Few famous men are defined by the women in their life, but Hollywood hellraiser Ryan O’Neal most certainly was. The Love Story actor, who died on Friday, aged 82, was eclipsed by his daughter Tatum when they starred together in 1973’s Paper Moon, a role for which she became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar, aged ten.
And he was overshadowed by his tempestuous romances, most notably his three decades-long relationship with Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett.
The cast list of his other high-profile relationships included Barbra Streisand, Ursula Andress, Bianca Jagger, Joan Collins, Diana Ross, Melanie Griffith, Jacqueline Bisset and Anjelica Houston.
Announcing his death, his son Patrick said: ‘My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life. He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop.’
Streisand said: ‘So sad to hear the news of Ryan O’Neal’s passing. We made two films together, What’s Up, Doc? and The Main Event. He was funny and charming and he will be remembered.’
Ryan O’Neal, who has died at 82, was overshadowed by his tempestuous romances – most notably his three decade-long relationship with Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett
Barbra Streisand starred alongside Ryan O’Neal in 1979’s The Big Event. The pair had enjoyed a brief romance together years earlier in 1970
Boyishly handsome and athletic, O’Neal’s playboy lifestyle, wild temper and outrageous behaviour clouded any onscreen success.
Grotesquely, when Fawcett died of cancer in 2009, O’Neal accidentally propositioned his then-estranged daughter Tatum at the funeral moments after acting as a pallbearer.
He recalled later: ‘I had just put the casket in the hearse and was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me.
‘I said to her, “You have a drink on you? You have a car?” She said, “Daddy, it’s me, Tatum!”
‘I was trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman and it turned out to be my daughter.’
O’Neal was born in Los Angeles to a screenwriter father and actress mother. He was working as a stuntman when picked for his first acting job.
With his Californian surfer good looks, he became a pin-up in the hit US soap Peyton Place before landing his defining role in Love Story opposite Ali McGraw, a 1970 tearjerker that earned him an Oscar nomination and, briefly, the title of highest-paid actor in Hollywood.
In truth, he had been third choice for the part behind Jon Voight and Beau Bridges.
The movie, about an upper-crust Harvard law student who gives up his fortune to marry a working-class girl, only for her to die of cancer, spawned the evergreen line: ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry,’ an expression that O’Neal callously later said made him ‘want to throw up’.
Ironically, O’Neal himself would later be afflicted by leukaemia, the same cancer of the blood from which Ali McGraw’s character in Love Story suffered.
In the Seventies, O’Neal had hits with What’s Up, Doc?, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, and The Main Event, but his reputation for partying and having a ferocious temper meant top roles dried up.
Also, a 1978 sequel to Love Story – called Oliver’s Story – bombed at the box office.
O’Neal landed his defining role in Love Story opposite Ali McGraw, a 1970 tearjerker that earned him an Oscar nomination and, briefly, the title of highest-paid actor in Hollywood
O’Neal was eclipsed by his daughter Tatum when they starred together in 1973’s Paper Moon, a role for which she became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar, aged ten
Instead, O’Neal became notorious for his private life.
His first wife, actress Joanna Moore, said he was ‘an incredible lover – totally devoted to giving a woman pleasure’.
The couple’s two children, Tatum and Griffin, would later blame O’Neal for their own descent into drug addiction.
And, at times, O’Neal treated Tatum as his latest date rather than as a daughter.
‘He wanted to party with me, not be a father,’ she told me in one of several interviews over the years.
She added: ‘There were always drugs everywhere. I didn’t really stand a chance.’
One day she returned to her father’s beachside home in Malibu – where he lived until the end – and walked in on him in bed with her best friend, actress Melanie Griffith, then 18.
Shockingly, Tatum said: ‘He invited me to get in and join them!’
When she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon, playing her father’s wise-cracking hustler daughter, O’Neal was consumed by jealousy at Tatum’s success.
Tatum’s own well-chronicled descent into drug addiction cost her custody of her three children with ex-husband, tennis legend John McEnroe.
But father and daughter reconciled towards the end, with Tatum, who herself got the nickname ‘Tantrum O’Neal’, saying: ‘My father is, was and will always be the great love of my life.’
Her brother Griffin was less forgiving, calling him a ‘monster’. Having been shot at by his father during a drunken fight, he described him as ‘an abusive, narcissistic psychopath’.
The troubled Griffin was himself charged with negligence after a boating accident that killed the son of film director Francis Ford Coppola, and he would also be jailed for a car crash in which he was driving under the influence of drugs.
But it was O’Neal’s romance with Charlie’s Angels star Fawcett – a Seventies pin-up whose classic red swimsuit poster sold millions – that defined O’Neal’s public persona. The couple were called ‘Ken and Barbie’ after the plastic dolls.
O’Neal starred alongside Jacqueline Bisset in The Thief Who Came To Dinner in 1973
Ryan was also known for his high-profile relationship to Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett which lasted decades; they never wed. The two were partners from 1979 to 1997. Seen in 2004
Hollywood actor Ryan O’Neal has died at the age of 82. His son Patrick shared the sad news on social media on Friday afternoon; seen in 2000
They had a tempestuous on-off relationship but reunited for good in 2006, when Fawcett was diagnosed with cancer.
They had got together when she was married to O’Neal’s friend Lee Majors, star of The Six Million Dollar Man. Majors had left town to make a movie, telling O’Neal: ‘Take Farrah out for dinner – make sure she’s not lonely.’
He did much more than that.
Fawcett later recalled how she and O’Neal kissed so much on their first date ‘our lips bled’.
Actress Jeannine Bisignano, a close friend of the couple, said last night: ‘They were the Brad and Angelina of their day. When they walked into a party, the room stopped. They were breathtakingly beautiful individually but together they were jaw-dropping. You couldn’t take your eyes off them. They became more famous as the “Ryan and Farrah show” than for their work.’
O’Neal admitted he was jealous of Fawcett’s success.
Soon, she began to turn down work and her Hollywood career also tanked.
The pair became notorious for their drug use, hosting week-long parties at the Malibu house.
But when she gave birth to their son, Redmond, in 1985, she tried to devote herself to motherhood.
‘Farrah wanted to be a mum and Ryan wanted to carry on partying,’ a friend said. ‘She stuck it out as long as she could.’
At one point, when O’Neal’s behaviour and bingeing on junk food got out of control, Fawcett issued him with an ultimatum. She said: ‘Lose weight – or lose me!’
Fawcett finally left him when she found him in the marital bed with a 25-year-old actress – 30 years her junior at the time.
Not surprisingly, Redmond, who it is said as a child had to be physically removed from his parents’ proximity when their frequent fights boiled over, would battle his own demons and is now reportedly in a long-term mental health facility in California.
Over the years, O’Neal dated a string of Hollywood beauties, one of whom, Anjelica Houston, left Jack Nicholson for him.
But she accused the incorrigibly truculent O’Neal of hitting her so hard she saw stars.
In her memoir she wrote: ‘He turned on me, grabbed me by the hair and hit me in the forehead with the top of his skull. I saw stars and reeled back. Half-blind, I ran away from him.’
One of the actresses he had a relationship with, Leigh Taylor-Young, became his second wife and the mother of his son Patrick.
After Fawcett’s death, aged 62, a weeping O’Neal said: ‘I never stopped loving her. She was the great love of my life. I wish I’d treated her better.’
In 2013, O’Neal successfully fought the University of Texas for an Andy Warhol painting of Fawcett that was part of her estate. She had left nothing to her longtime lover.
Jurors in the case were told that O’Neal considered the portrait as a cherished possession and was one of the strongest reminders of Fawcett. He said: ‘I talk to it. I talk to her. It’s her presence. Her presence in my life.’
Now, the painting – which O’Neal tried to sell before his death for $18 million – makes up part of his estate, which friends estimate, including the house, could be worth as much as $50 million.
‘Wait and see the vultures swoop,’ a friend said last night.
‘This is going to get ugly. He had four kids and really only ever got on well with Patrick. Sit back and grab the popcorn!’
O’Neal was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2001 but it went into remission. He was later diagnosed with prostate cancer.
A final photograph of him, taken last month, showed him frail and in a wheelchair being hoisted into a car by two carers.
Once, while promoting a book about his life with Fawcett and in a rare moment of self-reflection, he said: ‘Look, I don’t give myself a break. I had four children. Only Patrick’s OK. Griffin’s in prison. Redmond is in rehab. Tatum, rehab. I had my own problems. Is all this my fault? I guess, yes.’
Last night, Tatum said: ‘I feel great sorrow with my father’s passing. He meant the world to me. I loved him very much and know he loved me, too. I’ll miss him forever and I feel lucky that we ended on such good terms.’
Patrick added, with true Hollywood roguery of which his father surely would be proud: ‘Ryan never bragged. But he has bragging rights in Heaven. Especially when it comes to Farrah. Everyone had the poster, he had the real McCoy. And now they meet again.’