Lee Majors
Lee Majors

Lee Majors (born Harvey Lee Yeary; April 24, 1939) is an American actor. Majors portrayed the characters of Heath Barkley in the American television Western series The Big Valley (1965–1969), Colonel Steve Austin in the American television science fiction action series The Six Million Dollar Man (1973–1978), and Colt Seavers in American television action series The Fall Guy (1981–1986).

Early life

Majors was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. His parents, Carl and Alice Yeary, were both killed in separate accidents. (His father died in a work accident six months prior to his birth, and his mother was killed in a car accident when he was almost eighteen months old.) At the age of two, Majors was adopted by his uncle and aunt, Harvey and Mildred Yeary, and he moved with them to Middlesboro, Kentucky.[1]

He participated in track and football at Middlesboro High School. He graduated in 1957, and earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where he again competed in sports. Majors transferred to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, in 1959.[1] He played in his first football game the following year, but suffered a severe back injury which left him paralyzed for two weeks and ruined his college athletic career. Following his injury, he turned his attention to acting and performed in plays at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. Majors graduated from Eastern Kentucky in 1962 with a degree in History and Physical Education.[2] He planned to be a football coach.[3]

After college, he received an offer to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals football team. Instead, he moved to Los Angeles and found work at the Los Angeles Park and Recreation Department as the Recreation Director for North Hollywood Park. In Los Angeles, Majors met many actors and industry professionals, including Dick Clayton, who had been James Dean’s agent, and Clayton suggested he attend his acting school. After one year of acting school, Clayton felt that Majors was ready to start his career. At this time, he picked up the stage name Lee Majors as a tribute to childhood hero Johnny Majors who was a player and future coach for the University of Tennessee. Majors also studied at Estelle Harman’s acting school at MGM.[2]

Career

Early roles

At age 25, Majors landed his first, although uncredited, role in Strait-Jacket (1964), as Joan Crawford’s cheating husband. After appearing in a 1965 episode of Gunsmoke, he starred later that year as Howard White in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Monkey’s Paw – A Retelling”, based on the short story by W. W. Jacobs.

Majors got his big break when he was chosen out of 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. Richard Long and Peter Breck played his brothers Jarrod and Nick, respectively. One of Heath’s frequently used expressions during the series was “Boy howdy!” Big Valley was an immediate hit. During the series, Majors co-starred in the 1968 Charlton Heston film Will Penny, for which he received an “Introducing” credit, and landed the lead role in The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969), a made-for-television film which was first broadcast by ABC. The film was one of the first films to deal with the subject matter of Vietnam veterans “coming home”. 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 later went to Jon Voight). When The Big Valley was cancelled in 1969, he signed a long-term contract with Universal Studios. In 1970, Majors appeared in William Wyler’s final movie The Liberation of L.B. Jones, and joined the cast of The Virginian for its final season when the show was restructured as “The Men From Shiloh” featuring four alternating leads. Majors played new ranch hand Roy Tate.

Majors was called a “blond Elvis Presley” because of his resemblance to Elvis during this period of his career.[4]

1970s: The Six Million Dollar Man

Majors with Britt Ekland in The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

In 1971, he landed the role of Arthur Hill’s partner, Jess Brandon, on Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, which garnered critical acclaim during its three seasons on ABC.

Majors’s co-starring role on Owen Marshall led him to a starring role as United States Air Force Colonel Steve Austin, an ex-astronaut with bionic implants 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 an international success, being screened in over 70 countries, turning Majors into a pop icon. Majors also made his directorial debut in 1975, on an episode called “One of Our Running Backs Is Missing” which co-starred professional football players such as Larry Csonka and Dick Butkus.

In 1977, with The Six Million Dollar Man still a hit series, Majors 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. It was rumored that Majors was holding out for more money, but his manager denied this: according to him, Majors was fighting to have his own production company, Fawcett Majors Productions, brought on as an independent producer in association with Universal in order to make the company viable. After Majors did not report to work that June, studio executives ultimately relented.[5] However, ratings began to decline and The Six Million Dollar Man was cancelled in 1978 (as was The Bionic Woman). In November 2010, Time-Life released a 40 DVD set featuring every episode and bonus features from the show.[6][7]

He also appeared in several films during the 1970s. The TV movie Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976, as Francis Gary Powers), the Viking film The Norseman (1978) co-starring Cornel Wilde, the horror thriller Killer Fish (1979), the drama Steel (1979), which he produced, co-starring Jennifer O’Neill and Art Carney, and the political thriller Agency (1980), starring Robert Mitchum.

1980s: The Fall Guy

In 1981, Majors returned in another long-running television series. Producer Glen A. Larson (who had first worked with Majors on Alias Smith and Jones, where Majors guest starred in one episode, and later on The Six Million Dollar Man) asked him to star in the pilot of The Fall Guy. Majors played Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Majors was also a producer and a director on the show, and even sang its theme song, the self-effacing “Unknown Stuntman.” Majors would invite several longtime friends, Linda Evans, Peter Breck, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson, to guest-star in various episodes. The series ran for five seasons until it was cancelled in 1986.

His 1980s films include the made-for-TV sequel High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980), playing Gary Cooper’s original role, the science fiction film The Last Chase (1981), and the disaster movie Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land (1983). Between 1987 and 1994, Majors and Lindsay Wagner reunited in three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman TV movies. Majors also made cameo appearances in Circle of Two (1980) and as himself in the 1988 holiday comedy Scrooged.

1990s–present

Majors at the Florida Supercon in 2017

In 1990, he starred in the film Keaton’s Cop, and had recurring roles in Tour of Duty and the short-lived 1992 series, Raven. He also had supporting roles in the films Trojan War (1997), Out Cold (2001), Big Fat Liar (2002), and The Brothers Solomon (2007). He voiced the character of “Big” Mitch Baker in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. He played Jaret Reddick’s disconnected father in Bowling For Soup’s 2007 video, “When We Die”. That same year, he played Grandpa Max in Ben 10: Race Against Time, and voiced a character on the APTN animated children’s program Wapos Bay: The Series that was named “Steve from Austin”. He also played a minor role in Stephen King’s The Mist.[citation needed]

Majors played Coach Ross on the CW Network television series The Game, which ran from October 1, 2006, to May 20, 2009.[8]

Majors appeared in the role of God in “Jim Almighty” a 2007 episode of According to Jim. He later returned to the role in that show’s 2009 series finale, “Heaven Opposed to Hell”. Also in 2008, Majors played a member of the Minutemen (dedicated to preventing illegal border crossings) in season four of the Showtime series Weeds, where he recruits Kevin Nealon’s character. Majors reprised his role (voice only) as Col. Steve Austin in the “Bionic Woman” segment of the Robot Chicken season four episode “Love, Maurice” (2009).

In March 2010, Majors played the crusty sailing instructor in the Community episode “Beginner Pottery”. In April 2010, he appeared as the mentor of the series lead in “Christopher Chance”, the 12th episode of Human Target. Later that year, he provided the voice of General Abernathy in G.I. Joe: Renegades. He later reprised the role in a 2011 episode. In 2011, he appeared as “Rockwell” in Jerusalem Countdown. From 2011 to 2014 he appeared in three episodes of the Fox comedy Raising Hope, as Burt’s father, Ralph.[9] On February 1, 2013, it was announced that Majors would appear in a two-episode guest spot in season two of TNT’s Dallas as Ken Richards, an old flame of Sue Ellen’s.[10] In 2015, he appeared as J.D. in the faith-based drama Do You Believe? and the hip-hop dance-themed series Avengers of eXtreme Illusions. Majors appeared in the second and third seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead as Brock Williams, the father of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell). In late 2018, Majors voiced an animated Six Million Dollar Man action figure in an advertisement for Honda’s “Happy Honda Days” sale event.[11] In 2019, Majors voiced Jeff Tracy in Thunderbirds Are Go.

Personal life

Marriages

  • Kathy Robinson (married 1961, divorced 1964) – One child together, Lee Majors Jr. (born April 8, 1962), who later became an actor and appeared alongside his father in the three Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman reunion telefilms, credited as Lee Majors II.
  • Farrah Fawcett (married July 28, 1973, separated 1979, divorced February 16, 1982) – During the first six years of their marriage, she went by the name of Farrah Fawcett-Majors.[12] Fawcett died on June 25, 2009.[13] Majors’ one-hit-wonder, Unknown Stuntman makes reference to her.
  • Karen Velez (married 1988, divorced 1994) – Playboy Playmate; one daughter, Nikki Loren, and twin sons, Dane Luke and Trey Kulley.[14]
  • Faith Cross (married on November 1, 2002) – actress and model.[12]

Health

In 2003, Majors had heart bypass surgery.[15]

Los Angeles Express

In April 1983, Majors became part owner of the LA Express of the United States Football League.[16]

Popular culture

The song “Midnight Train to Georgia” was inspired by Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett.[17] Songwriter Jim Weatherly phoned his friend Majors one day, and the call was answered by Fawcett. Weatherly and Fawcett chatted briefly and she told him she was going to visit her mother and was taking “the midnight plane to Houston.” Although Majors and Fawcett were both successful by that time, Weatherly used them as “characters” in his song about a failed actress who leaves Los Angeles, and is followed by her boyfriend who cannot live without her.[18] Eventually the genders were swapped, the plane became a train, and Houston was changed to Georgia. The recording by Gladys Knight & The Pips went to Number One in 1973.[19]

The title of the Beastie Boys song “Lee Majors Come Again” is a reference to Majors.[20]

In his 2017 stand-up comedy special for Netflix, Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery, Norm Macdonald does a “bit” which posits Lee Majors getting a call from his agent about an offer to do a commercial about a hearing aid called “The Bionic Ear.”

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1964Strait-JacketFrank HarbinUncredited
1967ClambakeMan in RestaurantUncredited
1968Will PennyBlue
1970The Liberation of L.B. JonesSteve Mundine
1978The NorsemanThorvald
1979Killer FishLasky
1979SteelMike Catton
1980AgencyPhilip Morgan
1980Circle of TwoTheatre PatronCameo
1981The Last ChaseFranklyn Hart
1988ScroogedLee Majors
1990Keaton’s CopMike Gable
1997Trojan WarOfficer Austin
1998The ProtectorAustin
1998Musketeers ForeverBen O’Connor
2000Primary SuspectLieutenant Blake
2001Out ColdJohn Majors
2002Big Fat LiarVince
2003FateOscar Ogden
2004Arizona SummerMr. Travers
2005The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert AdamsDr. Jack LeeDeleted scenes
2005Hell to PayMarshal Boone
2006When I Find the OceanThomas
2006Waitin’ to LiveBucko Cassidy
2006National Lampoon’s TV: The MovieDr. Lakin
2007The Brothers SolomonEd Solomon
2009The Adventures of UmbwekiPolice Captain Richard
2010JohnnyDr. Miller
2010Corruption.GovJim Lawrence
2011Jerusalem CountdownRockwell
2013Matt’s ChanceThe Figure
2014The Legend of DarkHorse CountyFuture Sheriff McElroy
2015Do You Believe?J.D.
2015Toxin: 700 Days Left on EarthPresident Austin
2016Almosting ItChet
2016Wild Bill Hickock: Swift JusticeGrandpa Hickock
2016JeanSpiritual Stone
2017Victory by SubmissionSam Jordan
2021Narco SubDallas Chapman
2022RenegadesCarverPost-Production

Television

April 2010
Human Target
Christopher Chance (Mentor)
“Christopher Chance”- 12th Episode

YearTitleRoleNotes
1965GunsmokeDave LukensEpisode: “Song for Dying”
1965–1969The Big ValleyHeath Barkley112 episodes
1965The Alfred Hitchcock HourHoward WhiteEpisode: “The Monkey’s Paw–A Retelling”
1969The Ballad of Andy CrockerAndy CrockerTelevision movie
1970Bracken’s WorldFrank CarverEpisode: “Super-Star”
1970–1971The VirginianRoy Tate24 episodes
1970Weekend of TerrorLarryTelevision movie
1971Marcus Welby, M.D.Jess BrandonEpisode: “Men Who Care”
1971–1974Owen Marshall, Counselor at LawJess Brandon53 episodes
1972Alias Smith and JonesJoe BriggsEpisode: “The McCreedy Bust: Going, Going, Gone”
1972The Sixth SenseClayton RossEpisode: “With This Ring, I Thee Kill!”
1973–1978The Six Million Dollar ManColonel Steve Austin99 episodes
TV Land Award for Superest Super Hero (2003)
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (1976)
1974ABC Funshine Saturday Sneak PeekLee Majors / Steve AustinTelevision movie
1976Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy IncidentFrancis Gary PowersTelevision movie
1976The Bionic WomanColonel Steve Austin6 episodes
1977Just a Little InconvenienceFrank LoganTelevision movie
1980High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will KaneWill KaneTelevision movie
1981–1986The Fall GuyColt SeaversLead role
112 episodes
1983Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t LandCaptain Cody BriggsTelevision movie
1983Trauma CenterColt SeaversEpisode: “Notes About Courage”
1983The Love BoatRobert Richards2 episodes
1984The Cowboy and the BallerinaBob Clayton (aka Clay)Television movie
1986A Smoky Mountain ChristmasMountain DanTelevision movie
1987The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic WomanColonel Steve AustinTelevision movie
1988DollyHarold “Chance” ColemanEpisode: “#1.14”
1988Reed Down UnderReed HarrisTelevision movie
1989Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic WomanSteve AustinTelevision movie
1989CBS Summer PlayhouseJesse PruittEpisode: “Road Show”
1990Tour of Duty“Pop” Scarlet5 episodes
1991Fire: Trapped on the 37th FloorDeputy Chief SterlingTelevision movie
1992–1993RavenHerman “Ski” Jablonski20 episodes
1993The Cover Girl MurdersRex KingmanTelevision movie
1994Bionic Ever After?Steve AustinTelevision movie
1995Lonesome Dove: The SeriesWoodrow F. CallEpisode: “Ties That Bind”
1995AchillesPeleusTelevision movie
1995The Pinocchio ShopHoward HughesEpisode: “Air Tristan”
1996Promised LandJim WalkerEpisode: “The Secret”
1996Daytona BeachOwen TraversTelevision movie
1997Lost Treasure of Dos SantosRoy StarkTelevision movie
1997Raven: Return of the Black DragonsHerman “Ski” JablonskiTelevision movie
1998Walker, Texas RangerSheriff BellEpisode: “On the Border”
1999Soldier of Fortune, Inc.Tom WintersEpisode: “Critical List”
2000Family GuyLee Majors (voice)Episode: “Running Mates”
2000V.I.P.Jed IronsEpisode: “Ride of the Valkyries”
2000The War Next DoorKennedy Smith, Sr.Episode: “Father Knows Death”
2000Too Much SunScott Reed6 episodes
2001Hotel!President of the U.S.A.Television movie
2001Hard KnoxDarrell KnoxTelevision movie
2002Son of the BeachColonel Seymore Kooze3 episodes
2003Jake 2.0Richard FoxEpisode: “Double Agent”
2004The Trail to Hope RoseMarshall TollTelevision movie
2005Will & GraceBurt WolfeEpisode: “It’s a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World”
2006LightspeedTannerTelevision movie
2007The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie WoodmanGovernor of CaliforniaEpisode: “Good Times and Great Oldies”
2007Ben 10: Race Against TimeMax TennysonTelevision movie
2007–2009The GameCoach Ross6 episodes
2007Wapos BaySteve from Ausin (voice)Episode: “Guardians”
2007Me & Lee?Television movie
2008Wainy DaysDavid’s DadEpisode: “Rebecca”
2008–2009According to JimGodEpisodes: “Jim Almighty” and “Heaven Opposed to Hell”
2008WeedsMinute-Man Leader3 episodes
2008Cold CaseDean London ’08Episode: “Wings”
2009Robot ChickenVariousVoice; Episode: “Love, Maurice”
2010CommunityAdmiral Lee SlaughterEpisode: “Beginner Pottery”
2010–2011G.I. Joe: RenegadesGeneral AbernathyVoice; 3 episodes
2011Grey’s AnatomyChuck CainEpisode: “Poker Face”
2011The Tonight Show with Jay LenoHimselfEpisode: “#20.7”
2012Crash & BurnBoss McCoyTelevision movie
2012CSI: NYPaul BurtonEpisode: “Flash Pop”
2013DallasKen Richards3 episodes
2013–2014Raising HopeRalphEpisodes: “Burt Mitzvah: The Musical” and “Hot Dish”
2015The AXI: The Avengers of Extreme IllusionsSteve the MechanicEpisode: “The Mechanic”
2016–2018Ash vs. Evil DeadBrock Williams8 episodes
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor on Television (2016)
2017Eat, Play, LoveDr. Isaac MonroeTelevision movie
2018Fuller HouseJamesEpisode: “Angels’ Night Out”
2018BicycleJanTelevision movie
2019Magnum P.I.Russell HarlanEpisode #27: “The Man in the Secret Room”
2019–2020Thunderbirds Are GoJeff Tracy (voice)3 episodes
2020Celebrity PageHimselfEpisode: “#7.128”

Video games

YearTitleRoleNotes
2002Grand Theft Auto: Vice CityMitch Baker (voice)

  • Lee Majors at IMDb


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