About Harvey Lee Yeary, III
A brawny, handsome, easy-going action lead of TV series, Lee Majors achieved stardom through a variety of popular shows, including The Big Valley and The Fall Guy. But it was his role as Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man that catapulted the handsome actor into cult status.
He was born Harvey Lee Yeary III on April 23, 1940 in Wyandotte, Michigan. His parents Carl & Alice Yeary were both killed in separate car accidents (prior to his birth and when he was one year old respectively) and at age two, Majors was adopted by an uncle and aunt, Harvey and Mildred Yeary, and moved with them, and their biological son, Bill, to Middlesboro, Kentucky.
Since his adoptive older brother had been a football star in school, Majors tirelessly committed himself to the sport. While a student at Middlesboro High School, he participated in many sports from track to football. 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. 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 college football career. Following his injury, he turned his attention to acting and performed in plays at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. After graduating from Eastern in 1962, he moved to Los Angeles, where he studied under Estelle Harmon at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
At age 25, Majors landed his first, although uncredited, role in Strait-Jacket (1964), which starred Joan Crawford. After appearing in a 1965 episode of Gunsmoke, he starred 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 later the same year.
Majors 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. 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 is notable as being one of the very 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 joined the cast of The Virginian for its last season.
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. In one episode, his then girlfriend, 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 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 a huge international success, being screened in over 70 countries, and made Majors a leading pop icon of the 1970s. Co-starring on the show was Richard Anderson as Austin's boss, Oscar Goldman, and Martin E. Brooks as the doctor in charge of the bionics lab, Rudy Wells (also played by at various times during the show by Alan Oppenheimer). Farrah Fawcett, by now married to Majors, guest-starred in four episodes. By this time, Majors and Fawcett were a high-profile Hollywood couple and were on the cover of magazines everywhere. 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.
During the show's second season, the producers gave Austin a love interest on the show, Jaime Sommers (played by actress Lindsay Wagner). Steve and Jaime rekindle their high-school relationship and get engaged before she is injured in a skydiving accident and is given similar bionic implants to him, but with a bionic right ear instead of a bionic left eye. At the end of the two-part episode, Jaime dies. However, 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 eventually given her own spin-off show, The Bionic Woman.
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. When he did not report to work that June, studio executives relented and offered Majors a raise. However, ratings began to decline and The Six Million Dollar Man was canceled in March 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.
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 had a one episode part, 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 and part-time 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 also invited 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 1986.
Between 1987 and 1994, Majors and Lindsay Wagner reunited in three The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman TV movies. Majors also made a cameo appearance in the 1988 holiday comedy Scrooged.
In 1990, he had a recurring role in Tour of Duty, and a recurring role in the short-lived 1992 series, Raven. He also made cameo appearances in Out Cold (2001) Big Fat Liar (2002) and The Brothers Solomon (2007) The Story of Bonnie and Clyde (2010).
Majors voiced the character of "Big" Mitch Baker in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
In 2007, Majors played Jaret Reddick's disconnected father in Bowling For Soup's 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.
Majors played Coach Ross on the CW Network's television series The Game, which ran from October 1, 2006 to May 20, 2009.
Majors appeared in the role of God in "Jim Almighty" a 2007 episode of According to Jim. He would later return 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.
Lee Majors appeared on ITVs The British Comedy Awards 2009 on December 12, 2009 alongside Claudia Winkleman.
In March 2010 Majors played the crusty sailing instructor in the Community episode "Beginner Pottery". The following month, 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 would later reprise the role in a 2011 episode. In 2011 he also made a brief appearance as Don Reger in the 2011 episode "Well Suitored" of the CBS series $#*! My Dad Says.
Majors has had four marriages. He first married actress Kathy Robinson in 1961. The couple had a son, Lee Majors II, before their divorce in 1964. He then married actress Farrah Fawcett from 1973 until 1981. His marriage to former Playboy model Karen Velez in 1988 brought three more children, Nicki, Dane and Trey. After the couple called it quits in 1994, he met actress and model Faith Majors. They have been married since 2002.