Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ryan O'Neal's Milestone

Today is Ryan O'Neal's 70th birthday.

That isn't an uncommon milestone. All four of my grandparents lived past that age — in fact, three of them lived well past the age of 70. So has my father, for that matter.

But the fact remains that it is a milestone — and, for someone who, at the age of 68, told People magazine that he "won't know this world" without his partner, the late Farrah Fawcett, O'Neal has now gone on for nearly two years without her.

I don't mean to belittle his loss. Quite the opposite. Congratulations are in order. He found a way to persevere. More power to him.

People often wonder about someone else's secret for longevity. Sometimes I think it's just a matter of continuing to breathe. O'Neal may have had the wind knocked out of him from time to time, but he is still breathing.

His career began on TV, with a guest spot on Perry Mason and a recurring role on Peyton Place, and his acting work in recent years has been on TV as well, in patriarchal roles on shows like Bones and 90210 and a guest spot on Desperate Housewives.

But most of the high points in his movie career probably came early — "Love Story" when he was not quite 30, "Paper Moon" and "What's Up, Doc?" a few years later, Stanley Kubrick's period piece "Barry Lyndon" when he was in his mid–30s.

He got an Oscar nomination for his performance in "Love Story" and he was nominated for Golden Globes for his work in that film and "Paper Moon," but, with a few possible exceptions, O'Neal's movie career probably reached its zenith more than 30 years ago.

Still he lives. He's starting his ninth decade today.

Keep on breathing.