What Really Happened Behind The Scenes Of Charlie’s Angels
There were once three little girls who went to the police academy. They assigned them to very dangerous missions, but I took them away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.” The voice-over gave way to a police story that three attractive detectives had to unravel. The program had five seasons, six protagonists in all, sounded conflicts between the protagonists and became a classic of television at the level With their hairstyles, their glamor, their supermodern clothes and their well-differentiated personalities, the six actresses became symbols of the early eighties and threatened to eat the world in the following years, however, that never happened and, soon, not only did they leave the covers of the magazines and the top of the rankings of the most desired women, but their appearances on the small screen (and in the big one) were increasingly sporadic. In the end, they disappeared, but left a (trashy) mark in our hearts that we’ll remember forever.
It’s hard to imagine that such a popular show almost didn’t make it to the screen. The studios found it hard to believe that an all-female show could be a success. Needless to say, they were wrong.
The Moving Pieces
There’s no denying the show emphasised the protagonists’ physiques. Executive Paul Klein from NBC went as far as to compare it to an adult film, saying this kind of shows are made to appeal to men especially. Considering all the criticism adult films had taken at the time, it was a really blunt comment.
The show brought in Cheryl Ladd in the second season, because it needed a blonde beauty to replace Farrah Fawcett. The relationship between her and Kate Jackson was always a bit “complicated”, as Ladd put it. Some say Jackson thought the introduction of Ladd was going to lower the ratings.
When the show got on the screen Farrah Fawcett instantly became the most popular of the trio. However, she was also the first to leave the show. As her popularity increased she decided to follow her ambitions and rescinded her contract. Producer Aaron Spelling didn’t take it lightly, and sued her.
A Financial Disparity
When the show first aired Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith were offered $5000 per episode on their contracts. Kate Jackson, being a more experienced actress already, was offered nearly $10000. This was because both Fawcett and Smith were still inexperienced and had just began acting. However, Smith would later get a raise to $40000, in attempt to get her to stay on the show.
In 1978 Jackson got the role of Joanna Kramer, to star in Kramer vs. Kramer with Dustin Hoffman. Producer Aaron Spelling however didn’t allow for an adjustment of her shooting schedule on Charlie’s Angels to let her appear in the film. She had to give up the role in favour of Meryl Streep, a decision she regretted as soon as the latter won an Academy Award for her performance.
Farrah’s Bizarre Request
Fawcett’s contract included an unusual request: that she be allowed to leave the set no later than 7 p.m. This was because in those years she was married to actor Lee Majors, and she wanted to make sure she had enough time to cook him dinner every evening. An act of devotion that didn’t save her marriage though.
Charlie’s character never appeared in the show, but he was voiced by John Forsythe. However, Forsythe hadn’t been Spelling’s first choice. He had first chosen Gig Young, who at one point showed up on the set so drunk that all his recordings were incomprehensible. He soon had to leave the part to Forsythe.
When Fawcett decided to break her contract, ABC immediately sued her. The show was about to lose one of her stars just when it was starting to gain momentum. They eventually settle the suit by having her guest starring in six more episodes in the course of the next two seasons.
Even when the show was still running there were rumours of a curse for the actresses who played the Angels. It first seemed to hit their relationships, since every one of them ended up divorcing from their partners. In later years however, the curse apparently managed to get all three of them diagnosed with cancer. Even though Farrah couldn’t survive it, Jackson and Smith fully recovered.
Peaking Too Early
All actresses naturally kept working after the show had ended, but, despite their success, they didn’t seem to be able to recreate the popularity of their earlier years. It’s not always easy to live up to your reputation.
On The Prowl
The working title for the show, as first proposed by Aaron Spelling, was Alley Cats. Although it was intended to be revolutionary as the first female-led show in history, Kate Jackson in particular didn’t much like the title. She suggested to change it to Charlie’s Angels after seeing a themed poster in Aaron Spelling’s office.
Spelling In Hot Water
At one point during the show actor Robert Wagner sued Aaron Spelling. He and his wife Natalie Wood has been investing in the show for a while, but Wagner claimed that Spelling had been using some of that money for other shows. The subsequent legal fight was dubbed “Angel Gate”.
At one point ABC executives decided to cash in on the success of Charlie’s Angels by having a male-led spin off named Toni’s Boys. The pilot, in which the popular Angels ran into troubles, also featured Barbara Stanwyck as Toni, Charlie’s counterpart. Ratings for the episode were so low it was decided to cancel the draft for a series altogether.
The show was supposed to support the feminist cause, having strong female characters lead the way, but many critics deplored the jobs the Angels took when they were undercover. Many of them, from stewardess to massage therapist, were seen as chiefly female back then. Max Collins stated that, if anything, the show actually damaged the cause.
Flaunting Her Brains
Jackson was the biggest star at the time but, when compared to Fawcett and Smith, the public considered her the least attractive. Her character was presented to be the intelligent but not-so-attractive member of the trio, whilst the other two were considered the real flames. In the case of Fawcett, this was probably due to her famous poster.
A Minor Star
When Fawcett left, Cheryl Ladd had a difficult task ahead of her, having to replace the most popular star of the show. On her first day she even sported a t-shirt reading Farrah Fawcett Minor to brighten the mood on set.
When Kate Jackson left in 1979, Shelley Hack was going to replace her. Aaron Spelling made her debut in a crossover episode in The Love Boat to help her gain popularity, but things didn’t work out. She couldn’t melt with the other stars of the show and was fired before the season ended. Her replacement in turn didn’t score a great role either.
Initially the show had quite a number of writers taking turns at the script. Rumours said that, whilst the show was never supposed to anything more than a money-making machine, the main stars kept asking for better stories. And thank God that they did, we might add.
Farrah Takes Some Hits
Working on the set became a challenge for Fawcett. Whilst filming she suffered a lot of injuries and accidents, including being hit by a car at one point. Her leg wasn’t broken as she had first thought, but the stress caused by the accident certainly didn’t help.
Running In Heels
The three stars soon became fashion icons, and costume designers struggled to create shoes that looked good whilst also being suited for all the action sequences the Angels found themselves in. They decided to make them wear platform shoes, a compromise that satisfied the high standards of the show and allowed them to move freely at the same time.
Ladd’s Striking Confession
Whilst the supposed curse that afflicted the Angels was worrying, Cheryl Ladd recently confessed that her biggest regret has been not spending enough time with her daughter, who was only two at the time. She was working more than 10 hours every day and didn’t have enough time for her family.
Down And Out On Luck
Jackson faced different difficulties. She recently confessed that she had become bankrupt years back, partly because of bad financial advices she had received. This despite the fact that she was perhaps the only one managing to follow up her success after the show, receiving well-paid roles in a number of films.
Declining The Angels
After Fawcett left, Spelling immediately chose Cheryl Ladd to replace her. In a recent interview Ladd confessed that she initially turned down the offer. She said that, apart from not knowing what kind of character she was going to play, she feared that she might not be good enough to replace the ever popular Farrah.
Jackson Gets The Boot
Kate Jackson had always been reported as a difficult actress to work with, although she has always denied those claims. Be it as it may, her disposition toward the show changed significantly after she had to give up the role for Kramer vs. Kramer. By the end of the third season it became clear that it was time to find another replacement.
Fawcett abandoned the show not only to become a film star, but also because of all the stress she was enduring on set. She had lost a lot of weight during filming and, despite the contract allowing her to get home early, her marriage wasn’t going well.
Jaclyn Opens Up
Jaclyn Smith never talked much about the show whilst she was working, but years later she explained that she thought Fawcett had been wrong in leaving the cast. Whilst they would eventually became good friends in later years, Smith still thought Fawcettt should have never broken her contract.