Very probably the choicest role for an actress in many years has fallen to Ali MacGraw, who plays Jenny, the romantic-tragic girl of “Love Story.”
The part could not have befallen a more suitable performer.
Ali rings true as pure crystal.
Although she has appeared in only one motion picture, “Goodbye, Columbus,” she managed to captivate audiences. Due largely to her performance, the picture was an enormous hit.
That was almost two years ago.
Since then Ali has married Robert Evans, production head of Paramount studios, and is expecting her first baby in February.
She would as soon be a wife and mother as an actress, which makes her an instant oddity in Hollywood. She buys her clothes in second-hand shops, wears little or no make-up, and longs to return to New York City.
“But ‘Love Story’ is something else again,” Ali said. “I wanted to do the picture the moment I read the script.”
Erich Segal’s best selling novel was written after his screenplay and has been read by countless millions of women with tears streaming down their faces, and by men fight- ing lumps in their throats.
Because the reader, and audience, knows Jenny is dying from the outset, the character is one cherished by all actresses.
Love Story “totally uneventful”
“It’s a totally uneventful picture,” said Miss MacGraw. “It’s life. Believable. When we made the picture last winter, I reread the script and the book ever and over again.
“I felt much easier about playing the part when I read the original script. But when the book was published and took off to such tremendous heights, things changed. I was panic-stricken at the size and dimension of the extraordinary reception of the novel.”
The observation is typical of Ali, who was a model and cover girl in New York before becoming an actress.
Her beauty is arresting, if imperfect. She appears to be unaware that men and women alike turn to stare at her on the streets and in restaurants. Her ego is tiny.
She is a woman with strong ideas quietly stated.
“I’m not driven,” she said. “Perhaps I’d enjoy doing a single picture a year. But I haven’t read anything lately that flipped me.
“I’d love a movie to be a compilation of terrific moments in my life — that’s why I do so few.
“I work hard. And I cared about nearly everybody in the artificial atmosphere in ‘Love Story.’ A role is not just something to walk through and be done with.
Should be excited
“I have no tolerance for people who are bored while they’re working in a movie. They should be excited and bring something to the scene and character.”
One day the script simply called for Ali and co-star Ryan O’Neal to stroll across the Harvard campus.
“To some performers, it might be a full or unexciting thing to do,” Ali said. “We didn’t feel that way. It was as important as any other part of the picture, even without dialogue. It wasn’t flashy or earth-shaking.”