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Love Story (1970 film)

Love Story
File:Love Story (1970 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Arthur Hiller
Produced by Howard G. Minsky
Written by Erich Segal
Starring Ali MacGraw
Ryan O'Neal
John Marley
Ray Milland
Music by Francis Lai
Cinematography Richard Kratina
Edited by Robert C. Jones
Love Story Company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.2 million
Box office $136,397,186[1]

Love Story is a 1970 romantic drama film written by Erich Segal, who also authored the best-selling novel of the same name. It was directed by Arthur Hiller and starred Ryan O'Neal, Ali MacGraw, John Marley, Ray Milland and Tommy Lee Jones in his film debut in a minor role.

A tragedy, the film is considered one of the most romantic by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list) and one of the highest grossing films in U.S history.[2] It was followed by a sequel, Oliver's Story (1978), starring O'Neal with Candice Bergen.


Oliver Barrett IV comes from an American upper class east coast family and is heir to the Barrett fortune. He attends Harvard University, and is very active in ice hockey for the university. At the library, Oliver meets Jennifer "Jenny" Cavalleri, a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music. She mocks him calling him "preppy", "jock". Oliver finds a charm and truism in her comments. They quickly fall in love, despite this teasing.

Jenny reveals her plans for the future, which include studying in Paris. Oliver is upset that he does not figure in the plans. He wants to marry Jenny and proposes. She accepts, and then is driven to the Barrett mansion to meet the old guard parents. Oliver reassures her that their class differences will not matter, however his parents are clearly unimpressed and judgemental. Later at the Harvard club, Oliver's father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny, Oliver storms out of the dining hall. Upon graduation from college, the two students decide to marry against the wishes of Oliver's father, who severs ties with his son. The wedding is modern and contains no religious denomination. Jenny's single parent father attends, although he also has concerns about their social differences.

Without his father's financial support, the couple struggle to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School. Jenny gets work as a private-school teacher. They rent the top floor of a house near the Law School. Oliver graduates third in his class, winning $500, and takes a position at a respectable New York law firm. They eventually move into a doorman building which contrasts greatly with their Cambridge digs. The 24-year-olds are ready to start a family, but when they fail to conceive they consult a medical specialist. After many tests, Oliver is informed that Jenny is terminally ill. Her exact condition is never stated explicitly, but she appears to have leukemia.

As instructed by his doctor, Oliver attempts to live a "normal life" without telling Jenny of her condition, but she finds out after confronting her doctor about her recent illness. Oliver buys tickets to Paris but she declines, wanting only time with him. She begins costly cancer therapy, and soon Oliver is desperate enough over the mounting expenses to seek financial relief from his father. The senior Barrett asks what the money request of $5,000 is for, but Oliver will only say that it is "personal". His father writes the check anyway.

From her hospital bed, Jenny makes funeral arrangements with her father, then asks for Oliver. She tells him to not blame himself, insisting that he did not hold her back from music and it was worth it for the love they shared. Jenny's last wish is made when she asks him to embrace her tightly before she dies. As a grief-stricken Oliver leaves the hospital, his father confronts him outside - having rushed to New York City from Massachusetts when he "heard". Oliver bluntly tells his father that Jenny is dead. He walks back alone to the outdoor ice rink, where Jenny had watched him skate the day she was hospitalized.



Erich Segal originally wrote the screenplay and sold it to Paramount Pictures. While the film was being produced, Paramount wanted Segal to write a novel based on it, to be published on Valentine's Day to help pre-publicize the release of the film. When the novel came out, it became a bestseller on its own in advance of the film.

The main song in the film, "(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story" was a major success, particularly the vocal rendition recorded by Andy Williams.

The Love Story production caused damage to the Harvard campus; this, and a similar experience with the film A Small Circle of Friends (1980), caused the university administration to deny most subsequent requests for filming on location there.[3]


Two lines from the film have entered popular culture:

What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach? The Beatles? And me?
Love means never having to say you're sorry.

The latter is spoken twice in the film; once by Jennifer when Oliver is about to apologize to her for his anger. It is also spoken by Oliver to his father when his father says "I'm sorry" after hearing of Jennifer's death.

The quote made it to #13 onto the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of top movie quotes.

The 1972 comedy What's Up, Doc?, which stars O'Neal, refers to this line at the end, when Barbra Streisand's character coos "Love means never having to say you're sorry", while batting her eyelashes. O'Neal's character responds, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Awards and nominations

Love Story was nominated for seven 1970 Academy Awards, winning one:

It was nominated in the categories of:

In addition, Love Story was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, winning five:

It was also nominated for:

Love Story is tied with Doctor Zhivago, The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and A Star is Born for the most Golden Globe wins by a film with five.

American Film Institute recognition


Although popular with audiences and most reviewers, such as Roger Ebert,[6] the film was disliked by many others. Newsweek felt the film was contrived[6] and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story "Camille with bullshit."[7] Writer Harlan Ellison was on record in The Other Glass Teat, his book of collected criticism, as calling it "shit". President Richard Nixon however, reportedly enjoyed the film, regretting only that it contained so much cursing.[citation needed]

The film is scored number nine on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions list, which recognizes the top 100 love stories in American cinema. The film also spawned a trove of imitations, parodies, and homages in countless films, having re-energized melodrama on the silver screen as well as helping to set the template for the modern "chick flick".

The film became the highest grossing film of 1970 in U.S and Canada, grossing $106,397,186. It grossed an additional $30 million in international film markets. At the time of release, it was the 6th highest grossing film of all time in U.S and Canada gross only. Adjusted for inflation, the film remains one of the top 40 domestic grosses of all time.[8]

The Crimson Key Society, a student association, has sponsored showings of Love Story during orientation to each incoming class of Harvard College freshmen since the late 1970s. During the showings, society members and other audience members mock, boo, and jeer "maudlin, old-fashioned and just plain schlocky" moments to humorously build school spirit.[9]

Overall, Love Story has received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 23 critics and gave the film a score of 57%.[10]

Musical selections from the soundtrack

Sequels and remake

O'Neal and Milland reprised their roles for a sequel, Oliver's Story, that was released in 1978. It was based on Erich Segal's 1977 novel. The film begins with Jenny's funeral, then picks up 18 months later. Oliver is a successful, but unhappy lawyer in New York. Although still mourning Jenny, he manages to find love with heiress Marcie Bonwit (Candice Bergen). Suffering from comparisons to the original, Oliver's Story did poorly with both audiences and critics.

The film was remade in Malayalam as Madanolsavam in 1978.

NBC broadcast Love Story, a short-lived romantic anthology television series, in 1973-1974. Although it shared its name with the novel and movie and used the same theme song – "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" – as the movie, it otherwise was unrelated to them, with no characters or storylines in common with either the novel or the movie.

"Ali MacGraw's Disease"

Roger Ebert defined "Ali MacGraw's Disease" as a movie illness in which "the only symptom is that the patient grows more beautiful until finally dying."[11] Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote that it was as if Jenny was suffering from some vaguely unpleasant Elizabeth Arden treatment.[12]


  1. ^ "Love Story, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ "DOMESTIC GROSSES". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  3. ^ Nathaniel L. Schwartz, "University, Hollywood Relationship Not Always a 'Love Story'", Harvard Crimson, 21 September 1999.
  4. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  5. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  6. ^ a b Roger Ebert (1970-01-01). "Love Story". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  7. ^ Griffin, Robert; Garvey, Michael (2003). In the Kingdom of the Lonely God. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 78. ISBN 0-7425-1485-4. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  8. ^ "DOMESTIC GROSSES". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  9. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas. "The Disease: Fatal. The Treatment: Mockery" The New York Times, 20 August 2010.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Roger Ebert. "FOR ROSEANNA (Review)". Ebert Digital. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  12. ^ Vincent Canby (1970-12-18). "Love Story (1970) – Screen: Perfection and a 'Love Story': Erich Segal's Romantic Tale Begins Run". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-04. 

External links

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