The daughter of a career Army officer, Blakely first arrived in Hollywood in the early 1970s as a highly paid fashion model and then branched off into acting.
She has an important place in nude celeb history for her beaver-baring scene in Capone 1975.
She received recognition for her roles in the 1974 films Report to the Commissioner and The Lords of Flatbush, played the role of Iris Crawford in the 1975 gangster biopic Capone opposite Ben Gazzara, and then gained wide popularity with her starring role in the 1976 television mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man for which she won that year's Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and an Emmy nomination from the television academy.
She portrayed Frances Farmer in the 1982 television film based on Farmer's autobiography, Will There Really Be A Morning? Blakely's first major role was as Patty Simmons in the disaster movie The Towering Inferno.