Actress Morgan Fairchild’s life story is definitely one of the most fascinating Hollywood survival stories. From her unusual start in show business, to playing some of television’s most iconic characters, Fairchild’s life has been full of surprises. Her talent, and sheer determination, has made her one of the most memorable stars of the small screen. Still rocking in her 70s, Fairchild is continuing her 50-years long amazing acting career.
The Shy Child
Born on February third, 1980 as Patsy Ann McClenny, Morgan Fairchild spent her childhood in Dallas, Texas. Surprisingly, she suffered from acute shyness as a child. Any kind of public performance made her extremely nervous.
This severe problem became prominent, when in fifth grade, she almost fainted from nervousness while reading a book report in front of the class. Nobody could have ever imagined that this shy girl would become a future television superstar!
The Rescue Mission!
Taking her daughter’s severe shyness seriously, her mother came to the rescue. She enrolled her in an ‘expression class’, at age nine. After enrolling, Fairchild’s fate took a different turn altogether. After taking some introductory drama lessons, she started to perform in children’s and dinner theater.
By age 12, she was already working with theater companies around the Dallas area. As a teen, she also appeared in several television commercials for local television stations.
Uncredited Hollywood Break
Morgan Fairchild’s first, but uncredited, Hollywood break came with the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. In the film, she worked as a body double for lead actress Faye Dunaway. She was hired specially for the driving sequence, because she could drive a stick-shift, which Faye couldn’t.
The film’s lead star, Warren Beatty, reportedly even asked Fairchild out for a date. Though Beatty had a notorious reputation with women, Morgan recalled that he was always very nice to her.
Morgan Fairchild found her first love in inventor, executive, and musician Jack Calmes. After dating for 10 months, they got married on 18th November, 1967. This was the same year that she landed her body-double role for Bonny and Clyde.
Calmes was a notable figure at the time as the cofounder and founder of revolutionary lighting companies like Showco and Syncrolite. It was a fairytale ride for young Morgan, who was just 17 years old at the time of their marriage.
Unfortunately, not every fairytale story has a happy ending. In 1973, after just five years, the short-lived marriage of Calmes and Fairchild ended in divorce .
According to the actress, they had a “rotten marriage.” Fairchild believed that they married too quickly, and that she was too young and immature at the time. At one point, Fairchild even considered having a child in order to save her marriage, but she couldn’t convince her husband.
Starting a New Chapter
After her divorce at the age of 23, Morgan decided to move to New York to pursue a successful acting career. Fairchild was determined, and it seemed that nothing could stand in her way.
Many of the characters Fairchild has played throughout her career, have been known for clawing their way to the top of their respective fields. Perhaps her acting was influenced by her own ambitious character, hidden underneath a typical girl-next-door exterior.
The First Big Break
Just six weeks after moving to New York, Fairchild found herself cast on the CBS daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow,, playing the role of the maniacal Jennifer Pace.
She was a part of the popular show from 1973 to 1977. The role was a great way for Fairchild to show off her acting range, as her role was that of a violent and unhinged woman. Viewers tuned in each week to watch their favorite character’s storyline play out.
While the soap opera’s plots could be outlandish at times, Fairchild never complained . According to the actress, it was essentially a good experience. Soap operas provided her with a steady income and acting experience. Her appearance on the show also helped to open more doors, leading to more appearances on television shows.
Even years later, the actress sees soap operas as simple entertainment. After starring as Jennifer Pace for four years, Fairchild decided to move onto other television and film roles.
Martial Arts Mania
In addition to acting, Fairchild studied Eastern Philosophy and one very special physical art form – she became a student of martial arts. The opening fight scene of Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon was the key inspiration behind her martial arts mania.
Fairchild explained that she was “knocked out” by the graceful, yet power-packed, movements of Lee. She felt it was the perfect fusion of body and mind. After watching the movie, she immediately started looking for a good martial arts school.
Finding New Confidence
Fairchild never considered herself to be an athlete, and was not at all accustomed to using her muscles in the way martial arts demanded. She recalls that she had to be practically carried out of the school after her first lesson, due to severely sore leg muscles.
She is thankful now, as those Kung-Fu trainings helped develop confidence in her acting skills. She also credits studying martial arts with helping her adjust to life in New York City. It helped her develop into a self-confident person – immune to problems and petty criticisms.
1970s Vixen Vibes
Due to her glamorous appearance, Fairchild was often cast as a wealthy, but usually heartless, character. Top shows like Switch, Happy Days, Barnaby Jones, The Bob Newhart Show, Mork & Mindy, Dallas, and The Love Boat, all had Fairchild portraying different variations of a ‘rich vixen’.
Several made-for-television movies such as The Initiation of Sarah (1978), Murder in Music City (1979), and The Memory of Eva Ryker (1980) also made Morgan a popular face.
The Flamingo Road Fame
Morgan’s glamorous image became well-known when she starred as Constance Carlyle, the lead character in the primetime soap opera Flamingo Road, from 1980 to 1982.
The show enjoyed a successful start, with positive reviews, but soon started to drop in popularity. Unfortunately for Fairchild, the show was cancelled after only two seasons. Despite the setback, Morgan didn’t fail to showcase her talent. This breakthrough role earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress nomination.
Other Side of Fame
Her popularity quickly took a different turn, when Fairchild started to face the downside of Hollywood fame. Critics and fans had difficulty separating the “heartless rich woman” character they saw on the screens from the actual actress.
Fairchild believed that this was the result of viewers’ perception of her – based on her portrayal of similar characters. That said, the actress thinks that this lack of distinction between her on-screen and off-screen personality is a testament to her acting skills.
Fairchild may have played cunningly ambitious characters on television, but it turns out that her real self isn’t too different! The actress claims that she has always known what she wanted, and would fight tooth and nail to achieve it.
She believed that her looks, talent, and drive could help her find success in her life. Looking back at her lengthy and critically-acclaimed acting career, one would agree.
Fame is Fickle
The 1980s were more or less a rocky road for Morgan Fairchild’s career. After Flamingo Road was cancelled, Morgan was cast as the female lead in a big-budget Hollywood film in 1982 called The Seduction.
There, she played the role of a television reporter who finds herself the obsession of a deadly stalker, played by Andrew Stevens. The film did poorly at the box office and did not impress the movie critics. After a successful run on the show Flamingo Road, Morgan was suddenly facing harsh criticism over her acting skills.
Poster Girl of the 1980s
During 1980s, a growing source of frustration for Morgan was the “poster girl business” of the media. She believed that the media was diverting the attention of the viewers – placing more of an emphasis on her appearance, instead of “Morgan the actress.”
Several risqué posters and images of Fairchild were released during that time, selling her as just a ‘pretty face.’ Morgan claims that she agreed to take part in the revealing photo-shoots because she needed the money. Thought the posters were popular, she discontinued them in order to keep focusing on acting.
Emerging TV Star
After Flamingo Road was cancelled, Morgan continued to make appearances in several episodic television series such as Hotel, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, and The Love Boat. In 1984, she co-hosted the ABC-TV special one-hour variety show Blondes vs. Brunettes, with Joan Collins.
During the same year, she was also co-starred in another primetime soap opera Paper Dolls in the role of modeling agency owner Racine. After a short run, this series was also cancelled. By this time however, Fairchild was already an established television star.
The Falcon Flight
Despite several cancellations of her television series, Fairchild’s career seemed to be going strong in 1985. She joined the cast of the popular soap opera Falcon Crest, playing a glamorous lawyer named Jordan Roberts.
The story of the series revolved around the feuding members of a prominent family in the California wine industry. Morgan remained in the series for one season from, once again playing an over-the-top vixen persona, and leaving an impressive mark with her strong performance.
Saturday Night Live
In 1985, Jon Lovitz created the “Tommy Flanagan, The Pathological Liar” character on the popular show Saturday Night Live. The character was known for making up outlandish achievements for himself, including the lie that Morgan Fairchild was his wife.
Because the show was so popular, Fairchild’s mention in the skit was able to add to her own popularity. Fairchild was becoming a house-hold name, thanks to her striking looks and indisputable talent.
The Old Navy Campaign
After several other appearances in television series, Fairchild graced television screens again in a commercial for retailer Old Navy. In the commercial, Fairchild reprises her typical role as the glamorous vixen alongside Old Navy mascot, Magic the dog.
She was joined by Joan Collins and other formerly familiar television faces. The commercial was so popular, that the retailer created several other advertising campaigns over the next few years revolving around her character.
Queen of Television
While Fairchild has appeared in many films, she has continued to dominate the world of the small screen. In the 1990s she had reoccurring roles on the popular sitcoms Roseanne and Cybill. Fairchild continued to appear in a variety of daytime soap operas such as The City and General Hospital.
She also appeared on the crime-drama, Murder, She Wrote. Fairchild also revisited her love of the stage by starring in the theater adaptation of The Graduate, where she played the character of Mrs. Robinson.
Guest Star Appearances in Sitcoms
Apart from regular characters, Morgan Fairchild also has left her mark in various guest appearances and recurring roles throughout late 1980s and 1990s. She garnered a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her guest appearance in a 1989 episode of the sitcom Murphy Brown.
In the early 1990s, she made another notable appearance in Roseanne, with the recurring role of Marla, the girlfriend of Sandra Bernhard’s character. Her other prominent recurring guest appearances included Home Improvement, Head Over Heels, Touched By an Angel, as well as others.
One of Fairchild’s most notable guest-starring roles was that of Nora Tyler Bing in the sitcom Friends. She played the estranged mother of Chandler Bing in the popular sitcom.
Morgan recalls that, despite being bit young for the character, she took the role to start the inevitable transition of her portrayals from vixen to more mature roles. She also “had a great fun” playing the role, and taking part in the well-loved series. Fairchild appeared five times on the series as Chandler’s mother, and her guest appearances are considered a fan-favorite.
Shining On Stage
By the end of the 1990s, Morgan Fairchild also showed her acting versatility on stage in several theater productions. Her stage credits include Crimes of the Heart, Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Graduate.
In recent years, she has appeared on stage for the productions of Murder among Friends , Cinderella Christmas, and The Dixie Swim Club. Fairchild has continued to captivate new audiences with her appearance on shows like Bones, Revenge, Nip/Tuck, and the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives.
The Success Mantra
Becoming a television star, and continuing a successful career for decades, is no easy feat. It seems that Morgan Fairchild’s pure determination and self-confidence are the key factors behind her amazing achievements.
Explaining the longevity of her thriving career, Morgan explains that it has been necessary to constantly evolve as an actress and reintroduce herself to new generations of audiences. She explains that a new opportunity to capture the attention of viewers exists with every new generation.
In addition to her work as an actress, Morgan has long upheld a strong role within the Screen Actors Guild, now SAG-AFTRA. The actress has served more than 15 years as a member of the guild’s national board, and in 2016 was awarded the Ralph Morgan Award for her hard work.
She has also held several positions within the Guild including co-chair Legislative Committee, Commercials Contracts Committee, Guild Governance and Rules Committee, SAG-AFTRA Relations Committee, and Honors and Tribute Committee .
Morgan Fairchild is well-known for her lifelong commitment to social causes for the past three decades. As a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), she was part of the guild’s affirmative action/diversity task force.
She was also the former board member of the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee (HWPC). The actress actively advocates for environmentalism and AIDS eradication research also. There is a lot more to Fairchild than what meets the eye!
When she isn’t acting, Morgan is an enthusiastic collector of antique clothing and movie memorabilia. Like many others, Morgan also is an avid ‘Monroe-maniac’, and never misses a single chance to get her hands on anything related to Marilyn Monroe.
Being a dancer herself, she is a huge fan of the ballet. She is also is interested in paleontology and anthropology. She also loves to watch supernatural shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures.
The Bliss of Love
Now in her 70s, Morgan Fairchild is still going strong in both her professional and personal life. For the last 33 years, she has been in a loving relationship with producer, executive, and entrepreneur Mark Seiler.
Though there seems no plan of marriage on the horizon, Morgan is extremely happy in this long-term commitment with her “wonderful” partner. Does anything else matter as long as you are happy? We think not.
Miles to Go with Mélange
Fairchild’s most recent role has been on the drama Mélange, in the role of Vivian King Winchester. It is a tribute to the campy soap operas of the 70s and 80s with a storyline featuring corruption, betrayal, and revenge revolving around a historic gay bar called Mélange.
Shot on location across New York City, this new LGBTQ+ drama is evoking the nostalgia of previous decades with its over-the-top stories. She believes that she is giving a much-needed voice to the LGBTQ+ community, which was largely absent in previous eras. According to Morgan, this fun show will also attract all types of audiences with interesting storylines and a talented cast.