WITH the wavy golden hair of a matinee idol and the lithe look of a boxer, Ryan O’Neal was at one point irresistible to women.
Timeless beauties including singers Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross, movie beauty Ursula Andress and actress Bianca Jagger are all said to have fallen under his spell.
But despite playing a doting husband in one of Hollywood’s slushiest movies, Love Story, his personal life was one of infidelity and rages.
The actor, who died on Friday aged 82, was a 1970s idol, starring in a string of hits including Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon and A Bridge Too Far.
And behind the public image, Ryan’s romance with beautiful actress Farrah Fawcett was enduring.
Despite splitting in 1997, their bond saw them reunite in later life, only for Farrah to be struck down with an aggressive type of cancer that ultimately stole her from him in 2009.
It was a cruel twist that resembled the plot of Love Story, where Ryan’s character Oliver — a wealthy Harvard graduate — lost wife Jenny, played by Ali MacGraw, to a terminal illness.
He said: “I lost Farrah to cancer, and I just wonder why that played out that way for me.
“One was a big deal and so successful, and in real life it was the opposite, a tragedy.”
Charles Patrick Ryan O’Neal was born in Los Angeles on April 20, 1941, the elder son of screenwriter Charles O’Neal and actress Patricia Callaghan O’Neal.
The busy family flitted from Mexico to the British West Indies and England for work.
On his travels, Ryan learned that “life was a kick, a fun time”.
“And part of the fun, I guess, was getting into a lot of fights,” he admitted.
He put that talent to good use, competing in the Golden Gloves boxing championships in Los Angeles in 1956 and 1957.
At 17 he joined his nomadic parents in West Germany and got his first taste of showbusiness as a body double on the television series Tales Of The Vikings.
He said later: “The producer of the show lived in our building.
“My mother wrote him this letter and slipped it under his door.
“It said, ‘Who knows, he might be the next Gary Cooper’.
“I got a job as a lichtdoppel, a stand-in. I’m not Gary Cooper, but I’ve had a good run.”
On his return to California, the blue-eyed boy quickly found TV work.
His big break came in 1964, when he was cast in soap opera Peyton Place as rich boy Rodney Harrington.
He became an overnight heart-throb, but was by then married to blonde bombshell actress Joanna Moore, who he wed at 22.
Joanna gave birth to their daughter Tatum in 1963 and, the following year, son Griffin.
But Ryan didn’t take to family life — he was too busy enjoying the showbiz whirl of Los Angeles parties — and they divorced in 1967.
While bagging television parts came easily to the actor, cracking Hollywood proved more tricky.
He was far from Paramount’s first choice to star in his biggest hit, 1979’s Love Story, with Jon Voight and Beau Bridges both turning the role down.
His agent had to practically beg for his audition. Ryan said: “I wanted that part so bad. I tested with 40 other guys to get it.
“I remember when (co-star) Ali MacGraw kissed me in the test, I thought she really believed it.
“Later, a friend of mine at Paramount saw the tests and said, ‘Your test was good.
“There were a couple of good ones, but yours was really good’.
“And I said, ‘Well, what about when she kissed me? What about that?’.
“He said, ‘She kissed them all the same’. Welcome to Hollywood.”
Ryan eventually won the part in the tearjerker, which turned him into an overnight sensation and saw him nominated for an Oscar.
He was by then married again to another Peyton Place star, Leigh Taylor-Young.
The couple had a son, Patrick. But they divorced in 1974.
As Ryan’s fame grew, his temper gained him an uneasy reputation in Hollywood.
His youthful boxing skills were now put to use in bar-room brawls.
As early as 1960, Ryan’s temper landed him in trouble after he assaulted a stranger at a New Year’s Eve party.
He spent the next 51 days in jail.
In 1978 he was sued by his friend and publicist, Steve Jaffe, who he knocked unconscious after Jaffe accused him of being rude to his girlfriend.
Despite his off-screen antics, Ryan continued to make movies.
He starred alongside Barbra Streisand in the 1972 comedy, What’s Up, Doc?.
In her book, My Name is Barbra, the star revealed she pushed for Ryan to play opposite her.
They enjoyed a short-lived romance that ended before the cameras even started rolling.
Barbra admitted: “I think I was too serious for Ryan.
“He just wanted to have fun and didn’t like it when I went into my intense mode.
“So we split, but remained on good terms.
“Still, it was awkward at times, having to fall in love with him for the camera when all that was over.”
In 1973 Ryan was paired with his daughter Tatum in the critically acclaimed Paper Moon.
While the film was a success, ten-year-old Tatum’s performance upstaged him, winning her the Oscar Ryan failed to clinch for Love Story.
She alleged he “socked” her when she took home the Academy Award and friends said he never got over the blow.
Ryan denied the claims.
Nonetheless, their father-daughter relationship was complicated.
While Tatum — who later married tennis ace John McEnroe — described him as “the most charming, funny, incredible guy”, she also painted a picture of a rage-filled brute who would discard his kids for the attentions of his latest girlfriend.
Ryan had troubled relationships with most of his children, including Griffin, who claimed his dad made him try cocaine aged 11.
Ryan admitted being a “hopeless father”.
The star also battled Jack Nicholson for the affections of Anjelica Huston, who wrote of his “dark side” in her autobiography.
She claimed he once headbutted her at a Beverly Hills party.
In 1979, he stole Charlie’s Angel star Farrah from his best pal and raquetball partner, Lee Majors.
In his 2012 book, Both Of Us, he recalled their first kiss at a party thrown by the talent agent Swifty Lazar.
He wrote: “She arrives at Lazar’s fabulous home in jeans, boots and a snakeskin jacket. She sparkles.
“She is a great kisser. She has such sweet breath. I knew by the way she was kissing me she had made up her mind.”
Ryan was hooked. But with such intense passion, the relationship was stormy from the start.
Farrah was once photographed with two black eyes.
She went on to describe her lover as a “loud, rowdy son of a bitch”.
Ryan admitted: “Farrah and I did occasionally get physical with each other when we fought.
“But it was not the way that people like to depict it.”
Their relationship was rocked by challenges.
Tatum asked Ryan to choose between her and Farrah, causing friction between the two women.
Even the arrival of their son Redmond in 1985 failed to unite them.
The couple clashed over different views on parenting and their rows escalated.
Ryan recalled: “Once, she locks herself in the bathroom and I punch my fist through the door.
“A piece of wood hits her face, cutting her above the eye. I break a knuckle.”
The final straw came when Farrah walked in on Ryan with his lover Leslie Stefanson — 25 years his junior — in the Malibu beach house she had shared with him.
He said: “Farrah walks in. We are naked in bed.
“Farrah is yanking at the covers to get to my girl, and I’m bouncing around sputtering inanities such as, ‘This isn’t what you think’.”
While he never recaptured his 1970s heyday, Ryan later enjoyed parts in Desperate Housewives and 90210 and had a regular role in Fox series Bones, which ran until 2017.
But he claimed that he “wasn’t that good” an actor and “nearly gave up” before his late-in-life renaissance.
And he couldn’t stay away from Farrah for long.
The pair settled into a more mature relationship in 2001 but, just five years later, Farrah learned she was seriously ill.
Ryan nursed her until she died at 62.
He wrote of her final days: “Her body is dying while her hydrangea-blue eyes are alight with fierce satisfaction.
“In the coming days I ask her to marry me again and she accepts.
“I buy the ring. The priest at St John’s Hospital arrives to marry us but administers the last rites instead.”
He went to his grave insisting she was “the love of my life”.
His son Patrick has paid poignant tribute to his father and Farrah.
He said: “Now they meet again. Farrah and Ryan.
“He has missed her terribly. What an embrace that must be.”