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Ryan O'Neal, star of 'Love Story' and 'Paper Moon,' dies at 82

Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Ryan O’Neal, who starred in “Love Story” and “Paper Moon,” cementing his status as a heartthrob in the ‘70s, died Friday. He was 82.

He emerged as a heartthrob on television’s “Peyton Place” in the 1960s and arrived as a movie star in the sentimental 1970 box-office hit “Love Story.” Yet O’Neal achieved his most enduring fame off-screen, as the longtime companion of actor Farrah Fawcett, who died of a rare form of cancer in 2014, and father of four whose turbulent family drama often landed in the headlines.

After O’Neal was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying a preppy, star-crossed lover in “Love Story,” Bob Hope introduced him at the Oscars as Hollywood’s “leading boy,” a reference to O’Neal’s clean-cut good looks and relative youth. He was not quite 30.

When major long-term success eluded him, agent Sue Mengers theorized that her client’s romance with sex symbol Fawcett had helped sink his acting career: Together they were too Hollywood, too perfect, “Barbie dolls” who took your breath away. Others suggested his volatile nature was to blame.

Once O’Neal and Fawcett started dating in 1979, their stormy on-again, off-again relationship spanned the rest of her life. She returned to O’Neal’s side in 2001 when he was diagnosed with leukemia, and he was there for Fawcett during her three-year cancer battle that ended with her death at 62 in 2009.

O’Neal died Friday “with his loving team by his side,” his son Patrick announced in an Instagram post. Ryan O’Neal had announced that he had prostate cancer in 2012.


“My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us,” the actor and sportscaster wrote Friday. No cause of death was given.

Patrick O’Neal, Ryan O’Neal’s only child with fellow actor Leigh Taylor-Young, recalled his father as an actor “skilled at his craft,” who could memorize “pages of dialogue in an hour,” and as a humble, “generous” person. He recalled moments with his father on set as a child, watching him interact with crew members whom O’Neal loved and who “loved him” back.

“Ryan never bragged,” Patrick O’Neal continued. “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. Farrah and Ryan.”

“He’s had a strange career, but he was a monster star,” Paul Mazursky, who directed O’Neal in the 1996 comedy film “Faithful,” told Vanity Fair in 2009. “He’s sweet as sugar, and he’s volatile ... but he’s a good guy, and he’s very talented.”


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