A TV star of the first order in the 1970s and early 1980s, actress Pamela Sue Martin rose to fame as the teen detective Nancy Drew in "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" (ABC, 1977-79) before ascending even higher into the pop culture stratosphere as the conniving Fallon Carrington Colby on "Dynasty" (ABC, 1981-89). Martin had played both sides of her screen persona - virgin and vixen - in variant shades prior to Nancy Drew and Fallon, including turns in "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) and "Buster and Billie" (1974), but her two best remembered roles served as both the perfect encapsulation of her on-camera image and the apex of her acting career. Martin left both series prematurely to concentrate on starring vehicles that never materialized, which led her to step away from the spotlight and concentrate on theater and various causes. The attention showered on her return to the public eye in the 21st century to promote DVD releases of her biggest projects showed that despite her lengthy time away from Hollywood, her status as a television icon had not waned.
Born Jan. 5, 1953 in Hartford, CT, Pamela Sue Martin was raised in nearby Westport by her parents, Thomas Martin, a jazz drummer, and his wife, Margaret. By all accounts, she enjoyed a normal upbringing, with her education coming from the area's public school system. While working at a minimum wage job during her junior year at Staples High School, she met a friend who was earning $60 an hour as a model in New York. Martin soon signed with a Gotham modeling agency and began landing appearances in television commercials. After graduating high school in 1971, she got wind of Columbia Pictures' search for a teenaged lead for their drama "To Find a Man" (1972). Despite having no dramatic training, she auditioned for and won the role of a spoiled high school girl who becomes pregnant and turns to a male friend (Darren O'Connor) to help her acquire an abortion. Her fresh presence attracted the attention of veteran producer Irwin Allen, who cast her as teenager Susan Shelby, one of the survivors of a colossal shipwreck in the epic disaster film, "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972). Martin quickly graduated to second leads in TV productions like "The Girls of Huntington House" (ABC), where she co-starred with Sissy Spacek as unwed mothers under the care of Shirley Jones, and offbeat independent films like "Our Time" (1974), where she appeared alongside her future "Hardy Boys" co-star Parker Stevenson as a pair of young lovers. That same year, she gave a heartfelt performance in the cult favorite "Buster and Billie" (1974) as a slow-witted small town girl who defied her "easy" reputation by falling in love with Jan-Michael Vincent's kindly local boy.
In 1977, Martin was tapped to play pseudonymous author Carolyn Keene's plucky heroine Nancy Drew in an updated television series based on her numerous novels for young girls. Though 24 at the time, Martin was believable as the teenaged sleuth, who frequently teamed with Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy's Frank and Joe Hardy for a variety of mysteries. However, the popularity of Stevenson and Cassidy soon overwhelmed Martin, and what began as a series with adventures alternating between Nancy and the Hardy Boys soon became fixated on the brothers, with Martin relegated to guest star of her own program. She eventually departed the program, and was unsuccessfully replaced briefly by Janet Louise Johnson.
Martin tried to put some distance between her teen-friendly past with more mature roles, like the titular femme fatale in the Roger Corman-produced "The Lady in Red" (1979) and a headline-grabbing layout in a 1979 issue of Playboy. In 1981, she was cast as Fallon Carrington, the spoiled daughter of oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) on "Dynasty." A voracious soap opera vixen of the first order, Fallon also suffered from significant "daddy" issues, which came together in her arranged marriage to Jeff Colby (John James), the son of Blake's competitor. She later became the prize in a battle between Blake and her estranged mother, Alexis (Joan Collins), and underwent such typical soap opera tragedies as a horrific car crash which forced her to deliver a baby prematurely, and a string of disastrous relationships, including one with a long-lost brother (Gordon Thompson). As Fallon, Martin enjoyed a three-year stint as one of primetime's most popular and glamorous characters, but in 1984, she left the series to strike out on her own. Producer Aaron Spelling replaced her with actress Emma Samms, who played the role for the remainder of the series' network tenure.
Unfortunately, Martin's career failed to take off after she prematurely departed her second popular series. She starred in, co-wrote and co-produced with her husband, director Manuel Rojas, "Torchlight" (1985), a romantic drama about a happy couple (Martin and Steve Railsback) whose marriage is torn apart by the husband's drug addiction. The lack of audience response squelched her nascent movie career, and she settled into a sporadic stint as a guest star on episodic television and in TV features before taking a lengthy break from 1990 to 2002. During that time, she focused on acting and directing in regional theater, and supporting a variety of environmental and spiritual causes. In 2002, she began making occasional forays into television, most notably with a 2002 episode of "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) that cast her as the Wizard in a spoof of "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). She also participated in DVD commentary tracks for "Nancy Drew," "Dynasty" and "Poseidon," all of which displayed a healthy sense of perspective about her golden time in the limelight. In 2010, she reunited with her "Hardy Boys" and "Our Time" co-star Parker Stevenson for the indie feature "McTaggart's Fortune," a teen drama about high school students searching for lost treasure in their home town.