Love Story (1970 film)

Love Story is a 1970 American romantic drama film written by Erich Segal, who was also the author of the best-selling novel of the same name. It was produced by Howard G. Minsky[3] and directed by Arthur Hiller and starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, alongside John Marley, Ray Milland, and Tommy Lee Jones in his film debut in a minor role.

Love Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Produced byHoward G. Minsky
Screenplay byErich Segal
Based onLove Story
by Erich Segal
Music byFrancis Lai
CinematographyRichard Kratina
Edited byRobert C. Jones
Paramount Pictures
Love Story Company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.2 million
Box office$136.4 million[2]

A tragedy, the film is considered one of the most romantic by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list) and is one of the highest-grossing films of all time.[4] It was followed by a sequel, Oliver's Story (1978), starring O'Neal with Candice Bergen.


Oliver Barrett IV, the heir of an American upper-class East Coast family, is attending Harvard College where he plays ice hockey. He meets Jennifer "Jenny" Cavilleri, a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music; they quickly fall in love despite their differences.

When Jenny reveals her plans to study in Paris, Oliver is upset that he does not figure in those plans. He proposes, she accepts, and they travel to the Barrett mansion so that she can meet Oliver's parents, who are judgmental and unimpressed with her. Later Oliver's father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny. After graduation Oliver and Jenny marry nonetheless.

Without his father's financial support, the couple struggle to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School; Jenny works as a teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position at a respectable New York City law firm. They are ready to start a family, but fail to conceive. After many tests Oliver is told that Jenny is terminally ill.

Oliver attempts to live a "normal life" without telling Jenny of her condition, but she finds out after confronting her doctor. Oliver buys tickets to Paris, but she declines to go, wanting only to spend time with him. To pay for Jenny's cancer therapy, Oliver seeks money from his estranged father, who asks him if he has "gotten a girl in trouble." Oliver simply says yes, and his father writes a cheque.

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 never held 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, he sees his father outside, having rushed to New York City from Massachusetts as soon as he heard the news about Jenny and wanting to offer his help. Oliver tells him, "Jenny's dead," and his father says "I'm sorry," to which Oliver responds, "Love Love means never having to say you're sorry", something that Jenny had said to him earlier. Oliver 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 original director was Larry Peerce. He backed out and was replaced by Anthony Harvey. Harvey dropped out and was replaced by Arthur Hiller. Jimmy Webb wrote a score for the film that was not used.

The lead role was turned down by Beau Bridges, Michael York and Jon Voight.[5] Ryan O'Neal was given the lead role on the recommendation of Erich Segal, who had worked with the actor on The Games; he was paid $25,000.[6]

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 premiere for Love Story took place at Loews's State I theatre in New York City on Wednesday, December 16, 1970.[7]

Critical reception

Overall, Love Story has received generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 25 critics and gave the film a score of 68% "Fresh".[8]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and called it "infinitely better than the book," adding, "because Hiller makes the lovers into individuals, of course we're moved by the film's conclusion. Why not?"[9] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times was also positive, writing that although "the plot-line has been honored many times ... It's the telling that matters: the surfaces and the textures and the charm of the actors. And it is hard to see how these quantities could have been significantly improved upon in 'Love Story.'"[10]

Newsweek, however, felt the film was contrived[9] and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story "Camille with bullshit."[11] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "I can't remember any movie of such comparable high-style kitsch since Leo McCarey's 'Love Affair' (1939) and his 1957 remake, 'An Affair to Remember.' The only really depressing thing about 'Love Story' is the thought of all the terrible imitations that will inevitably follow it."[12] Gene Siskel gave the film two stars out of four and wrote that "whereas the novel has a built-in excuse for being spare (it is told strictly as the boy's reminiscence), the film does not. Seeing the characters in the movie ... makes us want to know something about them. We get precious little, and love by fiat doesn't work well in film."[13] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "I found this one of the most thoroughly resistible sentimental movies I've ever seen. There is scarcely a character or situation or line in the story that rings true, that suggests real simplicity or generosity of feeling, a sentiment or emotion honestly experienced and expressed."[14] Writer Harlan Ellison wrote in The Other Glass Teat, his book of collected criticism, that it was "shit." John Simon wrote that Love Story was so bad that it never once moved him.[15]

The film was ranked 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".

Box office

The film was an instant box office smash.[16] It opened in two theatres in New York City, Loew's State I and Tower East grossing $128,022 in its first week.[7] It is among the highest-grossing films in the United States 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.[4]


The film was first broadcast on ABC television on October 1, 1972 and became the most watched film on television surpassing The Birds with a Nielsen rating of 42.3 and an audience share of 62%.[17] The rating was equalled the following year by Airport and then surpassed in 1976 by Gone with the Wind.[17]

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.[18]


The soundtrack from the film was released separately as an album, and distributed by Quality Records.[19]

All tracks are written by Francis Lai, except where noted.

1."Theme from Love Story"3:20
2."Snow Frolic"2:58
3."Sonata in F Major (Allegro)" (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)2:17
4."I Love You, Phil"2:04
5."The Christmas Trees"2:48
6."Search for Jenny" (Theme From Love Story)3:04
7."Bozo Barrett" (Theme From Love Story)2:43
8."Skating In Central Park" (John Lewis)3:04
9."The Long Walk Home"1:30
10."Concerto No. 3 in D Major (Allegro)" (Johann Sebastian Bach)2:35
11."Theme from Love Story" (Finale)3:52
Total length:30:15

Awards and honors

Awards and nominations

Date of ceremony Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
February 5, 1971 Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay Erich SegalWon
Best Motion Picture - Drama Love StoryWon
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Ryan O'NealNominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Ali MacGrawWon
Best Director Arthur HillerWon
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John MarleyNominated
Best Original Score Francis LaiWon
April 15, 1971 Academy Awards Best Picture Love Story (producer: Howard G. Minsky)Nominated
Best Director Arthur HillerNominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ryan O'NealNominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Ali MacGrawNominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role John MarleyNominated
Best Original Screenplay Erich SegalNominated
Best Original Score Francis LaiWon
June 29, 1971 David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actor Ryan O'NealWon
March 14, 1972 Grammy Award Best Instrumental Composition Theme from Love Story (composer: Francis Lai)Nominated
Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special Love Story (composer: Francis Lai)Nominated
Best Pop Instrumental Performance Theme from Love Story (performer: Henry Mancini)Nominated

Later recognition and rankings

American Film Institute recognition

Year Category Nominee Rank
1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies[20] Love Story -
2002 AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal 9
2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes "Love means never having to say you're sorry" 13
2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)[21] Love Story -


Two lines from the film have entered popular culture:

What can you say about a 25-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 comedy What's Up, Doc? (1972), which stars O'Neal, refers to this line at the end, when Barbra Streisand's character says "Love means never having to say you're sorry", then bats her eyelashes. O'Neal's character responds, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Sequels and remake

O'Neal and Milland reprised their roles for a sequel, Oliver's Story, released in 1978. It was based on 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.

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. The original film was remade in India in the Malayalam language entitled Madanolsavam in 1978.

Another movie Sanam Teri Kasam was made also in India in the Hindi language and released in 2016. The film is a modern rendition of the novel Love Story by Eric Segal. The film was released worldwide on 5 February 2016 under the production banner of Eros Now.

Ali MacGraw's "Disease"

Vincent Canby wrote in his original New York Times review that it was "as if Jenny was suffering from some vaguely unpleasant Elizabeth Arden treatment."[12] Mad magazine ran a parody of the film ("Lover's Story") in its October 1971 issue which depicted Ali MacGraw's character as stricken with "Old Movie Disease," an ailment that causes a dying patient to become "more beautiful by the minute."[22][23] In 1997, 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".[24]

In 1971, the twentieth episode of the fourth season of The Carol Burnett Show featured a take-off of the film called "Lovely Story", with Carol Burnett in the MacGraw role and Harvey Korman in the O'Neal role.[25]

The movie's female protagonist has been credited with the spike in the baby name Jennifer in North America in 1970, launching it to the number 1 feminine given name.[26] It would hold this position for 14 years.

See also


  1. "LOVE STORY (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. January 20, 1971. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  2. "Love Story, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  3. "Howard Minsky, Hollywood Producer, Is Dead at 94".
  4. "DOMESTIC GROSSES". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  5. Lee, Grant (August 28, 1977). "Ryan O'Neal: A Love-Hate Story". Los Angeles Times. p. q1.
  6. Haber, Joyce (December 6, 1970). "Ryan O'Neal Has Plenty of Stories". Los Angeles Times. p. v31.
  7. "It's Everybody's 'Godfather'". Variety. March 22, 1972. p. 5.
  8. "Love Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  9. Roger Ebert (January 1, 1970). "Love Story". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
  10. Champlin, Charles (December 20, 1970). "'Love Story' Tells It Like It Always Was". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 29.
  11. Griffin, Robert; Garvey, Michael (2003). In the Kingdom of the Lonely God. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 78. ISBN 0-7425-1485-4. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  12. Canby, Vincent (December 18, 1970)."Screen: Perfection and a 'Love Story'". The New York Times. p. 44.
  13. Siskel, Gene (December 27, 1970). "'Love Story' a Return to Tearful Melodrama". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 2.
  14. Arnold, Gary (December 26, 1970). "Love Story". The Washington Post. B1.
  15. Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 29.
  16. Champlin, Charles (January 1, 1971). "The Lesson of 'Love Story'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  17. "Hit Movies on U.S. TV Since 1961". Variety. January 24, 1990. p. 160.
  18. Vinciguerra, Thomas. "The Disease: Fatal. The Treatment: Mockery" The New York Times, 20 August 2010.
  19. Ritchie York (June 26, 1971). From the Music Capitals of the World. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 47–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  20. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF).
  21. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot" (PDF).
  22. Siegel, Larry (October 1971). "Lover's Story". Mad. 146. 9.
  23. "Picks and Pans Review: Milk Money". People. September 12, 1994. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  24. Roger Ebert. "For Roseanna (Review)". Ebert Digital. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  25. IMDB. "The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) Episode #4.20". Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  26. Gerson, Jen (January 23, 2015). "The Jennifer epidemic: How the spiking popularity of different baby names cycle like genetic drift". Retrieved May 12, 2019.
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