By John Ensor •
Published: 09 Dec 2023 • 11:04
Ryan O'Neal, pictured in 1967 with second wife Leigh Taylor-Young.
Credit: ABC Public Domain/Creative Commons
How will the film world remember Ryan O’Neal? The revered American actor, celebrated for his roles in seminal 1970s films like ‘Love Story’ and ‘Paper Moon’, has passed away at the age of 82.
On Friday, December 8, American actor Ryan O’Neal passed away leaving behind a legacy etched in Hollywood’s golden era. O’Neal’s health had been in decline, having been diagnosed with chronic leukaemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012.
His son, sports presenter Patrick O’Neal, confirmed the news via an Instagram post and offered a glowing tribute: ‘So this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say but here we go. My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us.
‘This is very difficult for my wife Summer and I, but I will share some feelings to give you an idea of how great a man he is.’
‘My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life. When I was born in 1967 my dad was already a TV star on Peyton Place. That’s where he met my mom Leigh Taylor-Young, and about 9 months later (give or take a date night or two) I was born.
‘My dad became an international movie star with Love Story at the beginning of the 1970’s, a decade he absolutely crushed by starring in movies like What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge Too Far, The Main Event, and The Driver.
‘He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop. The growth spurt of the first name Ryan can be traced back to my dad. That’s a fact. He was Rodney Harrington on Peyton Place 3 days a week (he starred in 500 shows over 5 years) and then of course the name Ryan peaked after Love Story (the film that saved Paramount Studios and earned my dad a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame).’
O’Neal’s journey to fame began on television with the night-time soap opera ‘Peyton Place’, where he starred alongside Mia Farrow. His breakthrough came with the 1970 film ‘Love Story’, opposite Ali MacGraw, which earned seven Oscar nominations, including one for O’Neal as the leading actor.
In 1972, O’Neal starred in ‘What’s Up, Doc?’, a comedy directed by Peter Bogdanovich. He portrayed a young music teacher caught in absurd situations with the eccentric Judy, played by Barbra Streisand.
The actor teamed up again with Bogdanovich in 1973 for ‘Paper Moon’, Then he was reunited with Bogdanovich for Paper Moon (1973) in which he starred opposite his daughter Tatum O’Neal.
His performance in Paper Moon earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. O’Neal was also rated the USA’s second-most-popular star of 1973 just behind Clint Eastwood.
O’Neal’s personal life was as eventful as his career. He was married to actresses Joanna Moore (1963-1967) and Leigh Taylor-Young (1967-1974). In 1981, he started a relationship with Farrah Fawcett, the star of ‘Charlie’s Angels’, which lasted until 1997 in which they shared a son, Redmond O’Neal.
His career, however, was overshadowed by allegations of infidelity, addiction problems, and temper issues. This led to a decline in his Hollywood prominence, with sporadic appearances in the 1990s like in ‘The Man Upstairs’ with Katherine Hepburn and the comedy-thriller ‘Zero Effect’.
In 2012, three years after Fawcett’s death, Ryan O’Neal published his memoirs, ‘Both of Us: My Life with Farrah’, revisiting his relationship with the iconic actress.
He also addressed his estranged relationship with his daughter, Oscar-winning actress Tatum O’Neal. Reportedly the famous father and daughter finally reconciled their differences after 25 years.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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