Kitty O’Neil, Biography, Early Life, Stunt Career, Husband & Facts

Kitty O'Neil Husband

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Kitty O’Neil Biography

Full nameKitty Linn O’Neil
Profession:Stunt-woman
Born:March 24, 1946, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA
Died:November 2, 2018, Eureka, South Dakota, USA
Age:72 Years
Weight:45 kg
Height:5′ 3″ (1.60 m)
Spouse:Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton
Parents: John R. O’Neil & Patsy Lynn Compton
Siblings:1 (John O’Neill III)
Net Worth$1 Million – $2 Million
Nationality:American

Who is Kitty O’Neil?

Kitty O’Neil was a famous and extraordinary American stuntwoman and a professional driver who was born on March 24, 1946 in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA.

She is known for her significant contributions to the world of motorsports and stunt performance. In 1976, she set the women’s land-speed record by driving a rocket-powered vehicle called the SMI Motivator to an average speed of 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h) in the Alvord Desert, Oregon. For this reason she got the title of the world’s fastest female driver.

In 2019, O’Neil was honoured with the Oscar Memoriam Award. She was the first woman in America to be included in the list of best stunt performers in the organisation called Stunts Unlimited.

O’Neil performed as a stuntwoman in various films and television shows during the 1970s. They performed dangerous stunts involving driving, water stunts, jumping and other risky manoeuvres. She never let her disability hinder her achievements.

Kitty O’Neil Early Life

O’Neil’s father was John R. O’Neil was an officer in the United States Air Force and her mother, Patsy Lynn Compton, is a teacher.

A few days after O’Neil’s birth, her father died in an air crash, leaving him to be raised by her mother.

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O’Neil had a very painful childhood. She was suffering from many diseases due to which she lost her hearing ability and became deaf forever.

Her education was done by her mother only. Along with her daughter, she also taught many deaf children. She also founded “The Listening Eyes School” for the deaf in Wichita Falls, Texas, USA.

O’Neil first learned from her mother how to play the cello by sensing subtle changes in the frequency of vibrations.

Kitty O’Neil Racing Career

O’Neil started her career as a diver at the age of 12. She was an accomplished diver who through hard work and dedication won many awards and competitions, including Youth Athlete of the Month.

O’Neil’s career as a world diver ended when she broke her wrist while diving. She then ventured into automobile racing and cross-country motorcycle racing after inspiration and guidance from many individuals.

O’Neil participated in various events including, drag racing and proved himself as a skilled and fearless competitor in the world of racing. She also lost two of her fingers due to an accident during car racing.

Kitty O’Neil Stunt Career 

Kitty O’Neil began her career in the stunt industry under the guidance of renowned stuntman and director Hal Needham. Needham provided him with opportunities to showcase her skills and supported her career in the stunt industry.

Additionally, O’Neil worked closely with other stunt professionals and filmmakers who appreciated her abilities and helped her navigate the competitive and often male-dominated world of stunt performance.

Kitty O’Neil Start of stunts in films

O’Neil did stunts for the first time in films with racer Duffy Hambleton. She met during automobile racing and later became a good friend.

O’Neil’s accomplishments are depicted in the 1979 film “Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story”, directed by Duffy Hambleton, based on her stunts, with Stockard Channing playing the role of Kitty. O’Neil did many stunt scenes in this film.

After this, she made her mark on the basis of stunt action in films like “The Bionic Woman”, “Wonder Woman”, “Smokey and the Bandit II”, “Airport ’77” and “Blues Brothers”.

Kitty O’Neil Notable Movies list

Movies Name Released Year
Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again1980
The Blues Brothers1980
Wonder Woman(1977- 1979)
Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story1979
Foul Play1978
Omen II : Damien1978
The Bionic Woman(1976 – 1978)
Foes1977
September Thirty(1955 – 1977)
Airport 771977
Two-Minute Warning1976
Airport 1975 1974

Kitty O’Neil’s most memorable stunts

Kitty O’Neil performed many dangerous stunts throughout her career. Some of her most memorable stunts include:

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O’Neil set the women’s land-speed record in 1976 by driving a hydrogen peroxide-powered three-wheel rocket car named the “SMI Motivator” to an average speed of 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h) in the Alvord Desert, Oregon.

O’Neil performed a daring water skiing jump by jumping onto five parked, floating boats on the Missouri River. This was one of hee memorable stunts.

In 1976, O’Neil, while playing Linda Carter in the television series “Wonder Woman”, performed a daring fall of 127 feet from a helicopter, setting a world record for the longest fall by a stuntwoman.

Apart from this, O’Neil has also done many fire stunts including setting fire and performing while surrounded by flames.

O’Neil, who amazed everyone with her skills in air, water and sky, set about 22 speed records in her career which is incredible.

She not only broke records in the field of stunts, but also paved the way for women in the male-dominated field of stunt work. Her fearlessness, skill and determination continue to inspire aspiring stunt performers around the world.

Kitty O’Neil Awards and Achievements

O’Neil was an extraordinary and talented stuntwoman and racer who achieved many accomplishments in her stunt work and the world of speed racing including:

  • Daredevil Award: O’Neil was a fearless and courageous stunt performer. She received the Daredevil Award for her remarkable feats in the field of stunt work and her significant contribution to the entertainment industry.
  • Stuntwoman Award: O’Neil was awarded the Stuntwoman Award in recognition of her contribution and excellence in stunt performance and coordination.
  • National Women’s Hall of Fame: In 1999, O’Neil was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her groundbreaking achievements in a variety of fields, including stunt work and motorsports.
  • Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures: O’Neil was included in the list of Hollywood’s best stuntmen by the organisation Stunts Unlimited.
  • O’Neil was awarded the title of “Fastest Woman Alive” in 1976 for running a maximum speed of 512.76 mph in the Alvord Desert.
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Kitty O’Neil’s Husband

Kitty O’Neil’s husband’s name was Ronald “Duffy” Hambleton. They first met while doing stunts in a film in the 1970s. Ronald “Duffy” was a bank executive before becoming a stunt performer. They have two children.

They divorced a few years before O’Neil’s death on November 2, 2018. O’Neil later remarried, but that marriage also ended.

Kitty O’Neil’s Net worth

Kitty O’Neil had an estimated net worth of approximately $1.2 million at the time of her death, reflecting his successful and lucrative career in the entertainment industry.

Did Kitty O’Neil face challenges as a woman in the stunt industry?

Kitty O’Neil faced many challenges as a woman in the stunt industry during her career. Despite her extraordinary talents and skills, she faced significant obstacles and prejudices because of her gender.

When O’Neil began her career in the stunt industry, the industry was completely male-dominated and women’s abilities were underestimated compared to men.

Many directors and producers were hesitant to hire a woman for demanding or risky stunt sequences, despite her proven abilities.

But with the help of people like Hal Needham and Duffy Hambleton, O’Neil paved the way for women by breaking records in the male-dominated stunt field and became a pioneer in the stunt industry.

Did Kitty O’Neil participate in any other sports or activities?

Kitty O’Neil was involved in various sports and activities throughout her life. In addition to her career as a stuntwoman and her record-breaking achievements in speed racing, O’Neill also participated in competitive water skiing. She was known for her adventurous spirit and willingness to push boundaries in various fields of sports and entertainment.

Kitty O’Neil’s resignation from stunt career and death

In 1986, O’Neil announced her resignation from her stunt career due to the murder of two of her friends. After retirement, O’Neil moved from the USA to Eureka, South Dakota, and spent the rest of her life there.

She breathed her last on 2 November 2018 at the age of 72 in South Dakota. Her death was due to pneumonia. She supported the American Cancer Society which plays a role in the fight against breast cancer.

Despite being deaf since childhood, O’Neil was not an ordinary woman who surprised everyone by performing stunts in the air, water and land, but was an amazingly courageous and fearless stuntman who played with danger.

She did not consider being physically deaf as a weakness and by working hard she proved that if a person has the passion to do something then everything is possible.

She inspired countless people around the world, especially those with disabilities, to continuously pursue their dreams and never let obstacles stand in their way.

On March 24, 2023, Google celebrated Kitty O’Neil’s 77th birthday by creating a doodle because O’Neil is an inspiration to the world who, despite being physically deaf, made a distinct identity for herself in the history of America and made many records.

Conclusion

Overall, Kitty O’Neil was a courageous, bold, fearless, and bilingual stunt performer who, despite being deaf, established her existence in the male-dominated stunt industry with her excellent stunts, car racing, and fire stunt talents. Hee achievements have left a lasting legacy in the world of motorsports and entertainment.

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