Tatum O'Neal | Joanna Moore with her daughter, Tatum O'Neal | Source: YouTube/CBS Sunday Morning | Getty Images
Tatum O'Neal | Joanna Moore with her daughter, Tatum O'Neal | Source: YouTube/CBS Sunday Morning | Getty Images

Tatum O’Neal Was Left in 'Squalor’ by Her Mom at 5 and Abandoned by Her Dad 10 Years Later

Gracious Egedegbe
Jan 24, 2022
02:21 P.M.

When Tatum O'Neal won an Academy Award for "Paper Moon" as a little girl, she was almost the envy of the world. Since then, she has built a remarkable career for herself and dealt with much adversity.


Tatum O'Neal is famous for many reasons. The movie star has lived a life in the spotlight since her childhood. From her infancy to her relationships with her husband and children, Tatum's world has been full of ups and downs.

When she became the youngest person to win an Academy Award at ten, the former child actress was a dazzling star. Seeing that Tatum became a winner so young, big achievements were expected of the child star, and she did not fail to deliver.

Tatum O'Neal attends the premiere of Broad Green Pictures' "The Dark Horse" at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on March 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Tatum O'Neal attends the premiere of Broad Green Pictures' "The Dark Horse" at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on March 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

She even got to act alongside her father, Ryan O'Neal, in "Paper Moon." The movie was a huge success, portraying what seemed to be a happy family, but that was far from reality.

While they had an on-screen brilliance, Tatum never shared a decent relationship with her dad and once revealed that their real-life relationship was marred by emotional abuse and fights from childhood to adulthood.


Her father, Ryan, seemed to have shared a similar opinion on their relationship. According to him, things changed in the family following her Academy Award win, and from then, everyone seemed to hate the other.


Behind Tatum's smile is a life filled with childhood secrets of painful experiences of physical and emotional abuse and sexual abuse. Despite the traumatic experiences, Tatum managed to put her talent to good use.


In her book, Tatum detailed that she had been through hunger, neglect, underage drinking, underage driving, car crashes, suicide attempts, and had a history of drug addiction.

The 59-year-old was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up knowing fame through having famous parents. Her father, Ryan, was a popular film star who helped influence her career and helped her secure her first role.

Following the movie's success, Tatum's career kicked off, and she went on to star in other films like "The Bad News Bears," and "International Velvet.," and a host of others.



Like her mother, Joanna Moore, Tatum battled an addiction to a variety of narcotics for the majority of her childhood. Her addiction began when she was 16 years old after her father abandoned the family to live with Farrah Fawcett.

In 2008, she was arrested on charges of buying drugs near her apartment building when she was found with two bags full of an illegal substance. Tatum blames her life's crisis on her troubled childhood.


Tatum fell from a high place of stardom into a life of struggle and fighting to survive as a drug addict. The actress's state got so bad that she lost control of her life and lost custody of her kids.

"A Paper Life," Tatum's memoir, is about traumatic childhood memories that left her with a deep sense of self-loathing and inferiority. But it's also a survival narrative of a brave little girl forced to rely on her wits and drive when grownups fail her.



The roots of Tatum's story can be traced to her mother. Joanna Moore is most remembered for her role as the sheriff's girlfriend on "Andy Griffith's Show." She battled alcohol and stimulant addictions in real life, which worsened after her divorce from Ryan, a then young, up-and-coming actor.

Moore moved their two children, Tatum, 5, and Griffin, her younger brother, to a derelict ranch outside of Los Angeles in 1968, where they suffered all sorts of abuse from the men in her life and were neglected by her. Speaking of the experience, Tatum said:

"It was terrible. My mother stayed drunk for years and years and years. It just went on and on and on. So, even from when we were little up until when we grew up and, you know, it just didn't end."


By the time Tatum was eight years old, her mother's addictions had rendered her incapable of caring for her children. They were sent to boarding school, but Tatum wasn't planning on staying long. She moved in with her dad, and life seemed a bit stable, howbeit with its struggles.

Ryan was a ladies' man, and his stardom meant women were never scarce in his house. According to Tatum, some of Hollywood's leading ladies her father entertained included Ursula Andress, Angelica Houston, and Diana Ross.


When Ryan fell madly in love with poster girl Farrah Fawcett, Tatum's brief period of stability came to an abrupt end. Ryan moved in with Fawcett in 1979, feeling shackled with his children. Ryan told Tatum that she was 15 and could take care of herself when she called her father to complain about his absence.

The father and daughter began to have a complicated relationship. Ryan already resented his daughter for her Oscar, but after abandoning his teenager, she stopped seeing him as her father.


Tatum left Los Angeles in 1986 to marry tennis legend John McEnroe. The rift between father and daughter grew when the pair didn't invite Ryan to their New York wedding.

The 59-year-old's marriage failed to work, and she fell into a spiral of heroin addiction and lost custody of her children when the marriage split in 1994 after eight turbulent years and three children together.



Following Fawcett's death in 2009, Tatum and Ryan were reconciled after a long period of no contact that lasted more than two decades. The pair bonded over a two-hour meal at a Malibu restaurant.

According to People, Ryan apologized, and Tatum remarked that she wanted to work on their relationship because he was the only family she had.


Following their reconciliation, they featured in an eight-part docuseries for the Oprah Winfrey Network to restore their friendship. It chronicled their efforts to reconcile their differences.

Sean O'Neal, Tatum's son, showed the world the progress his family is making after he uploaded a family photo with his brothers, mother, Tatum, and grandfather, Ryan. The family got together on the 30th anniversary of "Paper Moon" in 2003. It was a pretty sight for fans to see.

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