February 26, 2004 by

Ron O’Neal

99 comments

Categories: Actors

roneal.jpgRon O’Neal, an Obie Award-winning actor, died on Jan. 14 from cancer. He was 66.

O’Neal attended Ohio State University for a short time before dropping out to spend several years performing in the interracial, Cleveland acting troupe, Karamu House. In 1967, he moved to New York and gave acting lessons in Harlem to support himself while appearing in summer stock and off-Broadway shows.

O’Neal stepped into the spotlight in 1970 when he was cast in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “No Place to Be Somebody.” His performance in the Broadway show earned him an Obie Award, a Clarence Derwent Award, a Drama Desk and a Theatre World Award.

The producers of the 1972 blaxploitation film, “Superfly,” caught O’Neal’s performance and cast him as the movie’s lead character — a hip, cocaine dealer named Youngblood Priest. “Superfly” was a box office hit, but the 30 movies that followed in O’Neal’s career were mostly low-budget or straight-to-video fare. He returned to Broadway in 1975 and replaced Cleavon Little in “All Over Town,” a play directed by Dustin Hoffman.

99 Responses to Ron O’Neal

  1. Andra Rivers-Jones

    My condolences go out to his family, to his friends, and to his many, many fans. May God be with his family during this time of grief, and may you, Mr. Ron O’Neal rest in Everlasting Peace.

  2. Mike Anderson

    While I never knew Mr O’Neal personally, I think I speak for anyone and everyone who has ever seen a so-called Blaxploitation film…..that “Priest” was one of the best….the film itself was riddled with stereotypes, but somehow, Ron was able to bring new life to those “stereotypes” and make us feel sympathy for the “bad” guy and his struggle against the “man”. However negative the idea, or how bad the script, Ron always made the best of what he had to work with, and gave it 100%. For this…..I will always love Mr. Ron O’Neal and his work….may he rest in peace after having to go through this hell of a life.

  3. Lisa Brown Warren

    Ron O’Neal will truly be missed. His movie, Super Fly gave me my idea for a nick name, when I joined the Navy in 1974. I chose to call my self (Goldie). I will miss Ron………..R.I.P. May the Lord be with his family. Lisa Brown Warren, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
    ANA Goldie.

  4. Theresa

    Blessings to Mr. O’Neal and his family.
    Before I was born, my mother had beautiful black & white photographs of her days at Karamu with Ron O’Neal, and they also attended the same high school here in Cleveland.
    The memories my mother had of him were the best times of her young life with many others at The Karamu house.
    My mother whose name was Sandra Strickland at the time, preceeded Mr. O’Neal in death. I hope they meet in heaven with many laughs of good times gone by.
    Mrs.T.Norvell
    Cleveland, OH

  5. Renee' Wilson

    I am in deep mourning over my close friend, Ron O’Neal. We lived together during 1989-1991. Ron was a wonderful thoughtful man, who helped and loved me and my two children, we had a connection made from Heaven. He was always there for me in troubled need, a true friend he will always be forever…. Until we meet again Ron….. I love you…… Peace and God Bless…. Renee’
    P.S To his wife Audrey… Thank you so much for taking care of Ron during his last years… Me and Monique’ and Andre'(whom Ron loved dearly as his own) send our love and condolences to you and The O’Neal Family….. Much Peace and Love…….

  6. Miss G. Jackson

    This condolence goes out Mr.O’Neal’s sister and wife and other family members, May Ron rest in peace, I will be a life time fan of a man I never met personally but, I felt a great love for.
    P.S.
    this is to the person that posted the e-mail March 6 at 9:29 with memories of a life she shared with Mr. Oneal and her children Monique and Andre.
    could you please e-mail me I have been a long time admirer of Ron O’Neal and I have been disappointed over the years of not being able to find much on the internet about his career, please contact me at squiregee@hotmail.com, thankyou.

  7. FELSHA

    I WOULD LIKE FOR YOU TO E-MAIL ME WITH THE OTHER MOVIES THAT MR.O’NEAL STARRED IN SO THAT I MAY PURCHAES THEM AS COLLETOR ITEMS
    THANK YOU

  8. Wilma Walker

    For some years I have been attempting to understand how such a talented actor could go unnoticed for so many years in Hollywood. I am strengthened in knowing that he had a very good career even before “Superfly”, not very many people knew that, they thought this was his first role as an actor.

  9. sheila

    I WILL TRULY MISS RON O’NEAL. I STILL HAVE HIM ON THE ALBUM COVER DOWNSTAIRS FROM THE SUPERFLY SOUNDTRACK. NOW HE AND CURTIS MAYFIELD ARE LAUGHING AND HAVING A GOOD TIME. ALTHOUGH I DID NOT KNOW RON O’NEAL PERSONALLY, I FELT A CLOSENESS TO HIM, BECAUSE HE HAD SUCH A GOOD PERSONALITY, HANDSOME AND SUCH A GOOD ACTOR. I HAD SEEN HIM PLAYING EVEN OTHER NATIONLITIES IN FILMS. I FEEL THAT HE DID NOT GET ALL THE CREDIT THAT WAS DUE HIM, HOWEVER, LIKE SO MANY OTHERS. REST IN PEACE YOU FINE BROTHER. CONDOLENCES OUT TO RON O’NEAL’S FAMILY. KEEP THE FAITH. I TOO, MISS A COUSIN THAT DIED IN 2003, THAT WAS JUST LIKE A BROTHER TO ME. WE WILL SEE THEM AGAIN SOMEDAY IN HEAVEN. SHEILA FROM INDIANAPOLIS

  10. Adrienne Hall

    I am just now able to write my feelings regarding the loss of this incredible, inspiring, talented, handsome, awesome actor, Mr. Ron O’Neal. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting him. However, I have always been a fan and have followed his career and seen almost all of his films. I was living in NYC at the time “Superfly” was filmed! That movie and his breakout performance holds fond memories for me. His portrayal in this role and all he graced us with, were SENSATIONAL! He conveyed so much to us regarding the plight of the Black Man. He exuded respect, honor, and integrity. I will always appreciate him for the power and determination he displayed. I must add that he was “knock-down” gorgeous and the source of many heart palpitations on my part. 🙂
    I concur with so many others here who, correctly observed, that Mr. O’Neal was never given the credit and accolades he so richly deserved.
    Mr. O’Neal you will always remain in my heart and dreams. My heartfelt sympathy to your family, friends and loved ones. Thank-you for always bringing excellence to your craft.

  11. coop

    To Margarita Ca., I hope that you know that Ron’s name was Priest in SUPERFLY not GOLDIE. That was Max Julien in the MACK. On the same order but not as classy as my Ron. The 1st fine brother I was in love with. You’ll be missed by many and loved all eternity as the baddest man on earth. Love you always and say hi to my MOM. I know she is having a good time know you are there!!

  12. lloyd e. scott

    My wife said that ron o’neal used to live next door to her in LA years ago, she said he was an avid gardener and he loved to talk to her for hours, about gardening. I remember him in Superfly as well as the creepy movie, When A Stranger Calls, I had no idea he was such a talented broadway actor. God rest your soul, Ron O’Neal.

  13. Mimi

    Ron O’Neal moved people…he had a magnetism and a charm that drew folks to him…and having read so many notes who did not meet him yet felt that magic he exuded…his power and his energy…seemed to be magnified on the screen…in person he was warm, beautiful and very much a vibrant and thoughtful intellect…I had the good fortune to meet this beautiful person thru a friend who did soaps in NY. She took me along to meet him in ?1970? to visit him and his girl..in their tiny funky apartment, with the shiniest pride and joy of his sitting on their mantle…his Obie for that spectacular play “No Place to Be Somebody”..I hope the play is revitalized so that others can experience it. He was on the threshold of LA success when I met him…and will treasure that memory..He was as nice a guy as he was FINE. And my GAWD, he was FINE. Ron you are MISSED…

  14. Cliff

    Ron was always one of my favorite actors. I believe he was ahead of his time. Hollywood was not ready for a handsome black actor.(think about the top black actors of the 70’s and 80’s) Not one of them were close to Ron. If his career was starting now he would be a superstar. He paved the way for handsome black actors. I wish he could get the credit he is do. Here in Chicago they did not say a word about his passing on Black Radio. What a shame!! I wish I could get more information about him. Wife? Children? Did he have a large funeral? Did he get respect from the other Black actors? My best wishs for his family. Rest in peace Ron we will always remember you. Cliff

  15. terrance cosbu

    eventhough I was born seven years after the movie superfly. I think it is one of the best blaxploitation films ever and it is truly a classic. R.I.P Mr. O’Neal, You’re the best

  16. L.B.Moore

    My sympathy goes out the family of their lost. I would like to add my father who also died this year was Mr. Ron’s twin. In matter of fact kids, everybody on the block used to tease us “your daddy is superfly”. My husband saw daddy’s early pictures and said “this man looked like superfly”. My daddy was just a loving man.

  17. Penny

    I was not aware of Mr. Oneal’s transition until I saw it announced on the Acadamy Awards. I fell in love with Mr. Oneal back in the 70’s and always wondered why such a talented, handsome artist was not awarded the opportunity to give the world more of his talent. I send my condolences to his family and friends. Just as loving hands met him in this experience, I know loving hands have met him in his next. With much love
    A FAN

  18. Andreja - NY

    Even though I was about 8 when Super Fly came out – I remember seeing it in the movie theatre with my friend’s and their super cool mom who LOVED and Listened to Curtis Mayfield all the time – I thought that Ron was the most GORGEOUS FANTASTIC actor/guy I ever saw.
    I was so very sorry to hear he passed away – I just found out – I don’t read the papers.
    I watch the Super Fly movies whenever they are on – and I’m definately buying the dvd’s.
    I will miss knowing that he is not with us on Earth anymore – but I know he is comfortable with all that are good in heaven.
    I LOVE you Ron!!

  19. nedra cherry-hargrave

    I WAS A LITTLE GIRL WHEN FIRST SAW THE MOVIE SUPER FLY STARING RON O’NEAL. MY MOM AND DAD
    WENT TO THE MOVIES AND SAW IT FIRST,AND THEY LOVED THE MOVIE SO MUCH THAT THEY WENT TO SEE
    IT A SECOND TIME AND THEY TOOK ME ALONG. AFTER
    WATCHING THE MOVIE I BECAME A BIG FAN OF RON O’NEAL AND I’M STILL A FAN. RON WILL BE GREATLY MISSED. MY HEART GOES OUT TO HIS WIFE AND FAMILY YOU ARE ALWAYS IN MY PRAYERS I LOVE YOU AND GOD BLESS. MRS. NEDRA CHERRY-HARGRAVE FROM ANTIOCH , CALIFORNIA.

  20. Orlandes Fletcher

    With the loss of our beloved Ron O’Neal aka “Priest”, I will mourn in perpetuity. As a premier fan of O’Neal and his work, his homegoing is celebrated in that he is no longer in pain nor in companionship with suffering.
    Ron, you will be missed not only as an artist but as a brotha, familiy man and precious human being. Keep on keepin’ on while ridin’ yo’ “hog” in the sky.

  21. Sharon Keys

    I was really sorry to read that Ron O’Neal had passed. I just finished watching his DVD Superfly and brought back such wonderful memories of my childhood. I want to say PEACE to you Ron and your family because your acting skills brought joy to all who watched your movies. RIP my brotha!

  22. Tracey Price

    A year ago this unexplainable urgency came over me to find any and all information that I could about your illustrious life and magnetic career. This delightful obsession had me repeadily watching your movies, thinking about the fabric that intertwined your life; and talking endlessly to friends about your brilliance as an actor. My thrist led me on a journey of intense searches via the Internet, past and present news articles, interviews, pictures, and tv appearances that would somehow give me an inkling of insight into the person, artist and fellow human being. But to no avail my researches always came up short. I came to realize that I was limited to the celluiod versions of you because you were a very private man.
    When I finally heard the news of your journey to that most devine place on Jan. 14, 2004, my heart felt heavy with sorrow and regret; because I now knew that the answers to my quest and its urgency had finally come to light. Ron O’Neal always know that I and and millions of your fans will miss your dearly, and that we are truly thankful that we can turn on our tvs and/or watch a movie and feel that we still have a part of you here with us forever. And, that that in itself gives us the ultimate pleasure to continue to bask in the essence of you and the legacy of your work left behind before saying farewell. I truly wish that I could have met and talked with you in your life time. I know that we would have been friends. For now I send my loving regards to your wife, family and friends in these passing days. GOODBYE dear Ron O’Neal. Rest In Peace. Your mind, body and soul will truly be missed by those of us here on earth…Tracey, Washington, DC

  23. J. colon

    I have just finished watching the movie “Superfly”. Although it came out the year that I graduated from high school, I had never seen it until tonight. This movie is a classic and part of movie history. I am so proud of the trail that the actors blazed for the movies that followed. It saddens me that such an incredibly talent actor as Ron O’Neal could not get beyond the Priest character and other stereotypes of that era. It is truly our lost that we will not have the privilege of seeing more of his talent. May God bless and keep him always.
    A New Fan

  24. rd

    I am saddened to learn of Mr. Ron O’Neal’s death. He was not only a true talent, he had what few people have these days-integrity.
    He will always have a special place in my heart, as I first saw him in Superfly when I was but a teen. However, as an adult I have had the opportunity to hear and read his commentary on the film, and he clearly took responsiblity for making sure that drug dealing was/is not glamorized.
    Thank you, Mr. O’Neal
    RD

  25. Kimberly Valentino

    It sadden me that I had to find out about Mr.O Neals death thru our sag magazine obituary section which was resently.I never heard anything on the radio…television or in the newspaper and that’s a shame.Mr.O Neal was on of the most talented actors of his time and it sadden me that he did not get the recognition that he deserved!!!When Mr.O Neal hit the screen as preist in “SUPERFLY” he was electrifying!!!!!
    And electricity like that…never fades away!!!!

  26. Debbi Overly

    I was shocked and saddened to hear of Mr. O’Neal’s death earlier this year. His most famous film was of course SUPERFLY, and I recently purchased the DVD. The film itself epitomized the early 1970’s, and was one of the best of its genre. To me, Ron had a magnetic personality, great looks, and was a solid actor. He added presence to the screen. It may seem silly, but whenever I need some courage or fortitude, I think of his character “Priest”, and it helps. Priest was smart, strong, focused, and confident. No one messed with him and got away with it. The world will miss this fine actor, but at least we will have the work he left behind.
    Goodbye Ron….

  27. Rene'

    My condolences to the family of Ron O’Neal. I recently found out about his passing and was deeply saddened. He will always be remembered as “Priest”, but he also impeccably portrayed “Mercer Gilbert”, “Whitley’s” devoted father on “A Diff’rent World”. The world has truly lost a great actor. R.I.P.

  28. DJ PRONE

    Couldn’t believe it when i heard Ron had passed on.. this year has certainly taken a few great people away from us, being over here in LONDON UK ive only just found out about Mr o’Neal’s death & i am sad to hear about this… although i was only probably 4 years old when Superfly blew up, i came across Ron O’neals work later in life & always thought he was one of the most talented overlooked black actors.. Peace and respect to Ron O’neal and his Family.. The Priest & the Hitter will be surely missed

  29. Carmelita & Romeo Jahi

    The morning after Christmas 2004, and I am in tears. As I watch a tribute to deceased film stars on Turner Classic Movie Channel, suddenly Ron O’neal’s face enters the screen. With tears in my eyes, I run to my computer to investigate. How could this be? I don’t recall any articles about Mr. O’neal’s death in 2004. I don’t recall any of our magazines with his face on the cover upon his death. This is a tragedy of infinite proportions… So, I type Mr. O’neals name in a search engine, and sure enough, it is confirmed as I arrive at this very website. I’m all choked up with tears streaming down my face, as I tell my husband of the news I recently learned of Mr. O’neal’s death. We are both great fans of Mr. O’neal’s, and can recite just about every line he uttered in Superfly.
    I was born two years after Superfly was released, and did not discover the film until 2001. I grew up on musicals mostly, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Grease, and etc. As an effort to become more familiarized with Soul Cinema, I compiled a list of films that were popular in the 70’s for African Americans, and Superfly was #1 on that list, and since my first viewing, I have watched it at least 20 times or more with my husband.
    Ron O’neal’s character, “Priest”, exemplified a strong black man with pride, who was determined to establish a better life for himself, and even more determined to break free from, “THE MAN”. ALL of which, is echoed by the lyrics of the soundtrack recorded by Curtis Mayfield.
    Mr. O’neal’s character, “Priest” in Superfly helped me realize the sruggles of the black man during the 1970’s, which could still be applicable to this date.
    Mr.O’neal, my husband and I are great fans, and we shall always remember you, and teach our children of your great contributions to, Soul Cinema. You are the best and brightest! We wish to extend our condolences to the family of Mr. O’neal.
    Mr. O’neal, may your soul forever rest in peace and paradise with our creator God. Peace be unto you our brother whom we’ve never known. Peace be unto you!

  30. Sheila Murray

    All my family condolences to Ron Oneals family. I remember when I was younger I seen him for the first time in real life is when they had this barber shop in Harlem on 121 Street in 7th Avenue
    called, (Superfly)I was only 15 years old and pregnant, when they mention his named all the people in the neighborhood couldn’t wait to see there numberone star.He made all the blacks feel good about them selfs. Then more black barber shops started to rise in harlem. Rest in peace my Brother you will never be forgotten about in my family.

  31. J.E. Bennett

    All I can say is what a loss! I remember seeing superfly as a child and thinking that this guy Priest was so cool. This movie was really the beginning of the balck film revolution of the 70’s. There were numerous black films that followed, some good, some not, but SUPERFLY was the MACK (smile) of them all. My dad had a blue 1972 cadillac eldorado and it was very similar to what Priest drove in SuperFly. I just brought SuperFly on DVD along with several other black films from the 70’s (Claudine, Cotton comes to Harlem, Uptown Saturday Night, A Piece of the Action, to name a few. Hats off to producer Sig Shore who had the heart to make the movie. I bet many of you did not know that Canada Lee’s son played Priest’ partner in the movie?

  32. Elizbetha

    All I can say is that I love him,and his movie SuperFly.He really looked good when he was fighting in slow motion.His hair style really looked good on him.I liked the way the movie ended with him in control.May he be with God and God with his family and love ones.

  33. J Fernandez

    I purchased the DVD ‘Superfly’ via the Internet about 8 months ago and did not realize that Mr. O’Neal had passed away until tonight. May God almighty bless you, your work will continue to live on!

  34. CHARLIE LLOYD

    I WAS A THEATRE MANAGER AND PLAYED SUPERFLY WHEN IT WAS RELEASED.THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CAME TO SEE IT, IT WAS GREAT I STILL WATCH IT TODAY REMINDS ME OF DAYS GONE BY SOME OF THE BEST TIMES IN MY LIFE MY GOD BLESS THE FAMILY OF RON ONEAL.

  35. Gideon Marcus

    This is just amazing. Just today I found out that Mr. O’Neal had been in Superfly and had such a stereotyped image. I didn’t even realize he was black!
    I remember him from two of my favorite movies:
    The Final Countdown where he does a good job playing the XO and Red Dawn where his nuanced performances as Colonel Bella is really a scene-stealer. I wonder how much spanish and russian he learned to do that part or if there was a dubber involved. It *sounds* like him, though.
    Now I go to this site and learn he died last year. Really a shame.

  36. Crystal 22

    I’m too young to know him as Superfly, but I do remember his reaccurring role on A Different World as Whitley Gilbert’s father. I had know clue he was Superfly. I put two and two together when he was referred to in Menace to Society. Thats more my time frame. Rest In Peace.

  37. Sriram

    I did not grow up in the 70’s unfortunately, where I would’ve had the pleasure of seeing stars like Mr. O’Neal, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, and Richard Roundtree develop into the charismatic and powerful presence that will luckily be etched into Hollywood history. I first saw Superfly when I was 18 (in 1996) because a few of my friends used to call me Superfly just to tease me, and only after I saw the movie itself did I start taking their jokes as a compliment. The next day after I saw Superfly, I watched Original Gangstas, and even though he was already approaching 60 when Gangstas was released, his delivery, emotion, and absolute coolness was something I was in awe of. To this day we can only dream of the type of respect and love that Mr. O’Neal has from us. He truly was a pioneer for not only African Americans, but he honestly was on of the select few that helped usher in a new era of film, where the lines between good and evil are drawn closer together and are alot more gray in color. Films like Superfly, Black Caesar and later on, the famed John Woo films from Hong Kong in the 1980’s helped us see a part of the real world that we are sheltered from by our parents when we are growing up. I thank Mr. O’Neal for having that kind of impact on myself as a person, and I’m sure, for most of us who respect and admire his work. We all miss you, and can’t wait to see you in the afterlife.

  38. DMartin

    Mr. O’Neal was an excellent actor. I too missed his passing and was sorry to hear that few media outlets got the word out. However, he left a legacy of work, and will be forever missed.

  39. Patricia Cas

    I to was sadden at the passing of Ron O’Neal, when superfly came out, I was 13,or 14, however as everbody has said, he was a truley great actor,His struggles were insurmountable, He never received the notriety that he should have received, even at his passing, no media spoke of his passing,or of his legacy, I can only hope that I could have met this talent, and loving person,but all I have is the movise of him Superfly, I can’t even find a copy of the sequel to superfly, if anyone can find a copy of the sequel please e-mail me at cash914@bellsouth.net
    I am truly sadden God bless you Ron O’Neal and your family forever, Virgo’s Peace unto you Ron O’Neal My heart cries for you, becasue you never received the respect that you deserved on this earth, but you have it in Heaven, Rest in Peace, prayers to your family, and peace unto them.
    cash914@bellsouth.net

  40. Princene

    I rented the dvd version of Superfly (am watching it now). Ron O’Neal is coming across as a very real brother…he wanted out but played the game to get out! He was beautiful fine! In fact I have two children on this earth because when I met their Dad he had that same hair do and demeaner! So he impacted our lives in the late 1970’s. I’m a writer, know more about me at http://www.princene.blogspot.com – I have current goals to write about Nelson Mandela’s son but eventually I would love to do a film about Ron O Neal…he’s a very interesting character…Can Terrence Howard do him justice? Hummmmmm, hit me up about me writing the film with Terrence Howard in mind.
    Peace out – Princene http://www.princene.blogspot.com

  41. kat dudley

    Just came across this blog kind of by accident and had to put in my two cents worth about Ron O’Neil. I saw SUPERFLY when it came out long ago. It was being tagged “blaxploitation” back then, and that term did it more harm than good BECAUSE it put some people off, off from going to see a film which *seemed* to glamorize a “bad” guy. what it really was about was a guy mired down by bigotry, sterotypes, and circumstance just “trying to get over”. The way(s) he accomplishes this is not alwys admirable, but does get the job done and the truly bad guys get their comeupance in the end. Ron O’Neil was magnetic, graceful and fine in a role which *could* have been laughable. BUT he brought a dignity to “Priest” whch the character might not have really deserved. BUt O’neil put heart, soul and humanity into a character who was cool, yes – but not always “good”. In other words, Ron O’Neil was an A-C-T-O-R who never got enough recognition for his body of work. Young men of today might study the underlying message of this classic movie, which also has been sadly overlooked for all the *right* things it portrays. Never mind the pimped-out wardrobe, the cool music (chich remains on this old white woman’s IPPOD as we speak), just mind what Ron O’Neil was portraying. I’ve heard him critized thru the years for making this movie – uh-huh, don’t you all buy into THAT for a mnute. “Priest” was cool, and a lot of other things as well. It was Mr. O’Neil who made him thus! What a loss to the theatrical world, and to all of us a well. Real talent is SO very rare.
    =======

  42. Simeko

    Ron O’Neal, a great actor, a brother with a true gift, may you rest in peace Ron, proper recognition may have not been given to you while you were here with us on earth, but in my heart you are with Our Father, The Most High, I feel you will get the honor and the halo you deserved there with our Lord, Peace be onto you.
    Ron O’Neal DVD is avaible in Walmart, you can also make the sound track there at the cashier’s department where you purchase the music, dvd’s, cell phones etc. There’s a computer there called Hands On Entertainment to make it on , God bless you and your family Ron
    To all who have lost in this life that we live, I Simeko Revador’ Author of ‘ GOD IS JUST A PRAYER AWAY, I to have lost before hurricane Katrina, durning, and after, please know that God is ‘AN ON TIME GOD
    http://msl2005a.homestead.com/0108.html

  43. Cherrie

    Ron you were the best my mother wouldn’t let me watch the movie Super Fly when I turned 18 I bought the tape I watch it every chance I get see you on the other side.

  44. Kisha

    I just happened upon this site when I was looking up some information on Ron O’Neal. I remember hearing of his passing on a blck talk radio show I was listening to. For some reason, I knew who Ron O’Neal was without someone having to mention the film Superfly. Never having seen the film Superfly until a few days ago, I am amazed at this man. His performance in Superfly was deserving of accolades, awards, etc. But instead he was criticized by both blacks and whites in his portrayal of what they perceived to be a glorification of the street life. Had this film come out today, with Ron O’Neal playing the lead character he would have been celebrated. It saddens me when I look at his career-how promising it began and quickly it nosedived-all because of the criticism surrounding the film. Hopefully, he’ll get his due. Hopefully, some appreciative filmaker will produce a documentary or movie on his life-and he will be better remembered as he deserves to be. Rest in peace, beautiful brother.

  45. Scatter

    I surfed to find out about Ron O’Neal after seeing him in Superfly on TCM’s Black Movies month. I’m surprised he didn’t get better roles after Superfly, but I can understand seeing how the movie reflected an almost too real scene going on at the time. I lived in New York and the movie definitely reflected a real vibe existing there at the time. I can imagine that closeness-to-reality aided the effort to bury this drug-fueled post Vietnam era excursion all together – including all too real depictions of it – not to mention a coke-fueled ghetto superman who snorts coke in corrupt cops faces and kicks their butts and gets away with it.
    The movie does has some thinking aspects. I like the part where the gambler calls Priest a “white (n-word)” and Priest punches him to the floor. O’Neal was too much like the real thing but too different as well. It is a shame he didn’t get a part in a movie like “Scarface” where he could have done justice to his persona in fitting surroundings.

  46. Jacquelyn Fisher

    TO THE FAMILY OF MR. RON O’NEAL,
    I AM TRULY SORRY ABOUT RON’S PASSING. RON WAS
    A WONDERFUL ACTOR, IT IS SO SAD THAT THE MOVIE
    INDUSTRY, DID NOT REALIZE THAT. I WAS LOOKING
    AT HIS MOVIE “SUPERFLY” YESTERDAY, I’VE THAT
    VHS FOR YEARS. I LOVE THAT MOVIE AND MY CHILD-
    REN WAS RAISED UP WATCHING THAT MOVIE, THEY
    LOVE AND RESPECT MR. O’NEAL, BECAUSE HE TOOK
    SOMETHING NEGATIVE AND TURNED IT INTO A POSITIVE
    I CAN REMEMBER IN THE EARLY 70’S I LIVED IN NEW
    YORK CITY MANHATTEN, I HAD A FRIEND THAT LIVED
    ACROSS THE STREET FROM RON ON 82ND STREET, HE
    TOOK ME OVER TO RON’S APARTMENT, I DID NOT GET
    A CHANCE TO MEET RON, HE WAS NOT HOME, BUT I DID
    MEET HIS GIRLFRIEND M’S BANKS AND HIS DOG BABY.
    I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED AND RESPECTED RON AND HIS
    WORK. RON IS GONE BUT NEVER WILL BE FORGOTTEN,
    HE IS A LEGEND AND WILL ALWAYS LIVE ON IN THE
    HEARTS OF ALL, WHO HAD THE CHANCE TO KNOW THIS
    GREAT MAN. “THE UNSUNG HEROE”.

  47. Derrick Scobey

    I have watched Superfly since I was a child growing up in Oklahoma City, I went wo the Tower theatre on 23rd st. to watch it when it came out, I just watched it tonight and Priest was and is still “The Man” I will tell all my little connection to Mr. Ron O’neal. I believe it was 1973 or 74, My Mother had washed my hair the night before school and put a stocking cap (this was before doo-rags) on my head and when I woke the next morning and took it off to get ready for school, even at 6 or 7 years old I made a decision I wasn’t going to school and the reason was my hair was completely straight (I have always had what people refer to as “good hair”) and I knew all of the kids were going to laugh at me, well my Mother came into the bathroom where I was and told me “It’s okay baby you look like Superfly” She had me at Superfly, It was on then I excitedly got ready for school and had a great day! And had no problems from anyone because I looked like the Man, the Legend Superfly! May God continue to give peace to Mr. O’neal’s family.

  48. Ricky Jackson

    Goodbye Mr. Oneal, you will be sorely missed. I was only 7 years old when you did the box office smash SUPERFLY one of my favorites. But with that movie and your past work you will always live on in our hearts.
    Big Fan, Ricky Jackson

  49. Chandra Mosley

    Mr. O’Neal was a genious, I saw a number of his films that followed the original “SUPERFLY”, and was always impresses with the way he brought characters to life. He made “Priest” a household name in the black community. He will be truly missed.

  50. Nicole

    I just found out that Ron O’Neal had passed. I am shocked. I cannot believe that it was not made more public.I was about 16 and at a very impressionable age when Superfly first came out. I was so in love,that it took me several viewings of the movie to know what it was about. He definitely affected my taste in men. My heart goes out to his family and I pray that he is at peace and is adding just a little more beauty to an already beautiful place, heaven.

  51. Maria

    I just want to say that I still cant get over the fact(and it is a fact) that Mr Ron O’Neal is gone from this earth. It still hurts as though it was yesterday he passed on. To his wife Audrey, thank you for taking good care of him and loving him the way you did.. He was such a phenomenal actor, and I miss him so much.. It hurts!!! I have my 70’s nite every Friday nite, and I know this sounds obssesive, but every friday nite I watch Claudine, Cooley High, Sugar Hill, in that order, and making sure I watch Super Fly and Super Fly TNT last so it could stay in my mind for the nite.I love him so much and will never forget him. Peace and Blessings to you my Brother up in heaven…..

  52. JFields

    I was blessed to be of age to be able to attend the “actual” box office release of “SUPERFLY” and I have the DVD in my collection. This movie is truly one of the all time great Hustler movies. Superfly represents the current struggle black men are having to this day. We constantly stuggle with corporate america as well as street life to feed our families while struggling inside to find our on way to be independant from “Making a profit for the man”. “I am so glad I’ve got my own….” R.I.P RON “SUPERFLY, YOUNGBLOOD, PRIEST O’NEAL!!!!”

  53. Ron O'neal Hill

    In 1973 my mother initially an Alabama girl gave birth to me,in Lansing MI.at the age of 28.She told me the story behind my name,she once stated to me that while pregnant with me how she craved for some blue berry ice cream and to see the movie Super Fly!I could understand the ice cream but why did she needed to see this movie? Well she anwsered that question with pleasure,she had a tremendous crush on Ron O’neal and his character in that particular movie.So Thats how I became A.K.A Super Fly!

  54. Janice C

    I was 11 years old when I saw the movie Superfly. My mother had dropped me and my sister off at the theater not knowing that Superfly was rated R. A black lady told the cashier that we were with her so we were able to see the movie. I loved the movie then and I still love it to this day. The actors were brilliant especially Ron O’Neal. He was the first Black actor I had a crush on. He was stunning to look at and talented beyond belief. It’s sad that he did not get the credit he deserved. He had the versitility to play many different roles. I think it was obvious that Hollywood probably felt threatened by a handsome, talented/gifted Black actor. I think Hollywood still feels threatened by our beauty and our gifts. Anyway, Ron you are indeed loved and miss by us all and may you rest in peace.

  55. Vannessa

    I have to be Ron O’Neal’s biggest fan. I was 12 when Superfly came out and I have been a true fan since. I married my own superfly at age 19, (My Husband was 30). Tall, slender, handsome, same type of hair as Ron, same skin color, and of course he drove the same type of caddie, and dressed to the t. My children range in age from 25 to 6 years old and all are fans. I have one of the original posters of the movie Superfly hanging in my family room. Ron’s presence will last forever in our home.
    RIP My Brother!!!!!

  56. Vincent

    Superfly hit home on many fronts. Ron did a superb job as Priest and Curtis’s score was about as good as it gets.
    Those of us struggling through life, working hard, trying to get out from under, identify with Priest.
    I think of Ron often and I wish him peace.

  57. pat baker

    I just watch a movie called Original Gangstas with
    Ron O’Neal,Fred Williams,Jim Brown,Richard Roundtree an Pam Grier.It was a good movie,I’m very heart broken to hear about Ron.To see all of
    African American heartthrobs together on a movie is phenominal.Rest In Peace Mr.O’Neal you will forever be missed.
    P.Baker
    Minneapolis,Mn

  58. MARIA

    THERE IS NOT A DAY THAT GOES BY THAT I DO NOT THINK OF RON. WE MET IN THE SUMMER OF 1972, AND I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES WHEN I SAW HIM. I INTRODUCED MYSELF TO HIM AND WE HAD A WONDEFUL CONVERSATION ABOUT EVERYTHING. I WILL NEVER EVER FORGET RON AS LONG AS I LIVE. (I CALLED HIM ROMEY) HE WAS A GREAT ACTOR AND A WONDERFUL FRIEND. I MISS THE LONG TALKS WE HAD. REST IN PEACE MY SWEETIE, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU, AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. “YOUR DOLLFACE”

  59. LENORE FARROW

    i remember when i first saw superfly i couldn’t believe how gourgeous ron o’neal was., i’am so glad that i was of age to go see the movie and til this day i still watch it.i’am blessed to have known such an excellent actor. i give my love to his family and friends.god bless you all!!!

  60. Julian

    I watched Ron O’Neal on Superfly for the first time on Sunday morning 3rd of June, 2007 in the UK, but to tell the truth, I am a Curtis Mayfield fan and had the “Superfly” album and wanted to always see the movie. Back in the 1980s I bought a second hand “Superfly” movie on video but, it did not work, as it had been played over and over… understandably.
    I was amazed how coolly and thoroughly acted “Priest” was done by Ron O’Neal… I was even more amazed that he was not that much recognised by the US media of his time and I could clearly see why that was.
    I could see that he was well ahead of his time in mind and style; Ron O’Neal has left his mark… I can see where Snoop Dog gets his dress sense from.
    The man deserved better than what he received in this life… God bless his SOUL for the next life…

  61. Willie R. Gordon

    I love the movie superfly. It’s my favorite film ever. I like the clothes that they wore back then. My man , Mr. Ron O’neil will be greaty missed. I just found out he had passed. I like to dress like superfly now.

  62. Willie R. Gordon

    I love the movie superfly. It’s my favorite film ever. I like the clothes that they wore back then. My man , Mr. Ron O’neil will be greaty missed. I just found out he had passed. I like to dress like superfly now.

  63. vanessa j

    Anyone who has seen SUPERFLY will never forget it or Ron Oneal he will be missed forever, RIP my brother I never met ya But I loved Ya.vanessa J from cleveland ohio

  64. BEVERLY STEVEBS

    REMEMBERING THIS WONDERFUL INDIVICUAL WITH SO MUCH TALENT AND ASTONISHING GOOD LOOKS..
    SO GLAD HE HAILED FROM OHIO…WHICH IS WHERE MY MOM WAS FROM..HE EVEN LOOKS LIKE FAMILY…
    THE INDUSTRY SHOULD HAVE CASTED HIM ON MORE FILM.
    HE WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME IN MOVIES LIKE “DIE HARD”, “LEATHAL WEAPON” ETC…RON IS IN GODS HANDS NOW…
    BEVERLY FROM AMITYVILLE, NEW YORK

  65. Mr. C AKRON OHIO

    Ron Played a great part in Superfly and the movie is easy related to by people of what we say is old school , the message is their with a lot of knowledge that is real I watch the movie to think about the era in which I grew up in because a lot of it is history and fact Ron made other movies and he was the type of actor that could hold your interest GOD BLESS THE O’NEAL FAMILY THROUGH OUT THE TIME THANK YOU FOR FOR MY PASS.

  66. Colleen Winn

    Yes, Ron ONeal was a great actor–if Hollywood would have dignified his potentials as a diverse actor who could have carried many leading roles–then we may have been reading a tribute to a man-a great actor that ranked amongst the best up there with Marlon Brando and Sir Lawrence Olivier. But we live in a world that is not color blind and refuses to provide opportunites that will show case our larger-than-life abilities. I did read many years ago that Mr. O’Neal was of hispanic ancestry and that is why he could carry roles outside of portraying a black character. May we refuse to let his memory die. Long live Mr. O’Neal and I pray that he rests in peace with a father in heaven that judges us not on our external qualities but who has known personally our hearts.

    • dotti46

      ron was a bi-racial mix of black and white ancestry. there were pics of his father (who was black) and his mother featured on e! true hollywood story.

  67. MARIA

    Ron, you will never be forgotten as long as I live. I have fond memories of you. You were the “best friend”, and I Love You…
    Rest In Peace My Love!!

  68. Marissa

    I cry every time I think about his death. It’s been three years. Ron O’Neal was a great actor, and “Superfly” is my favorite movie of all time. He was so fine!!!! and so very talented. I also remember he had a part in “A Different World” as Whitley’s dad. I miss him so much! May he rest in everlasting peace.
    MeMe

  69. Priest

    The great Ron O’Neal also known to most of the world as Priest in the movie SuperFly. He will be dearly missed and most of all he was my mentor. At a young age so much i have been called Priest for the better years of my life also known as ghetto Prince even doe it was a charater in a movie he was so real wit it it over came me in tru sense and i always respect and luv da brotha as a magnificant actor and person. He is truly missed by me so personally that i have the orginal Super Fly logo tatted on my arm along with Priest so there for Brotha O’Neal will always ride wit me to da day i die and meet him in heaven.
    Peace

  70. BXjohn

    Priest was one of the coolest dudes ever in a movie. The caddy with the spokes & gangster whites did it for all us italian guys in the bronx.MR oNeil was a trend setter back in the day and will always be remembered as the man.

  71. Markus

    This is truely a sad time for me, not knowing that my idol Ron Oneal passed away 4 years ago to this same date.. I had no clue that he was gone.. My heart is truely saddend and heartbroken. Ron and I were born on the same day Sept 1st. I would like to send my condolences to his family,friends,fans and admirer’s…Know that we will all see Ron again!

  72. Brenda McCurdy Rhoads

    Just found out about our friend Ronnie Oneal. Knew him as a child growing up in Cleveland on Morrison av. Ran accross this news by accident and was so disappointed. Have been so proud of him. Was hoping to meet him again this side of eternity, but will be happy to see him again some day on the other side.
    Brenda McCurdy Rhoads diamondbrendi@aol.com Are there any of the old gang out there?

  73. Tee

    The MAN WAS BADDD
    I was 16 years old when SuperFly came out, and I got my hair fried died and laid to the side so I could look cool like Ron Oneal. Ron should get credit for the change in style he started. The extra long coates, and long dog coller shirts.
    It is time for people to DRESS SHARP and look clean, and not have to pay thousands of dollars.
    They say clothes never go out of style, let the year 2009 be the year we give this BADD BROTHER his DUE. I would like to see those in the spot light wearing the LONG COATES AND DOG COLLERS in 2009. Keep Ron’s sprit alive in 2009

  74. Blane Hope

    Believe it or not I recently found out about Rons death, Not a good day for me Cause I loved Ron the Part he played in Super Fly was pure talent,I wanted so bad too be him with that long ( L Dog)Caddy, I will miss MR Ron May he rest in peace may his family find peace

  75. Edward M. Denton

    I just watch Superfly on DVD yesterday; I recall a cousin of mine going to see the movie in 72 and coming home raving about in the movie SHAFT he only had one or 2 outfits in the whole movie and in Superfly Ron changed in also every scene. You could see and feel how intense Mr. O’neal was in character. I do wish people would remember that Sweetback Badassss Song, Shaft, Superfly were NOT part of the blaxploitation movies, this term was for all of the movies that followed. My other personal fond memory; was when the love making tub scene between Priest and Georgia started my Mother pushed my 10 year head down between and said don’t look! RIP Ron O’neal.

  76. Tamara

    All my life I loved Ron O’neal. I didn’t know him personally but I always fantasized about this man. I was eleven years old when I saw Superfly-Ahhh what a man. I wanted to be Sheila Frazier in that bath tub scene. Great talent, great loss, Rest in peace Ron. I will never forget you.

  77. Terry

    What a great person he was, I met and dated him many years ago. In South Jersey, (Atlantic city)we had many good times. He was something (I mean that in the best way) May he RIP and may the Lord keep his family in his arms forever. I know he’s with our lord. Ron had a wonderful Heart and his feeling ran deep. I’ll aways keep you in that speical place in my heart. sleep my dear

  78. josephine Boshell

    I am so sorry to hear of the death of Ron O’Neill I was 20 when Superfly was released, It is one of my favourite films, I just watched it again last night.
    R.I.P Ron O’Neill
    Fan from Dublin Ireland

  79. Kimberly

    On May 17, 2009, this is the first time that I watched Superfly. This movie was out before I was born, but it’s a classic. My father died almost a year ago. My father style was so much similar than Ron O’Neil. My father was a school teacher, which he wore the suits; long coats that matched every outfit; and fedoras. It’s shame that Ron O’Neil isn’t recognized as one of the pioneers that paved the way for all the other black actors. I’m 27 years old, with an old soul, and I know an original actor with talent that influenced a generation.

  80. Mary Dawson, Fort Madison, Iowa

    I was watching “Superfly” tonight on BET and went online to see what Ron looked like now just out of curiosity and was surprised to see that he had gone to “THE OTHER SIDE”. There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. I’ll think of him every time I play my OLD vinyl “Superfly” album while I’m cleaning the house. Just like some others on this site, I agree: HE WAS ONE FINE, COOL DUDE!!!~ I saw the movie when it came out downtown in Chicago and had not seen it again until tonight…maybe I can find it on DVD. One more sad loss….

  81. Tp

    Mr. O’neal from all I seen and heard was one classy guy, to bad he grew up in a time when and still now people are classfied by the pigmentation. If any one should be inducted into the hollywood walk of fame this man should. I was 12 yrs old when Superfly came out it’s is just as powerful then to watch as it is now . RIP and thanks.

  82. Maria

    I will never ever forget you Ron.. You meant so much to me, kept me focused, and was just a wonderful friend. I have lovely, heartfelt memories of all the things we shared.. Rest In Peace my love*** Maria

  83. eric hood

    In our twenties eric hood and benny smith of decatur illinois went to see this movie.it had an impact on us.for that era this movie was years ahead of its time.

  84. not necessary

    met ron at pointsetta park around 1979 , good dude , told met about the life he’d lived . An i change my direction . Thanks

  85. Dee

    Ron I love you still, I grew up in Gary In. in the 70’s I saw SUPERFLY in 1972 with my sister. At the Palace Theater down ton Gary In. Then I saw it again at age 16 with my high school sweetheart. We have since lived in California for thirty years and have been married for over thirty years. My husbands eyes reminds me of Ron’s. We fell in love that year. I wiil alway’s appreciate Ron’s work I will alway’s miss him!! May God continue to keep his wife and kids, and alway’s watch over you.
    Sincerely
    Curt & Dee

  86. LILLIAN WILSON

    I WAS TRULY HURT WHEN LEARNING THE DEATH OF RON O’NEAL. I WENT TO THE MOVEIES FIVE TIMES TO SEE SUPERFLY. HE ACTUALLY GOT MARRIED ON MY BIRTHDAY DATE,NOV.10. HE WAS MY IMAGINARY LOVE. I WILL ALWAYS HAVE HIM IN MY HEART. TO HIS FAMILY YOU HAVE MY DEEPEST SYMPATHTY.

  87. dotti46

    no disrespect to his widow but i always hoped he and his ex-wife carol tillery banks would reunite. she came across as a sole full of class and spiritual sweetness. her book of poems ‘hello with love to me’ was at the same time sad and inspiring as she expressed her struggle to glue together her brokenness from losing him to another. she revealed not a speck of bitterness; only determination to pick herself up and move on.

  88. dotti46

    i also want to comment on how shameful ron oneal was treated by hollywood but what’s more shameful is the way his brothers and sisters in the media turned their backs on him. that they barely found his death worthy of mentioning was inexplicable and appalling. it’s unbelievable that he was such a force in the movie ‘super fly’ but was allowed to be blown away like so much dust in the wind.

  89. dotti46

    was the friend who took you to see ron named ‘ellen holly’ who had the first black role in the soap ‘one life to live?’ she wrote a book (one life) where she addressed the sadly disastrous love affair between her and ron. he must have really been ‘something’ because ellen and his ex-wife (carol banks) were left ‘aching’ when their relationships with him ended. from some of the comments on this post some of you feel the same. the man must have been unforgettable. oh, yeah! he was a magnificent actor as well.

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