Michele Lee starred as bestselling novelist Jacqueline Susann and country music legend Dottie West, but TV viewers probably know her best for the time she logged as Karen MacKenzie on the prime-time “Dallas” spinoff “Knots Landing.” It's no wonder: She appeared in all 344 episodes during the soap's 14-year run and earned an Emmy nomination.
During that time, Lee started working behind the camera. She realized that TV networks were looking for younger stars and fans, she told the L.A. Times in the 1990s, and she anticipated that roles for women older than 40, like herself, would become scarce.
Lee directed a number of “Knots Landing” episodes before going on to develop and produce her own made-for-TV movies. She became the first woman to star in, write and produce a movie for cable TV, 1996's “Color Me Perfect.” Her other projects included the biopic “Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story,” which took advantage of her singing background, and the domestic abuse drama “When No One Would Listen,” with ex-husband James Farentino.
The daughter of a Hollywood makeup artist, Lee started singing, dancing and acting when she was a child, landing her first Broadway role before she graduated from high school. The lead in the stage play “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” landed her a recording contract with Columbia Records. She went on to star in the well-loved Disney family film “The Love Bug” and '70s TV series like “Love, American Style,” “The Love Boat” and “Alias Smith and Jones.”