Jaclyn Smith was my favorite television actress by the end of the television sitcom Charlie’s Angels, mostly because as a young teenager, a number of friends told me how much I resembled her. I’ll take it. I remember Jaclyn enjoying unrelenting publicity after the series ended: you couldn’t turn a corner without running into a magazine rack filled with magazines with her gorgeous face on it. She dominated television commercials and reigned as the made-for-television actress in movies and miniseries alike. Everyone who knew of her was well aware of her trademark beauty: a super-slim physique and thick, curly, shoulder-length, dark hair. Let’s be clear about one thing: insofar as television actresses go, I really do like Jaclyn Smith. I just loathe her acting, Now in her late 60s, she’s still stunning and classy. I just hope people keep telling me I look like her when I’m 67 (somehow I doubt it). Some things about her don’t, and shouldn’t, change.
Jaclyn is best known as the brilliant and glamorous Kelly Garret in Charlie’s Angels. She was the brunette who strutted her perfect stuff in a white bikini whenever she had the chance. The series formally debuted on September 22, 1976, and ran for five seasons. The show became a smash success not only in the U.S. but, worldwide, spawning several products, including bubble gum cards (I must admit, I collected those, although I was a Farrah fan then), fashion dolls, numerous posters (yep, Farrah again), puzzles, and school supplies.
Background and TV films
When Jaclyn was young, she left home and moved to New York City with hopes of dancing with the ballet. Brave girl. Her career aspirations shifted to modeling and acting as she found work in television commercials and print ads. Wow, tough having such limited choices. She landed a job as a “Breck girl“ in 1971, and a few years later joined Farrah Fawcett, as a spokesmodel for Wella Balsam shampoo, Max Factor mascara and their Epris perfume. Her first TV role was the CBS-TV movie of the week, Escape from Bogen County in 1977. Then came a leading role in Joyce Haber’s The Users with Tony Curtis and John Forsythe in 1978. In 1980, Jaclyn starred with Robert Mitchum in the suspense thriller Nightkill. She starred in the title role of the critically acclaimed television movie Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. In 1983, Jaclyn starred as Jennifer Parker in the TV movie Rage of Angels, based on the novel by Sidney Sheldon. Gotta say: that was one boring film. And Jaclyn is one boring, wooden actress. Beautiful, yes; successful, no doubt; but wooden and emotionless. Yet, the film was the highest rated in the Nielsen ratings the week it aired. She reprised the role in the 1986 sequel, Rage of Angels: The Story Continues.
The 1985 film Deja Vu isn’t any better. In it, she attempts a number of dramatic scenes playing as a murderous sociopath, but somehow it becomes comical, especially with the repetitive plot development. Her acting is so, um,. so-so, hence the reason I can’t help but describe her acting as wooden. She never changes characters in any of her films. She’s Jaclyn Smith from one film to the next as proven by her limited acting ability. Okay, so it works for her, but that doesn’t make for great performances or dazzling talent.
Jaclyn appeared in a number of television movies during the 1980s and 1990s including George Washington, The Night They Saved Christmas (both 1984), Florence Nightingale (1985), Windmills of the Gods (1988) – another TV film based on a Sidney Sheldon novel, The Bourne Identity (also 1988); adapted from author Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name; Settle the Score (1989), Lies Before Kisses, The Rape of Dr. Willis (both 1991), and several TV versions of novels, Danielle Steel movies including Kaleidoscope (1990) and Family Album (1994). In 1989, she played the title role in Christine Cromwell, a mystery television series which lasted one season. That same year, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As impressive as that is, I can’t help but comment on the totally vanilla roles Jaclyn Smith always plays, and all within typical middle-upper class lifestyles. Perhaps in the early 1980s, a beautiful white woman with a television past like Jaclyn’s, experienced significant difficulty in transitioning to less stereotypical roles into something more controversial. However, it could be done: Farrah Fawcett for instance, starred as a lower class woman brutalized by her abusive husband in The Burning Bed, a disturbing movie based on a true story. She also starred in Extremities, a film about a single career woman who is raped and enacts her own revenge against her rapist. In 1989 Farrah depicted the pathological Diane Downs, in the film Small Sacrifices, also based on a true story. The original non-fiction was documented by Ann Rule, a renowned true crime writer. True, these weren’t films that immersed Farrah in a multicultural climate, however, her foray into roles about sexual and physical assault, and those involving people living in poverty, were stunning accomplishments. As a former Angel, Jaclyn has yet to parallel this success in both her quality of acting and choice of roles.
In August 2006, Jaclyn reunited with her angels co-stars Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson at the 58th Primetime Emmy awards in tribute to producer Aaron Spelling (former husband of another beautiful brunette television star, Carolyn Jones), who died earlier that year. Her appearance led Bravo TV’s producers to cast Jaclyn as the celebrity host of Bravo’s weekly competitive reality series, Shear Genius which began airing in March 2007. Smith hosted the show for its first two seasons. The whole premise was stupid, and, like all “reality” competitive sitcoms, a knock-off of the Project Catwalk concept. This one was haircuts. Genius? I think not. Jaclyn herself could have used a new hairdo on the show: she’d dyed her hair an unflattering dark golden-blonde, and wore it in a style reminiscent of a 1970s shag. Ouch.
In 1985, Jaclyn entered the business world with the introduction of her collection of women’s apparel for Kmart. She pioneered the concept of celebrities developing their own brands rather than merely endorsing others, and doing so for the middle-class woman on a budget. The clothes were pretty nice, actually, and because they were distributed through Kmart, reasonably priced. A season 15 episode of The Simpsons (“The Fat and the Furriest” – a spoof on “The Fast and the Furious” ) lampooned Jaclyn’s many business successes, portraying her as having her own line of axe heads. A sense of business, and a sense of humor. Can’t beat it.
Like many glamorous and seriously famous celebs, Jaclyn has been married several times:
- Actor Roger Davis (1968)
- Actor Dennis Cole, who appeared on Charlie’s Angels in 1977 and 1978. Jaclyn maintained a relationship with Joe Cole, Cole’s son from a previous marriage, after her divorce from his father. Sadly Joe was murdered in 1991 during a robbery; the case remains unsolved.
- Filmmaker Tony Richmond in 1981, with whom she had two children, Gaston and Spencer Margaret.
- Houston cardiothoracic surgeon Brad Allen since 1997.
Jaclyn battled breast cancer in 2003. In 2006, Jaclyn, Farrah and Kate were reunited for the 2006 Emmy Awards. 2010, she was featured in 1 a Minute, a documentary about breast cancer, her best television role to date. Probably because her role is based very much on a true story.