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Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw in ‘Love Story.’

Mr. Movie: Ryan O'Neal

So good looking he was almost pretty, Ryan O’Neal captured the hearts of female film fans everywhere. He had an incredible run of movies in the 1970s and then just kind of flamed out. He always had plenty of work, but personal problems dented his career after initial success. He died recently at 80.


Love Story (1970) was his first big break. As Oliver, he loved and tended to the slowly dying Jenny (Ali McGraw). This is a four-handkerchief flick that leaves no tears un-shed. It also immortalized the catch phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I think those of us who are married may quibble with this, but it’s famous nonetheless. The 2021 film with the same title is an Indian movie and no relation.


Paper Moon (1973) is a terrific film with Ryan as scam artist Moses Pray and his real daughter Tatum as Addie Loggins. Moses is tasked with getting Addie from Kansas to her relatives in Missouri. His attempt to con her out of her inheritance backfires and he has to take her on as a fellow con artist. Though only a child, Addie is a willing participant as the pair wreaks flim-flam havoc across the Midwest. Tatum not only steals the movie but also wins the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. Not bad for a 9-year-old!


O’Neal is the title guy in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975). He is an Irish scamp who fights in the Seven Years War, weds a titled woman, climbs the social ladder and has many adventures. Kubrick was nominated for three Oscars for this film but the only wins were for technical achievements. His cinematography broke new ground and is still praised today. The film is listed in the director’s poll at 12th and the critics’ poll at 45th. But it is way too long: 3 hours and 23 minutes! In theaters, it had an intermission. You can have one at home (if you can find this movie).


Continuing with his appearance in really long movies, Ryan O’Neal plays General James Gavin in A Bridge Too Far (1977). He is certainly not one of the major cast members, an all-star assemblage including Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier. This film chronicles the Allies’ landing far behind the front lines in Holland, to capture a vital bridge. Things don’t go well and the attempt fails miserably. Running just one minute short of three hours, one snarky critic labeled it “A film too long.”


The final appearance of Ryan O’Neal in a film of note is as the title character in The Driver (1978). He is a well-known criminal driver and the police want him. They offer three low-level thugs a deal if they can deliver The Driver. They envelope him in a heist and things get complicated. No more revelations here.


All of the movies in this article are for adults only, except Paper Moon which can be enjoyed by most any age.