The romantic hit movie ‘Love Story’ broke box-office records (1970)

Love Story - Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal

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Love Story may start swing to romanticism in movies (1970)

By Gene Handsaker

One snowflake may not a winter make, nor one film a trend… unless, perhaps, it’s “Love Story.”

Its critics’ reviews and early box office returns suggest a start of the pendulum’s swing back to romanticism from blatant sex on the screen.

Or as Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, put it recently in a speech to a Sacramento, Calif., business group:

“My judgment is the sexploitation film, mostly imported from abroad or made cheaply and quickly in this country is fading… What I think will become the majority of seriously-made films in this country is the kind of movie I would call romantic or entertaining.”


Critic Kathleen Carroll wrote in The New York Daily News that “‘Love Story’ should bring joy to millions of moviegoers sickened by the overdose of sex and drugs in the movies.”

“Unless we are all mad,” Charles Champlin wrote in the Los Angeles Times, it “will be an enormous success, and almost certainly the most influential movie of the year, heralding more to come.”

Thus far there is only one other romantic-tinged film in new release, the remake of Charlotte Bronte’s classic “Wuthering Heights.” Like “Love Story,” it focuses on all-starred lovers.

“Love Story” has Ryan O’Neal, for five years in TV’s “Peyton Place,” as a hockey-playing Harvard law student in rollicking love with Ali MacGraw, a poor but spirited Radcliffe music student.

Vintage Love Story movie poster from 1970


Their marriage survives his stern father’s disapproval and disinheritance but is doomed by her illness. Audience sniffles are like those at tearjerkers of the ’30s.

In a handsome production of Erich Segal’s script, from which he later wrote his bestselling novel, skin exposure is minimal, and lovemaking is hardly more than hinted at.

The film’s rating is PG, however — parental guidance suggested — presumably for the profanity Miss MacGraw uses, some critics thought, to excess.

Some reviews were less enthusiastic. Gail Rock of Women’s Wear Daily advised: “If you dig high school plays and 1957 fiction from the Saturday Evening Post, you’ll love ‘Love Story’ . . . Neither O’Neal nor Miss MacGraw is a very good actor.”

Romantic tradition returns in the movie 'Somewhere in Time' (1980)

A spokesman for the producers’ association says: “Unquestionably, there will be a lot of imitations, because it’s going to be one of the most successful pictures in many years.”

Vincent Canby of the New York Times pronounced the picture “beautiful and romantic,” and added: “The only really depressing thing about ‘Love Story’ is the thought of all the terrible imitations that will inevitably follow it.”

In an era of sexual license and X-rated films, Time magazine’s review said, “the counter-revolution had to happen.”

Early viewers seemed to approve. Paramount Studio says the film broke house box-office records in the first four days of its world premiere booking at two New York theaters.

It is of course too early to tell whether predictions cf a trend toward romanticism will materialize. But there has been a tendency in recent years for films that enjoy great popularity to inspire a spate of imitations. Examples are “Bonnie and Clyde,” “The Graduate,” and “Easy Rider.”

With movie attendance declining, production at a trickle and most major studies in the red, producers are quick to try to jump aboard any bandwagon.

Music: “Theme from Love Story”

Ali MacGraw shines in the hit movie ‘Love Story’ (1970)

By Vernon Scott

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.

Instant oddity

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.”

ALSO SEE: What were the top movies of 1970?

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.

Ali MacGraw and Ryan ONeal Love Story

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.

MORE: The private world of actress Ali MacGraw (1972)

Tiny ego

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.

Love Story movie DVD

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.”

Ali MacGraw’s performance is both.

Actress Ali MacGraw

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