Dark, dashing and coldly handsome with intense, penetrating eyes, Patrick O’Neal was known for walking that fine line between elegant heroics and elegant villainy during his five-decade career. Born in 1927 in Ocala, Florida, and of Irish descent, he served toward the end of WWII with the United States Army Air Corp and, in his late teens, was assigned to direct training shorts for the Signal Corps. A graduate of the University of Florida at Gainesville, he subsequently moved to New York City and continued his dramatic studies at the Actor’s Studio and Neighborhood Playhouse.
O’Neal made an initial impact in the early 1950s when he replaced Tony Randall in the hit Broadway comedy “Oh, Men! Oh, Women!”. Following a strong role in “The Far Country” (1961), he gave a superlative portrayal of the defrocked Reverend Shannon opposite Bette Davis. The attention earned O’Neal both lead and support roles on camera. A capable player used regularly in 1960s films and 1970s television, he was usually cast as either a rugged trooper in the action adventures King Rat (1965) and Assignment to Kill (1968); a careerist sycophant in the naval spectacle In Harm’s Way (1965); or as a flashy murderer in such gruesome yarns as Chamber of Horrors (1966), probably his best known film. In later years, it was almost strictly television movies and guest spots. His wife and brother owned several restaurants with him. He died in 1994 from respiratory failure while battling tuberculosis.
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