Love Story (1970 film)

Love Story (1970 film)
Love Story

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 C. Kratina
Editing by Robert C. Jones
Studio Love Story Company
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time 99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.2 million[1]
Box office $106.4 million[2]

Love Story is a 1970 romantic drama film written by Erich Segal and based on his novel Love Story. It was directed by Arthur Hiller. The film, well known as a tragedy, is considered one of the most romantic of all time by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list), and was followed by a sequel, Oliver's Story during 1978. Love Story starred Ryan O'Neal, Ali MacGraw, John Marley and Ray Milland and is also the film debut of Tommy Lee Jones with a minor role.



The film tells of Oliver Barrett IV, who comes from a family of wealthy and well-respected Harvard University graduates. At Radcliffe library, the Harvard student meets and falls in love with Jennifer Cavalleri, a working-class, quick-witted Radcliffe College student. Upon graduation from college, the two decide to marry against the wishes of Oliver's father, who thereupon severs ties with his son.

Without his father's financial support, the couple struggles to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School with Jenny working as a private school teacher. They rent the top floor of a house near the Law School at 119 Oxford Street, in the Agassiz neighborhood of Cambridge, adjacent to a local laundromat. Graduating third in his class at Harvard Law, Oliver takes a position at a respectable New York law firm.

With Oliver's new income, the pair of 24-year-olds decide to have a child. After failing, they consult a medical specialist, who after repeated tests, informs Oliver that Jenny is ill and will soon die. While this is not stated explicitly, she appears to have leukemia.

As instructed by his doctor, Oliver attempts to live a "normal life" without telling Jenny of her condition. Jenny nevertheless discovers her ailment after confronting her doctor about her recent illness. With their days together numbered, Jenny begins costly cancer therapy, and Oliver soon becomes unable to afford the multiplying hospital expenses. Desperate, he seeks financial relief from his father. When the senior Barrett asks if he needs the money because he got some girl "in trouble," Oliver says yes instead of telling his father the truth about Jenny's condition.

From her hospital bed, Jenny speaks with her father about funeral arrangements, then asks for Oliver. She tells him to avoid blaming himself, and asks him to embrace her tightly before she dies. They lie together on the hospital bed. As a grief-stricken Oliver leaves the hospital, he is met by his father who now wants to apologize for the way he treated his son. Oliver replies that "Love means never having to say you're sorry", and walks off.



Erich Segal originally wrote the screenplay and sold it to Paramount. While the film was being produced, Paramount wanted Segal to write a novel to help pre-publicize the release of the film Valentine's Day. When the novel came out, it became a best seller 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, and that experience, along with 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.

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 (who played Oliver in Love Story), mocks this trademark line. At the end of that film, when Barbra Streisand's character coos "Love means never having to say you're sorry" while batting her eyelashes, O'Neal's character responds with the line: "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 won five Golden Globe Awards including Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director for Arthur Hiller. Ali MacGraw received an award for Best Actress, while Francis Lai received an award as well for his score. Finally, Erich Segal received one for his screenplay as well. O'Neal and Marley were each nominees.

American Film Institute recognition

  • 2002 AFI's 100 Years…100 Passions — #9
  • 2003 AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes
    • Love means never having to say you are sorry — #13


Although popular with audiences and most reviewers, such as Roger Ebert,[4] the film was disliked by many others. Newsweek felt the film was contrived[4] and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story "Camille with bullshit."[5] 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. 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 as one of the top 40 domestic grosses of all time.

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.[6]

Musical selections from the soundtrack


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 and then picks up 18 months after her death. Oliver is a successful, but unhappy lawyer in New York. Although he still mourns over Jenny's passing, he manages to find love with an heiress Marcie Bonwit (Candice Bergen). Suffering from comparisons to the original, Oliver's Story did poorly with both audiences and critics.

"Ali MacGraw's Disease"

In his glossary of movie conventions and clichés, Roger Ebert defines "Ali MacGraw's Disease" as a "Movie illness in which the only symptom is that the sufferer grows more beautiful as death approaches."[7] Another review describes Jenny as suffering from "some kind of Elizabeth Arden disease".


  1. ^ "Box office / business for Love Story (1970)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  2. ^ "Box office / business for Love Story (1970)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  3. ^ Nathaniel L. Schwartz, "University, Hollywood Relationship Not Always a 'Love Story'", Harvard Crimson, 21 September 1999.
  4. ^ a b Roger Ebert (1970-01-01). "Love Story". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  5. ^ Griffin, Robert; Garvey, Michael (2003). In the Kingdom of the Lonely God. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 78. ISBN 0742514854. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  6. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas. "The Disease: Fatal. The Treatment: Mockery" The New York Times, 20 August 2010.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert. "Definition of Ali MacGraw's Disease". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 

External links

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