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Ryan O’Neal’s Second Attempt to Marry Farrah Fawcett Ended in a Farewell Rite for the Actress

Esther NJeri
Oct 28, 2021
11:40 A.M.
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Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett never did get married, but not from a lack of trying. In their relationship, they almost got married twice, with the final time on Fawcett's death bed.

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Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett met under strange circumstances. Over the years, their relationship continued to be anything but perfect. Yet, in the end, they had nothing but love for each other.

Their many fights and arguments always threatened to end the decades-long relationship, but they seemed to grow even closer and more in love as the years went by.

Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal March 1989 | Source: Getty Images

Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal March 1989 | Source: Getty Images

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O'NEAL AND FAWCETT MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME

From the first time he set his eyes on Fawcett, he felt an instant connection. There was one problem, though, Fawcett was another man — his friend Lee Major's — wife.

O'Neal was in Toronto paying his daughter Tatum a visit and had just reconnected with an old friend, Majors. Soon after, O'Neal started visiting Majors in his home to catch up with his old pal and his wife.

Ryan O'Neal, son Redmond and Farrah Fawcett as she receives her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame | Photo: Getty Images

Ryan O'Neal, son Redmond and Farrah Fawcett as she receives her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame | Photo: Getty Images

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Majors was going away for a while to shoot a movie, and afraid that his wife would get too lonely while he was away, he asked O'Neal to keep Fawcett company and even take her out to dinner.

In his 2012 book "Both of Us: My Life with Farrah," O'Neal recounts how strange Majors' request had been, but his attraction to Fawcett barred him from thinking the request through.

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O'Neal had met Fawcett days earlier when together with Majors, he'd walked up Antelo Road in Los Angeles and seen her waiting for them. He described the very first time he saw her in his book, saying:

“She’s delightful, full of childlike warmth. There is no pretense or cattiness about her whatsoever, she’s vibrant and wholesome, refreshing in this town.”

A two-time divorcee, O'Neal wasn't looking for a relationship, but as he grew closer to Majors and his wife, he noticed that their marriage was troubled, so it became apparent why Majors had asked him to take his wife out.

Ryan O'Neal poses for portrait at Farrah Fawcett Foundation Presents 1st Annual Tex-Mex Fiesta on September 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images

Ryan O'Neal poses for portrait at Farrah Fawcett Foundation Presents 1st Annual Tex-Mex Fiesta on September 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images

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A week later, O'Neal invited Fawcett to a Ry Cooder concert, as she was a big fan. Fawcett said she'd talk to her husband about it and revert to him with the decision, but instead, Majors started calling O'Neal, asking him to leave his wife alone.

Determined to win the beauty's heart, O'Neal refused to stay away and instead confessed his love for the blonde. That same year, Fawcett separated from Majors and divorced him in 1982.

A MARRIAGE THAT NEVER WAS

And thus began the tumultuous relationship that had more drama than is accurately expressible. Fawcett was famous for her appearance on "Charlie's Angels," while O'Neal was highly recognized for his Oscar-nominated role in "Love Story."

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Being as famous as they were, every little detail of their life became newsworthy. Theirs was the ideal relationship, with its highs and lows. Often, they would fight, but their love for each other was undeniable.

In 1985, they had their first - and only - baby, Redmond O'Neal. However, even before then, they had both toyed with the idea of getting married. It was a mutual feeling, with Fawcett sometimes initiating the conversation.

They said marriage was not something they felt they needed. But they had at a certain point decided to get married after O'Neal proposed with a cigar band as an extemporized engagement ring.

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Ryan O'Neal as a guest star in the "The Brain in the Bot" episode of BONES in 2016 | Photo: Getty Images

Ryan O'Neal as a guest star in the "The Brain in the Bot" episode of BONES in 2016 | Photo: Getty Images

On their way to Nevada for a quick wedding, they had a flat tire and decided they would not go through with the wedding. They never spoke of marriage again until it was too late to have one.

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THE EYE-OPENING BREAK-UP

As passionate as they were about each other, the couple had their fair share of troubles. Between drug abuse, family drama, and infidelity, their love life was hanging in the balance.

Part of the drama was an incident where O'Neal was reported to have shot his son. But the straw that broke the camel's back was when, in 1997, Fawcett walked in on him having an affair with Leslie Ann Stefanson, "The General's Daughter" actress.

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This became the breaking point, and in 1998, they went their separate ways. O'Neal attributes the break-up to his nasty attitude and Fawcett's menopause. He says:

“They’re hard work, these divas - I was sick of it, and I was unappreciated. I just don’t think she liked me very much. So I excused myself.”

As hurtful as the split was, the two soon realized that their hearts still beat for each other. But it was an unfortunate event that would bring them back together.

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In 2001, O'Neal was diagnosed with Leukemia. Fawcett was by his side and became his primary caretaker, and soon after, O'Neal was in remission.

By a cruel twist of fate, in 2006, Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer, and O'Neal devoted himself to taking care of her. O'Neal described it as a love story, saying he did not know how he'd survive without her.

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A SECOND ATTEMPT AT MARRIAGE

As Fawcett approached her final days, O'Neal again proposed to her, and she accepted marrying him. O'Neal recalls of the incident:

“The priest at St John’s Hospital arrives to marry us but administers the last rites instead.”

The following day, the doctors took Fawcett off life support, and a few hours later, with her newly engaged fiance by her side, Fawcett waved the world goodbye.

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She passed on in June of 2009, leaving behind a son and a man whom she had shared with her best years, the love, the fights, and above everything else, her heart.

O'Neal says there was not a day in their relationship that he did not love Fawcett. If anything, he says so many years later, he's never gotten over her, but writing a book helped him get some relief and clarify things to everyone else - and himself.

In retrospect, O'Neal wishes he'd done so many things differently. Speaking to People, he says if he were ever granted a do-over, he would be more mature, more understanding, and far much kinder than he was to the love of his life.

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