American beauty the world has known as Farrah.

She rose to stardom in 1976 as the vivacious Jill Munroe on the TV series Charlie’s Angels, but she left the show after just one year and followed with just a few guest appearances. While she established herself as a serious actress thereafter, her work on the stage and silver screen wasn’t what made her a Hollywood legend.

"She didn’t have that big career for that long, but Farrah is undoubtedly a cultural icon. Her life is so compelling and dramatic and plays out like a soap opera, which makes people so interested in her," said longtime Hollywood publicist Michael Levine, who is director of Levine Communications.

"She was an ambassador, the face of our generation. Farrah managed to catch on in a way that is hard to describe; she had a perfect look at a perfect time, she was truly indelible.

"Everything else she did in her career were minor additions to that cultural iconic status."

And then there was "The Poster." Farrah wasn't your average pinup girl — she was THE pinup girl. The poster of Farrah in her one-piece red bathing suit, her left arm resting on her leg, a smile that could light up a room, was required men's reading in every dorm room in the country.

And, of course, the most prominent feature of the poster, the most prominent part of Fawcett’s public appeal, was that hair — thick, blond, bouncy and, as described in the new documentary "Farrah’s Story," a star on its own.

"In the beginning her hair certainly captured the world and just about every man. She took that position and reinforced it with talent and did some really chancy rolls and became a good actress, and I think a lot of people were surprised," actress Jacqueline Bissett told FOXNews.com.

"But just seeing her moving around at parties and seeing her sitting on a barstool with a kinda pizazz and just her charm and her light was what I’ll always remember. She always just had this fresh quality and a very clean quality. She has had some difficulties in her personal life — I believe she has some heartache and struggle, but predominantly I think of her very positively."

Aside from her battle with cancer, Fawcett has had to watch her son, Redmond O’Neal, struggle with drugs and brushes with the law, as well as help her longtime companion Ryan O’Neal fight and win his own battle with leukemia.

"He (Ryan) was also a cultural icon and here we have two celebrities that have stayed together through thick and thin, through all the twists and turns," said Levine. "It is like a soap opera, and that’s how Americans like their story."

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