Ryan O'Neal: Movies, Life, and Farrah Fawcett

Updated on June 18, 2019

Ryan O' Neal's Beginnings

Ryan O'Neal was born in Los Angeles in 1941 to Patricia Ruth, an actress, and Charles Eldridge O'Neal, a novelist. Ryan's earliest ambition was to become a golden gloves champion. He trained as a boxer throughout his high school years before moving on to a successful amateur boxing career career that spanned for more than five years. Ryan retired with an impressive record of knock outs and only four losses out of a total of 16 bouts before turning his attention to acting.

At 6' 1", Ryan was well built and naturally handsome, possessing a movie star smile and thick auburn hair. In the late 1950s and 60s, he was the perfect image of a young glamor boy, just right for daytime dramas. He quickly scored parts on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Leave it to Beaver, and Perry Mason. Ryan always showed up on time and showed extraordinary ambition, which kept the small parts coming in long enough for him to gain some public recognition. In 1964, his big break came in the form of a soap opera called Peyton Place, following the great success of the movie of the same name. This time, Ryan was not just a pretty face walking on and then off; he would be a regular character on a daytime drama. His good looks, physical strength, and flighty temper were to become his trademark. The stereotypical fighting Irishman, who possessed sex appeal, danger, and mystery was Ryan O'Neal.

In 1963, Ryan married the beautiful actress Johanna Moore, who was cast in numerous parts just as he was in Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Peyton Place, and Andy Griffith. The couple had two children, Tatum and Griffin. At the time of their marriage, Johanna was the bigger star. By the time they divorced in 1967, Ryan O'Neal's biggest successes were still ahead of him while Johanna Moore's were well in her past. The couple's marriage was always rocky and fueled by jealous rages and temper tantrums.

By the late 1960s, Ryan O'Neal was a well known actor having been a regular in Peyton Place from 1964-1969. But his popularity positively soared when he was cast in Love Story in 1970. This was the love story that led to American women positively falling in love with Ryan O'Neal. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Although he did not win, he was cast in a string of hit movies for the next 10 years, including Paper Moon, in which he was savvy enough to introduce his daughter Tatum O'Neal to the public.

Young and Handsome Ryan O'Neal

Ryan, Leigh Taylor, and Patrick

Ryan O 'Neal on the Rise

Much of Ryan's marriage troubles were generated by his infidelity. Ryan was a strapping young man with the world at his feet. Being a man of strong emotions, he had very little will power when it came to living an upstanding and moral life. In 1967, the same year that his divorce became final, Ryan married Leigh Taylor Young. She and Ryan began their affair after she was cast opposite of him in Peyton Place in 1966.

Leigh was thrilled with all the publicity she was getting while on Peyton Place, but in 1967, she had to leave the show due to her pregnancy. The couple had Patrick O'Neal that same year; it was her first child and Ryan's third.

As Ryan became engulfed in his steadily growing career, Leigh became depressed and felt worthless. She was now sitting on the sidelines as her handsome hubby pursued other women. Leigh wanted to focus on raising Patrick rather than her career, and in 1973, she and Ryan divorced.

As quickly as Ryan was gaining a reputation as a lothario, he suddenly gained a reputation as a respectable single dad as Johanna battled drug problems. Ryan was awarded full custody of Tatum and Griffin. The tabloids of the time played up how Ryan was taking care of his children on his own. This image of the dashing and handsome man taking responsibility for the upbringing and education of his kids won the hearts of housewives all over the country.

Ryan O'Neal with Leigh Taylor-Young

Paper Moon

Tatum O' Neal Steals the Show

Tatum O' Neal was instantly a bigger celebrity than her famous parents would ever be after winning an Oscar for her part in Paper Moon. This led the tabloids to keep close tabs on Ryan O'Neal. It was no longer a matter of a handsome young movie star, it was now a famous family, and that demands full time Hollywood press. As Tatum approached her teen years, the press photographed, interviewed, and hung on to everyone Tatum dated, talked to, or worked with. She was riding high as a cute Hollywood brat starring in a number of teenage movies such as Little Darlings and The Bad News Bears. Ryan's career quickly became eclipsed by that of his daughter's, but he didn't fret. Ryan took Hollywood as a business and nothing more. When the momentum is there, take it. When it is not, be prepared with other back ups.

He made wise investments and purchased real estate. His daughter's fame would simply mean that she would have a medium on which to earn big money fast just as he had. The residual attention that he was now getting directly from his daughter simply meant that he would have more money in the bank, and that the gamble that he had taken years earlier, when he opted to have Tatum star with him in Paper Moon, had indeed been a wise investment. He cruised through the mid 1970s pursuing his hobbies and good times more than he had pursued any acting parts.

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett

Ryan O' Neal Meets Farrah Fawcett

Ryan O'Neal was a jovial Hollywood star. He was extremely charismatic, funny, and likeable. All of the society parties of the 70s had Ryan O'Neal's name on the list. His personality was so engaging that whenever he attended a party or Hollywood function, he was the center of attention. All the major television stars befriended Ryan. Lee Majors, who was arguably the most popular and sought after television actor of the time, went on fishing trips with Ryan. It was this friendship that Lee had with Ryan that would be the undoing of his marriage to Farrah Fawcett Majors.

By far the most admirable couple of the 1970s was Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett. It seemed as though their lives could not be any better. They were both attractive, starring in successful television shows, and they were in love. The next event to complete their ideal lives would have been for Farrah to have children. But that was not to happen. Lee Majors was ready to start a family but Farrah wanted to enjoy more success in her career. Then Lee invited Ryan over to their home.

Ryan, always the romantic and dominant male, could not help but feel a challenge coming on. When Lee was heading off on a trip without Farrah, Ryan offered to take Farrah out so that she would not be bored. That was pretty much the end of the marriage between Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett. Farrah was completely taken by the romantic Ryan and did not want to lose him to another woman.

Ryan O'Neal with Farrah

Farrah and Ryan Scandal

Ryan and Farrah would become a couple. They never married, even when Farrah gave birth to their son, Redmond, but the couple lived in Malibu together and had Ryan's children living with them most of the time. After Farrah died of cancer, Ryan became the center of attention when suddenly Farrah's other boyfriends were surfacing, and then his daughter Tatum began telling the world that her father was a bully.

Farrah had commented publicly that Ryan was a physical guy and could come across as a bully when angry, but that she was never physically afraid of him. She also stated that although there were rocky times in their relationship, Ryan always was supportive and gave her confidence in herself. Ryan regularly makes strange appearances on talk shows in which he clearly enjoys saying what he can for shock value. He even boxed for charity in his 70s with a strong and healthy man in his 20s. Many at ringside were scared for the aged Ryan who, although strong and able to deliver a powerful punch, he was not very well balanced or fast. Ryan actually won due to his aggressiveness, and it was a decisive win.

One of Farrah's Boyfriends Confronting Ryan O' Neal


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