10 heavenly facts about 'Charlie's Angels'

Both the President and Ayn Rand were big fans of this 1970s sensation.

Image: The Everett Collection

"It's Charlie, Angels. Time to go to work." In the late 1970s, this line was a cue to plop on the couch and turn off your brain. For five seasons, Charlie's Angels offered action, adventure, countless costume changes and unfathomable amounts of hairspray. Critics might have mocked it, but it was a major hit, turning each Angel into a star in her own right.

In fact, the show was too good and star-making, as its leads kept leaving the show. Six actors cycled through the series from 1976–81 — Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts. In the end, Smith was the only original left standing.

But you likely know this. You probably had the lunch boxes and the dolls. Or perhaps you grew up on the second generation of Angels, the ones played by Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu. Now, another reboot is in the works, shooting in the spring of 2018.

Let's take a look at some fascinating facts about the original, the best.

1. The original title of the show was 'The Alley Cats.'

In the first script, the trio of crime-fighters were named Alley, Lee and Catherine — The Alley Cats. Oh, and they were also leather-clad karate experts working for the police. "That's the worst idea I've ever heard," Michael Eisner of ABC said when he heard the pitch. The concept evolved over time. In fact, it was Kate Jackson's idea to change the title of the show…

Image: The Everett Collection

2. The 'Angels' name came from an old office painting owned by Frank Sinatra.

Producer Aaron Spelling had his office in a bungalow formerly occupied by Frank Sinatra on the Fox lot. Hanging on the wall behind the desk was a painting of three female angels. Kate Jackson popped into the office before a meeting. She suggested, "Why not call them Angels?" Spelling asked her where she got the idea. She pointed to the painting. At first, they wanted to go with Harry's Angels, but there was another series called Harry O on the air. This is obviously not the actual painting seen here, but we can dream.

Image: iStock

3. Robert Wagner and Natalie Woods were silent partners behind the series.

In 1973, Aaron Spelling served as executive producer on a TV movie called The Affair, starring Hollywood couple Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood. In order to convince the iconic stars to make the film, Spelling had to promise them they would co-own a future TV series with him, according to his memoir, Aaron Spelling: A Prime-Time Life. Though they were never credited as backers of the series, their deal entitled them to a 50% cut of the profits from the hit show. In 1981, this deal became public when Wagner sued Spelling/Goldberg productions, claiming some of his Angels funding was surreptitiously being funneled to Starsky and Hutch. The Hollywood press dubbed it "Angelgate."

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Kate Jackson was paid more at first.

When the series kicked off, Jackson was earning $10,000 per episode, while her co-stars Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett-Majors pulled in half that, $5,000 each. Jackson was seen as a more established star at the time.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. The Angels were $20,000 worth of clothing each week.

According to Spelling's memoirs, each Angel had eight costume changes per show, racking up a whopping $20,000 in wardrobe fees. Yep, the budget for clothes equalled the initial salaries for the trio. The threads were designed by Nolan Miller.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. John Forsythe was added to the cast at the last minute.

Forsythe, best known as the patriarch on the primetime soap Dynasty, was the voice on the other end of the line, Charlie. Each episode he gave the women their mission. He was added to the production mere days before the series aired. Forsythe did his reading of Charlie lines in his pajamas, reportedly. His casting was meant to be a secret, but that didn't quite work out.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. President Gerald Ford was a big fan.

Ford, who lost the election to Jimmy Carter a day before the sixth episode of Charlie's Angels aired, was a major Angels devotee. So much so that he even visited the set.

Image: AP Photo / Marty Leherhandler

8. Ayn Rand was also super into the show.

Yes, the philosophical author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead publically professed her love of Charlie's Angels, on Donahue.

Image: AP Photo

9. Priscilla Presley, Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathie Lee Gifford were all considered to play Angels.

Presley was offered a role, but turned it down. Likewise, Kim Basinger, who had appeared in the episode "Angels in Chains," said no to the role of Kris Munroe, wanting to focus on a film career. (Cheryl Ladd took the part.) When the character Tiffany Welles was added to the roster in the fourth season, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathie Lee Gifford were considered. Shelley Hack won out.

Image: AP Photo/Dave Pickoff

10. Farrah Fawcett was sued for leaving the show.

Fawcett jumped ship after the first season. Spelling in turn sued her for $7 million, for breach of contract. Fawcett told People magazine in 1979 that the fallout made her a toxic commodity in Hollywood: "The industry was furious with me and hostile because I was a TV sex symbol who wanted to be an actress. People thought I was really pretentious, and for months no one would touch me… I was poison.” She lost the lead role in Foul Play to Goldie Hawn.

Image: AP Photo

Save with
Enjoy even more classic shows on-air! Find where to watch MeTV in Washington, DC
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

0 Comments

Post a comment
Click here to learn about MeTV's new commenting system!
Be the first to leave a comment!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?