Oscar Profile #535: Ryan O’Neal

Born April 20, 1941 in Los Angeles, California, (Charles Samuel Eldridge Patrick) Ryan O’Neal (III) was the son of writer Charles O’Neal (The 7th Victim) and his actress wife, Barbara O’Neal (Three Came Home).

Before becoming an actor, O’Neal was a Golden Gloves boxer between 1956 and 1959, winning eighteen bouts, thirteen of which were knockouts, and losing four. He became an actor in 1960 with minor roles in TV’s The Adventures of Dobie Gillis and The Untouchables. From 1961 through September 1964, he appeared in numerous other TV series including Bachelor Father, Laramie, Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons, The Virginian, Perry Mason and Wagon Train.

From September 1964 through March 1969, O’Neal had steady employment as Rodney Harrington in the highly successful TV series, Peyton Place, based on the best-selling novel and 1957 film of the same name. He was married to actress Joanna Moore, mother of his daughter, Tatum, and his son, Griffin, from 1963-1967. The day after his divorce was final, he married actress Leigh Taylor-Young with whom he had son Patrick.

O’Neal made his feature film debut in a starring role opposite Taylor-Young in 1969’s The Big Bounce. His second film was 1970’s The Games in which he was billed second behind Michael Crawford. His third film, that same year’s Love Story opposite Ali MacGraw, made him a major star, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

The actor’s next film, 1971’s Wild Rovers in support of William Holden, was not a success, but 1972’s What’s Up. Doc? opposite Barbra Streisand, was a major success, followed by 1973’s semi-successful The Thief Who Came to Dinner and the same year’s megahit, Paper Moon opposite daughter Tatum, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. He was divorced form Taylor-Young in 1974.

O’Neal’s 1975 film, Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick, proved to be the last major success of his career. Subsequent films within the decade include 1976’s Nickleodeon with Burt Reynolds and daughter Tatum; 1977’s all-star cast A Bridge Too Far; 1978’s Oliver’s Story, a flop sequel to Love Story opposite Ryan O’Neal; and 1979’s The Main Event once again opposite Barbra Streisand.

O’Neal began a relationship with actress Farrah Fawcett in 1979 that lasted until 1997 and produced son Redmond. Although he proposed to her numerous times, she kept refusing him, although the two reconciled before her death in 2009 at 62

The actor continued to star in films through the 1980s, most notably 1982’s Partners opposite John Hurt, 1984’s Irreconcilable Differences opposite Shelley Long and Drew Barrymore, and 1989’s Chances Are opposite Cybill Shepherd and Robert Downey. Jr. Mostly on TV in recent years, he played Emily Deschanel’s father on Bones from 2006-2017.

It’s hard to believe, but Ryan O’Neal will be 80 in a little over two months.


LOVE STORY (1970), directed by Arthur Hiller

The film’s opening line was “what can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?” Its most famous line was “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The biggest box office success of its year, it was Paramount’s idea to turn Erich Segal’s screenplay about a rich college jock and his poor music student girlfriend into a novel to drum up interest for the forthcoming film. It worked. The novel’s success foreshadowed that of the film. It was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Actor (O’Neal), Actress (Ali MacGraw), Supporting Actor (John Marley), Original Screenplay, and Score, which won.

WHAT’S UP, DOC? (1972), directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Bogdanovich’s celebrated O’Neal-Barbra Streisand comedy is a quasi-remake of Howard Hawks’ 1938 Cary Grant- Katharine Hepburn classic, Bringing Up Baby with more than a nod to Preston Sturges’ 1941 Barbara Stanwyck-Henry Fonda classic, The Lady Eve. Its first two weekends at the 6,000 seat Radio City Music Hall broke house records set by King Kong in 1933. O’Neal’s big screen career was off and running. Madeline Kahn as O’Neal’s goofy girlfriend was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Newcomer. Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendtleton, and Michael Murphy co-star.

PAPER MOON (1973), directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Tatum O’Neal was eight when she auditioned for the part of the young girl who may or may not be the daughter of the con man played by her father in Bogdanovich’s black-and-white gem. She was ten when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the youngest performer to win a competitive Oscar in any acting category, a record that still holds. The film had also been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for co-star Madeline Kahn, as well as for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. Ryan O’Neal had been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, with Tatum winning for Best Newcomer.

BARRY LYNDON (1975), directed by Stanley Kubrick

Like Love Story, Kubrick’s film of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 19th Century novel received seven Oscar nominations, and like the earlier O’Neal film, won an Oscar for Best Score, but unlike the previous film, it also won for Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design. Its other three nominations were for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, all of which went to Kubrick. None of the film’s actors, including O’Neal in the title role of the Irish rogue, were nominated for their performances. Also in the cast were Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Murray Melvin, and Marie Kean.

BONES (2006-2017), created by Hart Hanson

This long-running TV series starred Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and David Boreanez as cocky FBI agent Steely Booth who along with their teams, investigate murders based on the remains of rotten flesh or mere bones. O’Neal’s character, Max Keenan, is Brennan’s estranged father who appears throughout the series in a total of 24 of the show’s 245 episodes. Like Oscar nominee O’Neal, Deschanel’s real-life father is an Oscar nominee. Caleb Deschanel is a six-time nominee for Best Cinematography. His first was for 1983’s The Right Stuff, his latest was for 2018’s Never Look Away.


  • Love Story (1970) – nominated – Best Actor

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.