She emerged as a heartthrob in the 1960s on television’s “Peyton Place” and emerged as a movie star in the emotional 1970s blockbuster “Love Story.” Yet Ryan O’Neal achieved his most enduring fame off-screen as a longtime friend of actress Farrah Fawcett, a father of four whose tumultuous family drama often made headlines.
After O’Neal was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of a dapper, star-crossed lover in “Love Story,” Bob Hope introduced him as Hollywood’s “leading man” at the Oscars, a nod to O’Neal’s unmistakable good looks . and relative youth. She was not yet 30 years old.
After failing to achieve major long-term success, agent Sue Mengers theorized that her client’s romance with sex symbol Fawcett helped destroy his acting career: Together, they were too Hollywood, too perfect, “Barbie dolls” that took your breath away. Others suggested that his changeable nature was to blame.
When O’Neal and Fawcett began dating in 1979, their tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship spanned the rest of her life. He returned to O’Neal when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, and Fawcett was by Fawcett’s side during his three-year battle with cancer that ended with his death at age 62 in 2009.
O’Neal, who could never quite step out of his shadow, died Friday, his son Patrick said in an Instagram post. Ryan O’Neal announced that he had prostate cancer in 2012. He was 82 years old.
“My father passed away peacefully today with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him like we do,” the actor and sportscaster wrote on Friday. No cause of death was stated.