Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Love Story, 1970

A short run through a popular film of the seventies for Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

Ryan O'Neal is probably best remembered for the soap opera Peyton Place. But when I think of his films I immediately think of Love Story (1970), based on Erich Segal's popular novel, and Irreconcilable Differences (1984) where a little girl takes her warring parents to court with the intention of divorcing them. I've seen little else. 

Love Story is both a love story and a family drama where Oliver Barrett IV (O'Neal), a Harvard Law student, risks the wrath of his wealthy and elitist father by falling in love with an ordinary but intelligent girl, Jenny (Ali MacGraw), and marrying her. But their love is doomed for reasons other than familial opposition. Directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Erich Segal, Love Story is a poignant tale of two mature adults whose love and friendship depends on complete honesty with each other. 

While the late Erich Segal wrote in a clean and simple style, he weaved emotional stories, playing on the sentiments of his many readers. I believe when Love Story was released people came out crying from cinema halls. His Man, Woman and Child (written in 1970, filmed in 1983) was no less sentimental as a married man and father of two daughters grapples with unexpected events after he learns that he has a son from another woman, the result of a past affair. He wrote lines that became popular like "Love means never having to say you're sorry" in Love Story and "Sheila is why I believe in marriage" in Man, Woman and Child. I never saw Oliver's Story (1979), the sequel to Love Story and also based on a Segal novel.

Love Story is a nice depressing little film. But whatever happened to Ali MacGraw?

28 comments:

  1. I wonder about Ali MacGraw now too. I used to like her in stuff. I saw this movie ages ago but remember nothing about it.

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    1. Charles, I don't recall seeing Ali MacGraw in anything else. The film is occasionally shown on cable.

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  2. Well, Prashant, you might be surprised...O'Neal is often first remembered over here for this film, or for PAPER MOON...PEYTON PLACE is a much more distant memory for most people. And this film, even more than the novel, was both a huge success commercially and rather a failure critically...most folks turning a critical eye to it found it pretty tough (or unintentionally humorous) going...but, like TITANIC a generation later, that didn't stop it from doing blockbuster business.

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    1. Todd, I haven't seen PAPER MOON and will make it a point to see it. As you say, LOVE STORY was a big success, in India too, and the cover of the novel has been shown in at least one Hindi movie. In fact, there was a Hindi film of the same name with a plot loosely fashioned on Segal's story.

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  3. McGraw had a pretty tough time of it, apparently...let herself get pushed around by too many bullying men, and eventually decided she really didn't like it. And, frankly, I suspect she hasn't had to worry about where her next meal is coming from for some decades...if I was in her role with my future husband in the Peckinpah-directed THE GETAWAY, I might reconsider my career (and some other things) too...

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    1. Todd, I'd no idea Ali MacGraw was married to Steve McQueen or that the two starred in THE GETAWAY where, I assume, they met. I read about this film after you mentioned it and discovered the newer version starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger and a host of other noted actors. I also learnt that the film was based on a novel by Jim Thompson, an author unknown to me until now.

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    2. Tiy Jim Thompson's novels, and his shorter fiction. Not cheerful, but that's OK (I suspect you'll find his novels a bit better than Segal's)(he and William McGivern are the noir anti-saints of Philadelphia). The Peckinpah version of THE GETAWAY is an ugly joke...the later version with Basinger and Baldwin is much better, but the fact that the actors were also a couple with somewhat more history than McGraw and McQueen had made for some incorporation of some of their own personal baggage that makes some viewers uncomfortable--many mention finding the sex scenes a little too Real (a problem I don't understand), while for me, their arguments feel a bit like looking in on a real argument between the actors.

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    3. Todd, thanks for the info. I'm looking for Jim Thompson's novel as well as for the two film adaptations. I think I only ever saw Basinger in Tim Burton's BATMAN opposite Michael Keaton.

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  4. I've watched Love Story more than a dozen times in my life. I never watched Oliver's Story either. Just didn't want to go there.

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    1. Keishon, I saw the film a long time ago and I think Andy Williams' famous song "Love Story" is associated with it, though I'm not sure.

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  5. Prashant: Love Story was memorable for me for the non-Hollywood ending. It happens so rarely in Hollywood movies.

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    1. Bill, I admit I was surprised by the ending and, in fact, didn't see it coming having seen the film much before reading the novel.

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  6. I probably watched this about a year ago with the family. Not too bad a film for me, even if I wouldn't regard it as especially memorable. The kids were choked up at the end.

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    1. Col, I don't remember when I saw it but it was long ago. As far as sentimental films go, I'd rate LOVE STORY alongside Franco Zeffirelli's equally memorable film THE CHAMP starring Jon Voight. Have you seen it?

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    2. Don't think that I have, I'll look it up, thanks.

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    3. Col, if you're going to see it, be prepared to choke up. I could have said more but I don't want to spoil it for you. There was a Hindi remake too, called "Boxer," with song and dance, and a twist in the tale.

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  7. If you say Ryan O'Neal to me I think of PAPER MOON first and then LOVE STORY. But not Peyton Place! I didn't even know he was on that soap opera which happenss to be utterly forgotten over here. (Oh just read Todd's comment and I can't believe I agreed with him!)

    Frankly, I can't stand this manipulative, sentimental movie. Do yourself a favor and find PAPER MOON and watch that. So much more entertaining and satisfying.

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    1. John - I think you need to get off the fence and tell us what you really think!

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    2. I chose to be somewhat more measured than John (who in agreeing with me on this small matter is clearly growing wiser--but to call PEYTON PLACE the series forgotten is overstating the matter), but PAPER MOON is an excellent film, as I remember it (and probably remains, along with the fannishly enthusiastic TARGETS, the best Bogdanovich film.

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    3. John, I'm already looking for PAPER MOON seeing as both you and Todd mentioned it. LOVE STORY remains popular with the young generation even today and the paperback is displayed prominently in Indian bookstores, as are some of Erich Segal's other novels.

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  8. I remember shedding a tear when I read this book in my teens but read very little else by him actually. I'm with John actually - you really should see PAPER MOON as it's a marvellous film (based on a trrific novel) - and he was very funny opposite Barbra Streisand in WHAT'S UP DOC?

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    1. Sergio, now I'm definitely going to have to watch PAPER MOON! While reading about the film earlier I found that O'Neal starred opposite his daughter, Tatum, whose marriage to tennis ace John McEnroe in the eighties was widely publicised in the press.

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    2. Well, there's more to Tatum O'Neal than her failed marriage...and this was certainly one of her best films.

      http://www.maximumfun.org/2014/03/26/throwing-shade-36-tatum-oneal-hobby-lobby

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    3. Todd, thanks for the link. I haven't heard or read anything about Tatum O'Neal in more than two decades. In fact, back then I only knew her as Ryan O'Neal's daughter and McEnroe's wife.

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  9. I'm going to join in with everybody else and say that Paper Moon is a particularly good film, and one that stands up well over the years.

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    1. Moira, I'm already looking for a DVD of the film as I don't think it has ever been telecast by any of our cable networks.

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  10. I saw Love Story around the time it first came out and may have liked it then. Now I probably would not.

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    1. Tracy, I agree with you. I don't think the film would hold up if I were to see it again. In fact, I don't think I'd even watch it again.

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