Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Ryan O’Neal, ‘Love Story’ Star, Dead at 82

Ryan O’Neal, ‘Love Story’ Star, Dead at 82

Ryan O’Neal, the Oscar-nominated actor who starred in 1970s films like Love Story, What’s Up, Doc, and Paper Moon, died at 82 years old. O’Neal was diagnosed with chronic leukemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012.

The public first became aware of O’Neal’s acting in the classic TV drama Peyton Place. Patrick O’Neal, Ryan’s son, announced his father’s death on Instagram.

“Ryan was a very generous man who has always been there to help his loved ones for decade upon decade,” said Patrick O’Neal’s post. “My dad was 82 and lived a kick-ass life. I hope the first thing he brags about in Heaven is how he sparred 2 rounds with Joe Frazier in 1966, on national TV, with Muhammad Ali doing the commentary, and went toe to toe with Smokin’ Joe.”

O’Neal’s work on the big screen was somewhat ignored in later years. Media coverage covered his personal travails. They include his combative relationship with longtime companion Farrah Fawcett, who died of cancer in 2009. That goes along with his children, including Redmond O’Neal and actress Tatum O’Neal, Variety reports.

Ryan O’Neal Was a Box Office Smash In the 1970s

Meanwhile, in the 1970s, he was a top star. In 1973, he ranked behind only Clint Eastwood in terms of box office draw. And he was ahead of Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds, and Robert Redford.

Love Story was the No. 1 film of 1970, grossing $106 million in the U.S. and Canada. It was the sixth highest-grossing film of all time at that point. This romance, based on Erich Segal’s bestselling novel, was also a cultural phenomenon.

Especially with its signature line of dialogue, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” spoken both by MacGraw and O’Neal at different times, inspiring parody for decades.

Many critics liked the film, though some others were particularly scornful. Love Story was nominated for seven Academy Awards, with O’Neal picking up a nomination for lead actor. O’Neal did return for the adaptation of Segal’s sequel Oliver’s Story in 1978, co-starring with Candice Bergen.

He appeared in Blake Edwards’ 1971 Western The Wild Rovers with William Holden. O’Neal then appeared in 1973’s The Thief Who Came to Dinner with Jacqueline Bisset. He starred with Barbra Streisand to enormous comic effect in Peter Bogdanovich’s screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? (Streisand and O’Neal were less successful together in the 1979 boxing comedy The Main Event, which was nevertheless a hit).

O’Neal Starred With Tatum O’Neal In ‘Paper Moon’

O’Neal reteamed with director Bogdanovich on 1973’s comedy Paper Moon, which paired O’Neal winningly with his daughter Tatum — who went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, becoming the youngest winner ever in a competitive category.

Ryan and Tatum O’Neal also appeared in Bogdanovich’s 1976 paean to early filmmaking, Nickelodeon. But that film, which also starred Burt Reynolds, drew mixed reviews.

O’Neal starred with Marisa Berenson in Stanley Kubrick’s highly praised 1975 period piece Barry Lyndon. The historical epic is now considered one of the greatest films ever made, ranking 47th on the British Film Institute’s 2022 Sight and Sound poll. (A decade later, O’Neal and Fawcett would name their son, Redmond, after his character’s true name in the film.)

The youthful actor’s casting as a senior military officer in the star-studded 1977 WWII epic A Bridge Too Far proved unfortunate. Roger Ebert was unforgiving: “He lacks age, authority, wisdom and what’s worse, his voice sounds as if he’s about to cry.” O’Neal was far more authoritative as the laconic title character in Walter Hill’s excellent 1978 neo-noir actioner The Driver.

The 1980s found the star in a series of underwhelming comedies including So Fine, Irreconcilable Differences, and Partners. O’Neal did more interesting work as an alcoholic ex-con in Norman Mailer’s directorial effort Tough Guys Don’t Dance

The actor starred opposite Fawcett in the 1989 ABC telepic Small Sacrifices. The couple toplined the brief CBS sitcom Good Sports, playing anchors on a sports network, in 1991.