Saturday, February 12, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Ron O'Neal

Day Twelve:

Ron O'Neal (1937-2004) was a critically acclaimed theater trained actor who got his start in motion pictures with the Elliott Gould comedy Move (1970) from 20th century fox and the Sidney Poitier action/thriller The Organization (1971). But it wasn't until his next role until he really captured the audience's attention...

And boy was it quite the role... Super Fly (1972) is the story of Priest, a drug dealer who wants out, but only after that one big deal. It's rightfully considered a classic of the time with a truly memorable score/soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. O'neal left such an impression on it's audience and critics that there was even discussion of him possibly getting an Academy Award nomination. Sadly, "The Man" wasn't quite ready to accept the Blaxploitation genre quite yet.

O'neal instead capitalized on his great Super Fly success with the sequel Super Fly T.N.T. (1973) which he also wrote and directed. The film didn't do very well at the box office and O'neal's interest in the genre soon weened. He had roles next in The Master Gunfighter (1975), Brothers (1977) and the one of the very last films in the Blaxploitation genre The Hitter (1979). He finished out the 70's with the Chuck Norris actioner A Force Of One (1979) and a role in the slasher classic When A Stranger Calls (1979).

O'neal's career was a bit up and down, but he did find roles in films like The Final Countdown (1980) a regular series role in Bring 'Em Back Alive TV Series (1982-83) and a memorable role as the cuban villain in Red Dawn (1984). He later showed up on The Equalizer TV Series (1986-87), with Chuck Norris once again but this time in the action-horror hybrid Hero And The Terror (1988).  He also had a role on A Different World TV Series (1988-92), starred and directed the film Up Against The Wall (1992) and appeared in the Blaxploitation throwbacks Original Gangstas (1996) and On The Edge (2002) also starred Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Bernie Casey and Ice-T which was his final film role.

Sadly, Ron O'neal passed away in 2004 after his 4 year struggle with Pancreatic Cancer. Coincidentally it was the same exact day the film he will be most remember for, Super Fly, was first released on DVD.

1 comment:

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

Ron O'Neal deserved bigger and better roles in Hollywood, but Hollywood was still a ways off from accepting African American actors as a serious part of the business like that. We often think of the classically trained English actors who ended up in Blaxploitation films because they could only get the part of Othello over there, but O'Neal was victim to the same phenomenon in the US, and it's too bad that we didn't get to see him get those major roles in bigger Hollywood films that he was meant to do.

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