Erich Segal

Erich Wolf Segal (June 16, 1937  January 17, 2010) was an American author, screenwriter, educator and classicist. He was best known for writing the bestselling novel Love Story (1970) and the hit motion picture of the same name.

Erich Segal
BornErich Wolf Segal
(1937-06-16)June 16, 1937
Brooklyn, New York, US
DiedJanuary 17, 2010(2010-01-17) (aged 72)
London, England, UK
OccupationAuthor, screenwriter, educator
Alma materHarvard University (A.B., A.M., PhD)
SpouseKaren Marianne James (1975–2010; his death; 2 children)

Early life

The son of a rabbi, Segal attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and traveled to Switzerland to take summer courses. He attended Harvard College, graduating as both the class poet and Latin salutatorian in 1958, and then he obtained his master's degree (in 1959) and a doctorate (in 1965) in comparative literature from Harvard University.[1]


Segal was a professor of Greek and Latin literature at Harvard University, Yale University, and Princeton University. He had been a Supernumerary Fellow and an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College at Oxford University.[2]

Writing career

His first academic book, Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus, revolutionized the great Roman comic playwright best known today as the inspiration for the Broadway hit, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 2001 Harvard published his The Death of Comedy, the all-encompassing literary history.

Yellow Submarine

In 1967, from the story by Lee Minoff, he was one of the writers of the screenplay for The Beatles' 1968 motion picture Yellow Submarine.

Love Story

In the late 1960s, Segal collaborated on other screenplays. He had also written a romantic story by about a Harvard student and a Radcliffe student but failed to sell it. However, literary agent Lois Wallace at the William Morris Agency suggested he turn the script into a novel, and the result was a motion picture phenomenon titled Love Story. A New York Times No. 1 bestseller, the book became the top selling work of fiction for 1970 in the United States, and was translated into 33 languages worldwide. The motion picture of the same name was the number one box office attraction of 1970.

The novel proved problematic for Segal. He acknowledged that its success unleashed "egotism bordering on megalomania" and he was denied tenure at Yale. Moreover, "Love Story" "was ignominiously bounced from the nomination slate of the National Book Awards after the fiction jury threatened to resign." Segal later said that the book "totally ruined me."[3]

Segal wrote more novels and screenplays, including the 1977 sequel to Love Story, titled Oliver's Story.

Writing and teaching after Love Story

He wrote widely on Greek and Latin literature. He published a number of scholarly works as well as teaching at the university level. He acted as a visiting professor for the University of Munich, Princeton University, and Dartmouth College. His novel The Class (1985), a saga based on the Harvard Class of 1958, was a bestseller, and won literary honor in France and Italy. Doctors was another New York Times bestseller.


Segal was an accomplished competitive runner. He was a sprinter at Midwood High School, and ran the 2 mile at Harvard College. He began marathon running during his second year at Harvard when track and field head coach Bill McCurdy was impressed with how fast he had run 10 miles.[4] Segal ran in the Boston Marathon almost every year from 1955 to 1975.[5] He finished in 79th place at 3 hours, 43 minutes in his first attempt,[4] and his best performance was in 1964 when he finished 63rd with a time of 2:56:30. He recounted that after one Boston marathon someone yelled "Hey, Segal, you run better than you write".[6]

Segal covered the marathon as a color commentator for telecasts of both the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics.[7] His most notable broadcast was in 1972 when he and Jim McKay called Frank Shorter's gold-medal-winning performance. When an impostor, West German student Norbert Sudhaus, ran into Olympic Stadium ahead of Shorter,[8] an emotionally upset Segal screamed "That is an impostor! Get him off the track! This happens in bush league marathons! Throw the bum out! Get rid of that guy!" Moments later ,he personalized his on‑air remarks by saying "Come on, Frank! You won it! It's a fake, Frank!"[9] Amby Burfoot called Segal's account "one of the most unprofessional, unbridled, and totally appropriate outbursts in the history of Olympic TV commentary", taking into consideration the fact that Segal had taught Shorter at Yale.[6] In 2000, The Washington Post included the phrase among the 10 most memorable American sports calls.[10]


Segal was married to Karen Marianne James from 1975 until his death; they had two daughters, Miranda and Francesca Segal. Francesca, born in 1980, is a freelance journalist, literary critic, and columnist.


Segal, who suffered from Parkinson's disease,[11] died of a heart attack on January 17, 2010,[12] and was buried in London. In a eulogy delivered at his funeral, his daughter Francesca said "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was – a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."[13]



  • Segal, Erich (1970) [1968], Roman laughter: the comedy of Plautus, Harvard studies in comparative literature, Harvard University Press, OCLC 253490621
  • Segal, Erich (1968), Euripides. A collection of critical essays, Prentice-Hall, OCLC 490074853
  • Segal, Erich (1993) [1970], Love Story, Oxford bookworms, Oxford University Press, OCLC 271780786
  • Segal, Erich (1973), Fairy tale, Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-17703-7
  • Segal, Erich (1977), Oliver's Story, Granada, ISBN 978-0-246-11007-7
  • Segal, Erich (1980), Man, Woman and Child, Granada, ISBN 978-0-246-11364-1
  • Segal, Erich (1983), Oxford readings in Greek tragedy, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-872110-9
  • Millar, Fergus; Erich Segal (1984). Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814858-5.
  • Segal, Erich (1985), The Class, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-593-01004-4
  • Segal, Erich (1988), Doctors, Toronto, ISBN 978-0-553-05294-7
  • Segal, Erich (1992), Acts of Faith, OCLC 472522180
  • Segal, Erich (1995), Prizes, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-593-03837-6
  • Segal, Erich (1996), Four comedies : the braggart soldier, the brothers Menaechmus, the haunted house, the pot of gold, World's classics, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-283108-8
  • Segal, Erich (1997), Only love, G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-14341-0
  • Segal, Erich (2001), The death of comedy, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-00643-0
  • Segal, Erich (2001), Oxford readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence, Oxford Univ. Press, ISBN 978-0-19-872193-2
  • Pelzer, Linda C. (1997), Erich Segal: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-29930-7

See also


  1. Tanne, Lindsay P. (June 1, 2008). "Erich W. Segal, Screenwriter". The Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on June 9, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  2. "Obituaries: Erich Segal (1937–2010)". Wolfson College Record, 2010 Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, pages 29–32.
  4. Amdur, Neil (April 5, 1971). "'Love Story' may end love affair with Boston Marathon". The Miami News. New York Times News Service. pp. 4B. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  5. Tanne, Lindsay P. "Erich W. Segal, Screenwriter," The Harvard Crimson (Harvard University), Sunday, June 1, 2008.
  6. Burfoot, Amby (January 20, 2010). "Love Story Author Erich Segal Loved To Run". Runner's World. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  7. Stracher, Cameron. "Running Without a Narrative," The New York Times, Friday, October 30, 2009.
  8. "Olympic Memories: Munich's Marathon Imposter, Frank Shorter, and the 'Running Boom' of the 1970s," Colorsport, Thursday, May 3, 2012. Archived July 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  9. "ABC coverage of the 'imposter' at the 1972 Olympic marathon," Classic Sports TV and Media (blog), Tuesday, September 4, 2012.
  10. poll
  11. Chris Smyth and Mary Bowers (January 20, 2010). "Erich Segal, the academic who wrote Love Story, dies at 72". The Times. London.
  12. Pauli, Michelle (January 19, 2010). "Love Story author Erich Segal dies aged 72: Erich Segal, author of the hugely successful story of love and bereavement, has died". The Observer. London.
  13. Selva, Meera (January 19, 2010). "'Love Story' author Erich Segal dies aged 72". Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
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