Charles O'Neal; Novelist, Scriptwriter


Charles “Blackie” O'Neal, versatile writer who won the first Christopher Award for his beginning novel “The Three Wishes of Jamie McRuin,” has died. He was 92.

O'Neal, the father of actor Ryan O'Neal and screenwriter Kevin O'Neal, died Thursday in Los Angeles.

“With his novel of an Irish lad who dreamed three wishes and got them all,” The Times reported in 1949, “Charles O'Neal won the Christopher Award of $5,000. This is a Catholic prize but is given to non-Catholic books as well, and O'Neal’s light, humorous but also serious tale fits in well with the award’s specifications that the book accepted should be good, entertaining and for the entire family.”


An outgrowth of O'Neal’s interest in his Irish heritage, the book explored Jamie’s wishes to travel, to find a lovely wife and to have a son who could learn his native Gaelic. The first two wishes came true, but McRuin then parented a child with no voice to speak any language.

O'Neal also penned plays, film and television scripts and in 1964 co-wrote another novel, “The Thirty-Second Day.”

O'Neal’s first produced play was his adaptation of “Three Wishes” for the stage in 1951. He followed that with the play “Praise Hoyes” in 1953.

Among O'Neal’s screenplays of the 1940s and ‘50s were “The Missing Juror,” “I Have a Mystery,” “Return of the Badmen,” “Montana” and “Golden Girl.”

O'Neal also acted in his youth, most prominently at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, where he met his wife, Patricia O'Callaghan.

As he moved his growing family around Europe and to the Caribbean, O'Neal wrote a regular column for the Copley newspaper chain.

Born in Raeford, N.C., he attended the University of Iowa, where he played football. Before turning to acting and writing, O'Neal supported himself as a horse groom, telephone repairman and bank clerk.

In addition to his wife and two sons, O'Neal is survived by five grandchildren, including actress Tatum O'Neal.