Ryan O'Neal - A Man in the Tabloid Headlines

By Felice Prager
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Only in Hollywood, can an actor's life be more colorful and be filled with more headlines than it is in the movies in which he acts. Ryan O'Neal is a perfect example of this.

Patrick Ryan O'Neal was born on April 20, 1941 in Los Angeles, California. The son of a Hollywood writer who was doing a stint working for the American government radio network Radio Free Europe, he attended and graduated from Munich American High School in Munich, Germany.

As a teen, he was a Golden Gloves boxer, compiling an amateur boxing record of 18-4 with 13 knockouts. He also worked as a lifeguard.

After several small and forgettable parts, Ryan O'Neal gained his early acting fame in the prime time soap opera, Peyton Place that ran from 1964 until 1969. He has called this the only steady work he has ever held.

Playing the handsome and wealthy Rodney Harrington, he was teamed with Barbara Parkins who played Betty and Mia Farrow who played Allison MacKenzie in the experimental series.

Later in the series, an actress named Leigh Taylor-Young played a mysterious character who was brought in to provide clues to the disappearance of Allison MacKenzie. (Mia Farrow had left the series after her marriage to Frank Sinatra. She was 21; he was 50. Not much of a mystery there.)

Leigh had a taste of her own negative publicity when she left the series after only one season to be with Ryan O'Neal, who at that time was already married to another actress named Joanne Cook Moore, who he eventually divorced in 1967.

Ryan O'Neal and Joanne Cook Moore had two children. Their daughter, Tatum O'Neal, costarred with Ryan O'Neal in the movie, Paper Moon, in 1974, and at age 10, became the youngest winner of an Academy Award in a competitive category - Best Supporting Actress.

She later married and then divorced tennis pro, John McEnroe, connecting Ryan O'Neal to McEnroe as his former father-in-law.

Ryan O'Neal and Joanne Cook Moore's son, Griffin O'Neal, has had an equally colorful life. Ryan O'Neal was arrested for allegedly assaulting his son, Griffin, in Malibu, California, It involved a fireplace poker, Griffin's pregnant girlfriend, drug use, and a gun.

Later, in 1986, Griffin O'Neal was involved in a tragic boating accident that took the life of director Francis Ford Coppola's son, Gian-Carlo Coppola. Griffin was indicted for manslaughter in connection to this accident and was fined $200 and sentenced to 18 months probation in 1987. Coincidentally, Ryan O'Neal had been considered for the role of Michael Corleone in Coppola's The Godfather in 1972.

After Ryan O'Neal's divorce from Joanne Cook Moore, he married Leigh-Taylor Young in 1967. They had one child, Patrick O'Neal, who later became an actor and married (and later divorced) actress Rebecca DeMornay, making Ryan O'Neal also the ex-father-in-law to her. Ryan O'Neal and Leigh Taylor-Young divorced in 1973.

Through the years, Ryan O'Neal has been linked to the likes of Diana Ross, Ursula Andress, Barbra Streisand, Melanie Griffith, Diane von Furstenberg, Juanita Brown, and Bianca Jagger.

Ryan O'Neal lived with Farrah Fawcett (-Majors) (Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie's Angels, Burning Bed, etc.) from 1979 until 1997 in an on-again/off-again relationship.

They have one son, Redmond O'Neal. Ryan O'Neal was good friends with Farrah Fawcett's ex-husband, Lee Majors, until a relationship began between O'Neal and Majors' wife, Farrah.

Along the way, Ryan O'Neal's acting career grew. In fact, he was nominated for an academy award in 1970 for his role in Love Story. He was also nominated for Golden Globes for Love Story and Paper Moon. Ali McGraw co-starred in Love Story.

O'Neal starred in a series of films directed by Peter Bogdanovich and was the second highest grossing movie star in 1972. He earned $1,000,000 for his role in The Main Event in 1979. However, his film career had faded by the end of the decade.

In 2001, he was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. He is presently in remission and has been seen in various television roles. O'Neal is still frequently seen at the side of his former companion, Farrah Fawcett, who is battling intestinal cancer.

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