Lee Majors (born April 23, 1939) is an American actor, primarily
known for several high profile roles on television in the 1960s, 70s, and
Lee is known for his roles as Barbara Stanwyck's husband's illegitimate son, Heath Barkley, on The Big Valley (1965-1969), as Arthur Hill's law partner/friend, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1974), as Colonel Steve Austin, on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978), and as Colt Seavers on The Fall Guy (1981-1986). He also had a recurring role as Col. Seymour Kooze in Son of the Beach.
Lee was born on April 23, 1939 as Harvey Lee Yeary in the Detroit suburb of Wyandotte, Michigan. He was the only child of Carl Yeary, who was killed in a work-related accident, and Alice Yeary, who was killed in a car accident. In 1941, when Yeary was only two, he was adopted by his uncle and aunt, Harvey & Mildred Yeary, and moved with them to Middlesboro, Kentucky, where they already had another son, Bill.
Since his older brother had been a football star in school, Yeary tirelessly committed himself to the sport. While a student at Middlesboro High School, he participated in sports, from track to football. He graduated in 1957, and earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where he competed in more sports. Yeary left Indiana University in 1959 and transferred to Eastern Kentucky State College in Richmond, Kentucky after he got into a fight at a fraternity house. He played in his first game the following year, but suffered a severe back injury which left him paralyzed for two weeks, and ended his football career.
He then turned his attention to acting and performed in plays at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. Yeary graduated from Eastern in 1962 with a degree in History and Physical Education.
After graduating, he received an offer to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals football team; however, he turned it down and moved to Los Angeles and found work at the Los Angeles Park and Recreation Department as the Recreation Director for North Hollywood Park. This was after a brief stint playing for the new football franchise Boston Patriots (now New England Patriots) as a safety. There, Yeary met many actors and industry professionals, including Dick Clayton, who had been James Dean's agent. Clayton suggested he attend his acting school. It took one year of studying in order for Clayton to help the newly christened Lee Majors start his career. Lee also studied at Estelle Harmon's acting school at MGM. At 25, Lee landed his first role in Strait-Jacket (1964), which starred Joan Crawford.
Lee got his big break when he beat out over 400 young actors, including Burt Reynolds, for the co-starring role of Heath Barkley in a new ABC western series, The Big Valley, which starred Barbara Stanwyck. Also starring on the show was another newcomer, Linda Evans, who played Heath's younger sister, Audra. The show was an immediate hit. Lee went on to do some films such as Will Penny (1968) with Charlton Heston. That same year, he was offered the chance to star in Midnight Cowboy (1969), but The Big Valley was renewed for another season and he was forced to decline the role which went to Jon Voight. When The Big Valley was finally cancelled in 1969, he signed a long-term contract with Universal Studios.
In 1970, Lee joined the cast of The Virginian (TV series) for its last season. The following year he landed the role of Arthur Hill's partner, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, which garnered critical acclaim for three seasons on ABC. In one episode, his girlfriend, and future wife, Farrah Fawcett, guest-starred.
Majors' co-starring role on Owen Marshall led him to a starring role as Colonel Steve Austin, an ex-astronaut with bionic limbs in The Six Million Dollar Man, a 1973 television movie broadcast on ABC.
In 1974, the network decided to turn it into a weekly series. The series became a huge international success, being screened in over 70 countries, and made Lee a leading pop icon of the 1970s. Co-starring on the show was Richard Anderson as Steve Austin's boss, Oscar Goldman, and Martin E. Brooks as Austin's doctor, Rudy Wells (initially played by Alan Oppenheimer). Lee also invited his then wife, Farrah Fawcett, to guest-star in four episodes. By this time, both Lee and Fawcett were a high-profile Hollywood couple and were on the cover of magazines everywhere. Lee also made his directorial debut in 1975, on an episode in which Fawcett appeared.
During the show's third season, the producers gave Steve Austin a love interest on the show, Jamie Sommers (played by actress Lindsay Wagner). Steve and Jamie are romantically linked before she is injured in a skydiving accident and is bionically rebuilt, comparable to him except with an ear instead of an eye. At the end of the two-part episode, Jamie dies. ABC received a flood of letters from upset fans who wanted Wagner's character brought back from the dead. This was done, and the character was given her own spin-off show, The Bionic Woman.
In 1977, with The Six Million Dollar Man still a hit series, Lee tried to renegotiate his contract with Universal Television. The studio in turn filed a lawsuit to force him to report to work due to stipulations within his existing contract that had not yet expired. When he didnít report to work that June, studio executives relented and offered Lee a raise. However, ratings began to decline and The Six Million Dollar Man was canceled in March 1978 (as was The Bionic Woman).
After his role as Steve Austin, Lee tried to start a feature film career. He starred in six movies: The Norseman (1978), Steel (1979), Killer Fish (1979), Agency (1980), The Last Chase (1981), Starflight One (1983), and also made cameo appearances in Scrooged (1988) Out Cold (2001) Big Fat Liar (2002) and The Brothers Solomon (2007).
In 1981, Lee returned to television. Producer Glen A. Larson (who had first worked with Lee on Alias Smith and Jones, where Lee had a one episode part, and later on The Six Million Dollar Man) asked him to star in the pilot of The Fall Guy. Lee played Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman and part-time bounty hunter. The Fall Guy allowed Lee an opportunity to show off his comedic abilities, something audiences hadnít yet seen. Lee was also a producer and a director on the show. Lee also invited several longtime friends; Linda Evans, Peter Breck and Richard Anderson to guest-star in various episodes. The series ran for five seasons until 1986.
After The Fall Guy, Majors' career became more low-key, and he made a series of made-for-TV movies and several pilots for unsuccessful TV shows. Between 1987 and 1994, he and Lindsay Wagner reunited in three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman TV movies. In 1990, he had a recurring role in Tour of Duty, and a recurring role in the short-lived 1992 series, Raven.
In the middle of 2003, Lee had single heart bypass surgery.
Lee has been married four times and divorced three times. His most famous marriage was to actress Farrah Fawcett, another 1970s pop icon. In 1976, Lee and Fawcett made TV history by being a husband and wife who simultaneously starred in separate top-rated shows (The Six Million Dollar Man and Charlie's Angels). They were married on July 28, 1973, and separated in 1979, but were not formally divorced until February 16, 1982.
Lee has four children from two of his marriages. He has one son, actor Lee Majors II (born circa 1962), from his 1961-1964 marriage to Kathy Robinson, who would go on to appear as an OSI agent in the three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman reunion movies with his father. His 1988-1994 marriage to Playmate Karen Velez produced one daughter, Nikki Loren, and twin sons, Dane Luke and Trey Kulley. He is currently married to actress/model Faith Majors, whom he's been with since 1995; they wed on November 1, 2002.
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