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The "Real" Superfly Passes Away

Sat Jan 17, 2004 11:49 am

http://www.cleveland.com/obituary/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/107425621578640.xml


Ron O'Neal, star of film Superfly,' dies; acting career began on Cleveland stage

01/16/04

John Petkovic
Plain Dealer Reporter


Cleveland native Ron O'Neal, whose four-decade acting career went from the Karamu House stage to the mean streets to the mainstream, died late Wednesday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 66.

O'Neal, best known for his pioneering role in the 1972 hit "Superfly," had been hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was treated for pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with the illness four years ago - and was given two months to live.

But O'Neal never gave up and always remained dignified in his battle, said his wife, Audrey Pool O'Neal.

"Even as he was dying, he was joking and in lovely spirits," she said. "Even his physician was impressed with the valiant way he had handled his illness."

O'Neal handled the stage and screen the same way.

The Glenville High School graduate got his start in the mid-1950s at Karamu House, acting in productions of "Kiss Me Kate" and "Streetcar Named Desire."

He took great pride in his work and never placed himself above the work, said Reuben Silver, who directed O'Neal in the Tennessee Williams play.

"He was an actor of enormous talent and depth," said Silver. "He could play any character. But because he was African-American, he ran into trouble. He couldn't be typecast."

His breakthrough role did just that.

"Superfly," the story of a cocaine dealer who beats the system and walks away from the drug trade a wealthy man, became an unlikely box-office hit in 1972. It's no surprise: Unlike so many "blaxploitation films," it transcended the typical plot line by depicting stark reality not as a black-and- white issue but as a set of complex, gray choices.

But the nuance of the film and O'Neal's performance were lost on protesters who condemned the film's drug-laced message.

As a result, O'Neal found himself lost in Hollywood.

"Ron received a lot of negative attention because of the film," said Audrey O'Neal. "All they saw were the drugs. He saw it as a film about a man who wants to get out of that life and legitimize himself."

The quest mirrored O'Neal's career. Typecast as a pimp, O'Neal also had to battle another dilemma: light skin and straight hair.

"People would tell him, Sorry, you don't look black enough for this role,' " said Audrey O'Neal. "He couldn't understand how people could think that way. He believed that art transcended color and race."

As a result, O'Neal will always be known to the world as Super fly. Off screen, he could play any role, though - including lab technician.

"He assisted me in my work," said Au drey O'Neal, a Ph.D. candi date in me chanical engi neering at UCLA. "He knew how to build equipment, assemble and analyze data.

"He even could've been a comedian, he was so funny. And he had an incredible love of animals and traveling and art for art's sake."

O'Neal was perhaps too early a pioneer to play those roles on screen.

Funeral services are private for O'Neal, who also is survived by a sister, Kathleen O'Neal. Arrangements are being handled by Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills, Calif.
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I'm surprised our Superfly didn't post this. And if I missed a thread on this one, my apologies. I remember him in the movies "The Final Countdown" and "Red Dawn" when I was younger. Didn't know until today that he was another in a distinguished line of actors from this area.
 
scottysair
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RE: The "Real" Superfly Passes Away

Sat Jan 17, 2004 12:24 pm

I felt sorry to hear about him and what is happening for him. Is that was passed away? Is that he was very sick? It is his time ready to go and goes into the Heaven. Also, thanks for telling me about what happening to him.
 
Boeing4ever
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Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2001 12:06 pm

RE: The "Real" Superfly Passes Away

Sat Jan 17, 2004 1:47 pm

God Bless Him. May he rest in peace.

B4e-Forever New Frontiers
 
Superfly
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RE: The "Real" Superfly Passes Away

Sat Jan 17, 2004 2:10 pm

I am sad to hear about this. He is definately an under-rated actor and I wish he could have appeared in more high profile roles.

Actually I didn't know too much about him when I first joined A.net and chose Superfly as a username.
I just wanted a name that was a 70s reference but still could be tied to flying.

Ron O'Neil will be missed.




I have the Superfly soundtrack on LP and 8track.
Bring back the Concorde

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