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Tatum O’Neal’s Dad Ryan Left Her ‘At the Curb’ for Farrah Fawcett — He Accidentally Hit On Her Years Later

Bettina Dizon
Apr 10, 2022
06:00 P.M.
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Tatum O'Neal's troubled childhood followed her into adulthood after being neglected and abandoned by her parents. She and her father, Ryan O'Neal, later made a documentary about their reconciliation after 25 years of estrangement.

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Tatum O'Neal became the youngest star to win an Oscar Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1974, thanks to her stellar performance in "Paper Moon." She was only ten years old at that time.

Although Tatum reached success early, like many other child stars, her life was no Hollywood fairy tale. Her moment of glory was tangled with feelings of "overwhelming sadness" and abandonment by her parents.

(L) Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal in New York City, circa 1981. (R) Tatum O'Neal during the filming of "Circle Of Two" in Toronto, Canada. | Source: Getty Images

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Tatum's mother, Joanna Moore, was not amongst the crowd when she accepted the Award. Although her father, actor Ryan O'Neal, called his daughter to congratulate her on the win after the ceremony, Joanna said nothing.

Behind Tatum's success was tension involving her parents. When director Peter Bogdanovich cast the young girl for "Paper Moon," Ryan, who also starred in the film, hoped that his relationship with his daughter would strengthen.

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But when Tatum was nominated for an Oscar, and he wasn't, tension began. In her memoir, as told by the Independent, Tatum wrote:

“In the press, he played the doting father, but in his eyes, I read the truth: deep resentment that his own brilliant performance was being dismissed.”

Tatum O'Neal as Addie Loggins and Ryan O'Neal as Moses Pray in the movie "Paper Moon." | Source: Getty Images

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TATUM'S TROUBLED CHILDHOOD

Tatum grew up with a troubled childhood rooted in her mother's struggle with drugs and alcohol. Joanna, also an actress known for the "Andy Griffith Show," had an addiction exacerbated following her divorce from Ryan.

In 1968, she took her two kids, then five-year-old Tatum and her younger brother Griffin, to a debilitated ranch. In her memoir, Tatum recalled:

“In the grip of addiction, she had virtually abandoned me and Griffin, leaving us in squalor – starving, shoeless, and ragged, as well as beaten and abused by the men in her life.”

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Ryan O'Neal, Joanna Moore, and Tatum O'Neal in behind the scenes during the making of the ABC tv series "Peyton Place." | Source: Getty Images

At one point, Joanna had a 16-year-old boyfriend who physically hurt Tatum and Griffin while their mother continued to neglect both kids.

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After years apart, Ryan and Tatum were in the same venue once again during Fawcett's funeral. At that time, Ryan flirted with Tatum, not recognizing his own daughter.

According to "The Runaways" star, she and her brother were once locked in a garage and forced to eat dog food to keep them from starving. "We were unsupervised and wild," she said.

A photo of Tatum O'Neal as a child, circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

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Tatum had her first drunken moment at six, passing out in her mom's bathroom. But by then, worse things had happened, including sexual abuse.

A TURBULENT RELATIONSHIP WITH RYAN

While Joanna neglected her children, her father was no better. According to the actress, she was "exposed" to Ryan's life, entertaining several ladies, including Angelica Houston, Diana Ross, and Ursula Andress, to name a few. 

There were times when Tatum would be in bed with her father and whoever woman he was with then. "I was so afraid from all the things that had happened to me at the ranch that I couldn't sleep alone," she said. "It's not like I wanted to be in the room with women. It's just that I didn't [want to be alone]."

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A photo of Tatum O'Neal as a child, circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

One of the known women Ryan dated was Farrah Fawcett, whom he lived with. The actor left his home with Tatum and began a life in Fawcett's home. As Ryan recalled, his daughter felt abandoned at that time, which is "somewhat true." He added:

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“I was so in love with Farrah that I was blind, and so yeah, she got left at the curb, but I always said just stay at the curb, I'll be back.”

By the time Tatum was 19, she had packed up and moved to New York. "I was done being my dad's daughter," she said.

Tatum O'Neal attends an event at the Roxy, Los Angeles, California, circa 1970s. | Source: Getty Images

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For 25 years, the father and daughter remained estranged with minimal communication as they navigated through life separately.

RYAN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH FARRAH FAWCETT

Ryan's relationship with Fawcett was one for the books, although it ended in tragedy when the blonde beauty passed away of cancer. 

The pair met when the "Charlie's Angels" star was still with her first husband, Lee Majors, and fell for each other.

Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal during a party at Studio 54 on December 4, 1981 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Eventually, Fawcett divorced Majors and pursued a relationship with Ryan. Theirs, however, was plagued with drama, including drug abuse and infidelity.

After two decades together, the couple went separate ways, but when the actor was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, they reconciled and gave love a second chance.

Farrah Fawcett, Redmond O'Neal, and Ryan O'Neal at the Graumans Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Fawcett took care of her lover until he was in remission, but as fate took its course, the tables turned in 2006, when Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer. She and Ryan stayed in love until her last breath. Together, they had a son, Redmond, who sadly spiraled out of control through the years.

Redmond previously faced charges for robbing a convenience store at knifepoint. He was also arrested for drug possession at that time.

TATUM'S TROUBLED MARRIAGE TO JOHN MCENROE

Like her father, Tatum also experienced trouble in paradise while married John McEnroe. The pair's interest in drugs brought them together. However, the tennis star used it for recreational purposes while Tatum was addicted.

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John McEnroe, Tatum O'Neal, and one of their children, circa 1987. | Source: Getty Images

McEnroe thought that having children would help solve Tatum's problem, so in 1986, they welcomed their first child, Kevin Jack McEnroe, and three months later, they tied the knot. Sadly, Tatum's family did not attend the wedding, bringing back her feeling of abandonment. 

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With more kids in the picture, McEnroe started to feel neglected by his wife and began blaming Tatum for his losses. As time passed, Tatum saw her father in her husband, and after six years, their marriage fell apart during a violent confrontation.

Tatum O'Neal and her three kids Emily, Kevin and Sean McEnroe arrive during the 30th anniversary screening of "Paper Moon" at the Vista Theater August 21, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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The couple divorced in 1993, with both receiving shared custody of their children. As Tatum slipped back into drug usage, McEnroe was granted custody of their three kids five years later. "I could understand she was hurting and needed some help," Kevin said

Despite the pain that her marriage cost her, Tatum believes that the happiest times of her life were her married years. Eventually, she gained partial custody and spent the following years rebuilding her relationship with the kids. "The kids gave me a kind of real reason to keep going and fight," she said.

RECONCILING WITH RYAN

Tatum also eventually reconnected with her father, but he denied his daughter's claims about his bad fatherhood and referred to himself as a "hopeless father."

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Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal attends Farrah Fawcett's memorabilia donation ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History on February 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. Fawcett died of cancer June 25, 2009. | Source: Getty Images

In a previous interview, Ryan insisted that his daughter "had a wonderful childhood," citing the instance when Tatum met Queen Elizabeth.

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After years apart, Ryan and Tatum were in the same venue once again during Fawcett's funeral. At that time, Ryan flirted with Tatum, not recognizing his own daughter. "I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, "Daddy, it's me – Tatum!'" Ryan recalled.

Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal during the Los Angeles Premiere of "The Runaways" at the Cinerama Dome, ArcLight Hollywood on March 11, 2010 in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

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"I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick," he added. Eventually, in the late 2000s, Tatum and Ryan reconciled and had a two-hour lunch that mended their broken relationship.

"He told me he's sorry," Tatum said. "He's all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life. My dad was absolutely everything to me."

The duo later made a documentary about their relationship, "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals," which followed their reunion after 25 years of drama and estrangement.

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