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Francis Lai's Oscar®-winning original score for Love Story (1970) became one of the most familiar movie love themes since Lai's own A Man and a Woman (1967). Lai's simple melody for Love Story, which became an instant hit for singer Andy Williams once lyrics were added, instantly evokes the bittersweet story of a preppy love affair cut short by illness and death.
Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw won Oscar® nominations as Best Actor and Actress for their performances as Harvard Law student/jock Oliver Barrett IV and Radcliffe music student Jennifer Cavilieri. The movie also was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Director (Arthur Hiller), Supporting Actor (John Marley) and Story and Screenplay (Erich Segal). Some scoffed at the sentimental tale, but it was found genuinely moving by sufficient numbers to make Love Story a commercial smash that joined Gone With the Wind (1939) and The Sound of Music (1965) at the top of the list of all-time box-office champions.
It was model-turned-actress MacGraw, the wife of Paramount executive vice president Robert Evans, who discovered the Love Story screenplay - the work of her college friend Segal. Several studios had already turned down the script, but Evans agreed to produce it for his wife, thinking it "might be a good, small, profitable trend-bucker away from all those "now movies I hated." O'Neal, fresh from TV's Peyton Place, turned down the costarring part at first, as did Robert Redford, Michael York and Beau Bridges. To prepare for their roles, O'Neal had to learn to ice skate, and MacGraw took harpsichord lessons. Veteran star Ray Milland, as O'Neal's father, appeared onscreen for the first time without the hairpiece he had worn for years. Tommy Lee Jones, billed as Tom Lee Jones, has a small role.
The Phipps Estate mansion on Long Island, doubling as the Barrett home, had previously been used by Alfred Hitchcock in North By Northwest (1959). The Manhattan office of Paramount founder Adolph Zukor became the office of the Harvard Law School dean, and the former office of producer William Fox at Deluxe Film Laboratories was used for the Harvard Club scenes. Conductor Arturo Toscanini's former home in Riverdale, The Bronx, was the setting for MacGraw's harpsichord concert.
Segal, then a 33-year-old associate professor at Yale, easily turned his screenplay into a book. "I cut it to read in two hours, because I wanted it to be a one-sitting experience, like the movie," he said. Again, the public went for Love Story in a big way, keeping the novel at the top of the best-sellers list for weeks.
Director: Arthur Hiller
Producer: Howard Minsky
Screenwriter: Erich Segal
Cinematographer: Richard C. Kratina
Composer: Francis Lai
Editor: Robert Jones
Art Director: Ribert Gundlach
Executive Producer: David Golden
Costume Designer: Pearl Somner
Cast: Ali MacGraw (Jenny), Ryan O'Neal (Oliver Barrett IV), John Marley (Phil), Ray Milland (Oliver Barrett III), Russell Nype (Dean), Tommy Lee Jones (Hank)
by Roger Fristoe