Jennifer O'Neill (born February 20, 1948) is an American actress, model, author and speaker, known for her role in the 1971 film Summer of '42 and modelling for CoverGirl cosmetics starting in the 1970s.

Early life[edit source | editbeta]Edit

O'Neill was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. O'Neill and her older brother Michael were raised in New RochelleNew York, and Wilton, Connecticut. When she was 14, the family moved to New York City. On Easter Sunday, 1962, O'Neill attempted suicide because the move would separate her from her dog Mandy and horse Monty – "her whole world".[2] That same year, she was discovered by the Ford modeling agency and put under contract.[citation needed] By age 15, she was appearing on the cover of VogueCosmopolitanSeventeen and other magazines, earning$80,000 a year in 1962 working as a fashion model in New York City.[2]:71

An accomplished rider, O'Neill won upwards of 200 ribbons at horse show competitions in her teens. She bought a horse with her modelling fees, Alezon, who balked before a wall at a horse show, breaking O'Neill's neck and back in three places, and giving her a long period of recovery.[2]:83 She attended New York City's Professional Children's School and the Dalton School in Manhattan, but dropped out to wed her first husband at age 17.[3] Later, she moved on to films and worked in a number of television movies and series.

Career[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 1968 O'Neill landed a small role in For Love of Ivy. In 1970 she played one of the lead female roles in Rio Lobo starring opposite John Wayne[4]

She is most remembered for her role in the 1971 film Summer of '42, where she played Dorothy Walker, the young widow of a pilot shot down and killed in World War II. She stated in a published 2002 interview that her agent had to fight to even get a reading for the part,[5] since the role had been cast for an "older woman" to a "coming of age" 15 year old boy, and the director was only considering actresses over the age of thirty, Barbra Streisand being at the top of the list.

O'Neill continued acting for the next two decades. She appeared in The Carey Treatment (1972), Lady Ice (1973), The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), Caravans (1978), A Force of One(1979), Scanners (1981), and The Cover Girl Murders (1993 made-for-television film). She went to Europe in 1976 and worked with Italian director Luchino Visconti, appearing in his last film L'innocente (1976), where she played the part of the mistress, Teresa Raffo.

In 1982, O'Neill starred in the short-lived NBC prime time soap opera Bare Essence. She portrayed a role previously envisioned by actress Linda Evans in the miniseries that the soap was based on. She was initially reluctant to star in a TV series, because in those days actors usually only starred in either movies or on television.[6] Her attitude changed when TV miniseries such as Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots started featuring film stars.[6] When the movie business went into doldrum, she agreed to star in two TV movies, which she enjoyed, and then took on the starring role in Bare Essence.[6] In 1984, she played the lead female role on the CBS television series Cover Up.

O'Neill is also listed in the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History's Center for Advertising History for her long standing contract with Cover Girl cosmetics as its model and spokesperson in ads and television commercials.[7]

Personal life[edit source | editbeta]Edit

O'Neill has been married nine times to eight husbands (she married, divorced, and remarried husband number six); at one point, she was married to four different men in four years. At age 44, she married husband number seven sooner than any other actress, sooner than Zsa Zsa Gabor (who was 63), Liza Minnelli (59) and Lana Turner (49), making her the youngest "most married" Hollywood celebrity.[3] The August 23, 1993, issue of People magazine reports that a friend of O'Neill's says that the actress obtained the (Texas) annulment of marriage number seven (Neil L. Bonin – after less than five months) "... because she felt stifled."[8]

O'Neill has three children from as many fathers, a daughter (Aimee) by her first husband whom she married at age 17, and a son (Reis Michael) from her fifth marriage and another son (Cooper Alan) from her sixth marriage.[2]:95:174:209

At the age of thirty-four, O'Neill suffered a gunshot wound. Police officers in the Westchester County town of Bedford, New York, who interviewed O'Neill, determined that on October 23, 1982, she accidentally shot herself in the abdomen with a .38 caliber revolver at her 30-acre 25 room French style estate[9] while trying to determine if the weapon was loaded.[10] Her fourth husband at the time, John Lederer, was not in the house when the handgun was discharged. Detective Sgt. Thomas Rothwell was quoted as having said that O'Neill "didn't know much about guns."[11]

In her 1999 autobiography Surviving Myself, O'Neill describes many of her life experiences, including her marriages, career, and her move to her Tennessee farm in the late 1990s.[2] O'Neill says that she wrote the autobiography (her first book) "… at the prompting of her children."[2]

In 2004, O'Neill wrote and published From Fallen To Forgiven,[12] a book of biographical notes and philosophical thoughts about life and existence. The actress, who had an abortion after the divorce from her first husband while dating a Wall Street socialite, became a pro-life activist and a born-again Christian in 1986 at age 38, counseling abstinence to teens. Concerning her abortion, she writes:

I was told a lie from the pit of hell: that my baby was just a blob of tissue. The aftermath of abortion can be equally deadly for both mother and unborn child. A woman who has an abortion is sentenced to bear that for the rest of her life.[13]

O'Neill continues to be active as a writer working on her second autobiography CoverStory (release date – to be determined), an inspirational speaker, and fundraiser for the benefit of crisis pregnancy centers across the United States.[14]She has also served as the spokesperson for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign,[14] an organization for people who regret that they or their partners had abortions.

O'Neill works for other charitable causes, such as Retinitis Pigmentosa International and the Arthritis Foundation. As a breast cancer survivor she was once a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.[citation needed] She has hosted a one hour television special for World Vision shot in Africa concerning the HIV epidemic.[citation needed] O'Neill sponsors the Jennifer O'Neill Tennis Tournament to benefit the ASPCA, and fund-raiser for Guiding Eyes for the blind.[15]

O'Neill purchased a horse farm in Tennessee called Hillenglade Farm where she runs a non-profit organization as a ministry and retreat for girls and young women.[16]

Filmography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Year Film Role Other notes
1968 For Love of Ivy Sandy
1969 Futz! (uncredited)
1970 Rio Lobo Shasta Delaney
1971 Summer of '42 Dorothy
Such Good Friends Miranda Graham
1972 Glass Houses Jean
The Carey Treatment Georgia Hightower
1973 Lady Ice Paula Booth
1975 The Flower in His Mouth Elena Bardi
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud Ann Curtis
Whiffs Lt. Scottie Hallam
1976 L'innocente Teresa Raffo
Call Girl: La vida privada de una señorita bien
1977 Sette note in nero Virginia Ducci English title: The Psychic
1978 Caravans Ellen Jasper
1979 A Force of One Mandy Rust
Steel Cass Cassidy
1980 Cloud Dancer Helen St. Clair
1981 Scanners Kim Obrist
1987 I Love N.Y. Irene
1991 Committed Susan Manning
1992 Invasion of Privacy Hillary Wayne Direct-to-Video Release
Love Is Like That Ms. Alman
1993 Discretion Assured Paige
1994 The Visual Bible: Acts Lydia Direct-to-Video Release
1997 Raney Dr. Bridges
The Ride Ellen Stillwell
1999 The Prince and the Surfer Queen Albertina
2002 Time Changer Michelle Bain
2008 Billy: The Early Years Reporter
2012 Doonby Barbara Ann
Last Ounce of Courage Dottie Released Sept. 11, 2012
Year Title Role Notes
1979 Love's Savage Fury Laurel Taggart ABC


1981 The Other Victim Nancy Langford CBS


1983 Bare Essence Lady Bobbi Rowan
1984–1985 Cover Up Danielle Reynolds
1985 A.D. Valeria Messalina Miniseries
Chase Sandy Albright CBS


1986 Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star Alison Carr NBC


1988 The Red Spider Stephanie Hartford CBS


Glory Days Scotty Moran CBS


1989 Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal Debralee Taft NBC


1990 Personals Heather Moore TV-Movie
1992 Perfect Family Maggie TV-Movie
1993 The Cover Girl Murders Kate TV-Movie
1994 Jonathan Stone: Threat of Innocence Nan Stone NBC


1995 Silver Strand Louellen Peterson Showtime


1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Lorraine Compton Episode: "Revelations"
1997 The Corporate Ladder Irene Grace Playboy Channel TV-Movie[17]
Nash Bridges Jenny Episode: "Shake, Rattle & Roll"
2000 On Music Row Linda Rodgers TV-Movie

Books written[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Surviving Myself, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1999.
  • From Fallen to Forgiven, Thomas Nelson, 2002.
  • You're Not Alone: Healing Through God's Grace After Abortion. Faith Communications, 2005.
  • Remarkable Women, Insight Publishing Group, 2005.
  • A Fall Together, B&H Publishing Group, 2006.
  • A Winter of Wonders, B&H Publishing Group, 2007.
  • A Late Spring Frost, B&H Publishing Group, 2007
  • Faith Lessons, Insight Publishing Group, 2008.
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