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Farrah Fawcett poses for photographers on the red carpet before a 2006 Comedy Central event in Los Angeles. ((Rene Macura/Associated Press))

U.S. actress Farrah Fawcett, who starred in the television crime-fighting series Charlie's Angels and received critical acclaim for the movie The Burning Bed about domestic abuse, has died at age 62, according to her spokesman.

Fawcett died Thursday morning in a Santa Monica hospital, said Paul Bloch.

Her longtime companion, actor Ryan O'Neal, and close friend Alana Stewart were at her side, Bloch added.

"After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away," O'Neal said.

"Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world."

Fawcett was diagnosed in 2006 with anal cancer, which spread to her liver. She unveiled that struggle in the video diary Farrah's Story, aired recently on NBC, saying she wanted to inspire others with her story.

"Cancer is my own private war. The strain, the nausea, the fever take turns challenging my strength, my mind and my spirit," she said in the TV special.

"Even after two years, I still haven't learned why I can't will my body to heal itself. I'm still trying, but slightly crying."

Fawcett's known for trademark hair

Fawcett's long, blond, feathered-look hairstyle was emulated by millions of young women in the 1970s, and she became popular pin-up girl thanks to an iconic 1976 poster showing her in a red swimsuit.

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The 1976 poster that made Farrah Fawcett into a pinup girl.

She struggled later in her career to become known as a serious actress, and played a series of roles in biopics of high-profile women, including Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld and photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White.

She also is associated with the 1984 made-for-TV movie The Burning Bed, a story about domestic abuse that sparked public debate and even provided a 1-800 number for women in trouble. The role earned her an Emmy Award and Fawcett remained involved in charities against domestic violence.

Fawcett was born Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and began her acting career doing commercial spots, including the ads for Wella Balsam shampoo.

After marrying Lee Majors in 1973, she appeared in four episodes of his series The Six Million Dollar Man. 

That role, and the famous poster that sold 12 million copies, brought Fawcett to the attention of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, who cast her as one of the crime-fighting trio of women in Charlie's Angels.

Fawcett was not happy with her low pay for the hit series — $10,000 US an episode — and quit after the first season. The producers sued her and she returned for six episodes during the second season, before being replaced by Cheryl Ladd.

The series earned Fawcett a People's Choice Award and made her hairstyle a pop phenomenon. Fawcett said she thought she'd never live down the Angels role.

Pursued serious roles

After Charlie's Angels, Fawcett sought out more serious roles, beginning with the 1981 TV movie Murder in Texas and continuing with Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story and Extremities, about a rape victim who goes after her attacker.

She earned Emmy nominations for The Guardian and Small Sacrifices, in which she played a killer, and Golden Globe nominations for five of her movies, including The Burning Bed and Poor Little Rich Girl.

Fawcett starred opposite Robert Duvall in the independent feature The Apostle, which resulted in an Independent Spirit nomination for best actress and opposite Richard Gere in Dr. T and the Women, a Robert Altman film. She also appeared with Jeff Bridges in See You in the Morning.

She had steadfastly resisted appearing nude in films or magazines throughout the '70s and '80s, but caused a stir by posing nude in the December 1995 issue of Playboy and again in 1997, at age 50.

Fawcett also dabbled in art, collaborating with New York artist Keith Edmier to produce six sculptures and a collection of photos and drawings that was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Warhol Museum.

She later did a reality series in 2005 called  Chasing Farrah, which followed her daily life, and appeared on TV shows such as Ally McBeal and Spin City.

Tabloid target

Her personal life was closely followed by the tabloids. For 30 years, she had an on-again, off-again relationship with O'Neal, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. Fawcett and O'Neal had one child together, son Redmond.

A rambling 1997 interview with David Letterman, at the time of one her breakups with O'Neal, fuelled speculation that she might have been having a breakdown.

Fawcett was openly critical of her treatment by the paparazzi. At one point, she asked for an investigation at the UCLA Medical Center to catch snooping employees who were leaking information about her condition.

"I'm a private person," Fawcett said in a 2007 interview with the L.A. Times. "I'm shy about people knowing things. And I'm really shy about my medical [care]. It would be good if I could just go and heal and then when I decided to go out, it would be OK. It seems that there are areas that should be off limits."

With files from The Associated Press