Oscar History

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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

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Morning Confession: I've Never Seen an Ali MacGraw Movie

Happy 75th birthday today to Ali MacGraw. "Who?" Some of you might be asking, which is telling.

My first and only significant memory of Ali MacGraw, who was quite famous when I was a child, was seeing her face on the sheet music to the theme from Love Story (1970) that my sister used to play on the piano when I was tiny. I have no idea why I remember this so vividly but I do. I also remember my mom grumbling about the movie's tagline which she said was 'TOTALLY UNTRUE'.

love means never having to say you're sorry

My sister had quite a few movie theme songs on sheet music and the other ones I remember looking at were Ice Castles, Jaws and Star Wars. The only one that I had actually seen was Star Wars. I don't remember seeing it in theaters. My true movie memories don't start until the following year in 1978 with Superman and Return From Witch Mountain. (If you're curious here are two of my earliest movie memories in comic book form)

Ali MacGraw was, in the late 70s / early 80s something of a symbol of flash in the pan movie stardom for complicated but, as I'd come to understand it much later, totally normal celebrity reasons: addictions, tough marriage, unlucky film choices, you name it. But this morning as I went to type this up I made the horrifying realization that I've never seen ANY of her films, no not even Love Story (1970). That's a significant gap in my Oscar viewing since it was nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture.

Have you seen Love Story. And have you ever played a movie theme on the piano? 

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Reader Comments (35)

I watched ten years ago, when I was 20. I didn't like at all at the time and barely remember now.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I have not only played the theme on the piano, but I played it at a school talent show in the 1970's.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff D.

It is quite horrible. Her deaths scenes (oh come on, you know it happens) are especially excruciating to watch... she's the most healthy-looking cancer patient in film (it was cancer, right?).

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Love Story is schmaltzy to no end but very much a product of its generation. I actually thought Ali MacGraw was much better in Goodbye, Columbus, and, of course, delicious on Dynasty. Plus, she got to bag Steve McQueen, so girlfriend must've done something right.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I know her more as a fashion icon of the 70s and for her marriages, but I have seen Love Story. Her film career got started relatively late, I think. And, of course, Steve McQueen completely destroyed any chance she would've had at making a go of it.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

She only has 16 credits on her IMDB page, so she had a career that's easy enough to miss, really. I've never seen Love Story - 70s schmaltz romance is not really my thing.

I've seen her two Peckinpah movies, though, and liked them both (and liked her in them).

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Sadly, I have seen that movie. Unless I'm confusing it with something else, the "novel" it's based on was written on a dare. And unlike Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets," that dare did not produce a classic. But it did result in a runaway bestseller and a movie that was one of the first blockbusters of the 1970s.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

"Love Story" is bad but it is very much a product of its time. It still amuses me that she called Ryan O'Neal character "Preppy". Even though it's awful, I have soft spot for it because it's sincere unlike other movies with this kind of theme.

Of course, the music is what everybody still recognizes till this day. It's saccharine for sure but's beautiful nonetheless.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

OMG, Nathan, your sister played the theme to Jaws on the piano? LOL

I haven't seen Love Story in quite a while, but whatever its faults, it produced quite a lovely title song. I don't really remember much of it except that Ryan O'Neal was quite nice to look at. If you want to see a good Ali MacGraw performance, I recommend Sidney Lumet's 1982 acid comedy Just Tell Me What You Want, written by Jay Presson Allen. She's quite vivid in it, and it also boasts a terrific supporting turn by Myrna Loy. I'm not sure if it's on DVD but it's probably tough to find.

I saw some recent interviews with her, and she seems like a really cool person. She probably was never cut out to be an actress, but she certainly has a great sense of style and self.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I watched Love Story about a year ago. Remember it being mostly well-acted but incredibly maudlin. I remember looking back over its box-office success after watching and thinking that it was The Notebook of the 1970s (or rather that The Notebook was the Love Story of the 2000s).

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonovan W.

You totally must! It's a beautiful movie. It might be corny, dated or whatever, but it totally works for me as a tearjerker and a time capsule. Ali is so gorgeous in it and I love her character, Jennifer Cavalleri. I don't think she's a great actress, but she should have been a bigger star.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

She could be Demi Moore's mom in a heartbeat

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I can't believe she's 75. She was (still is) one of the most beautiful women in the world, had Steve McQueen, was on the cover of Time (when that meant something), starred in one of the biggest movies of the period (with Oscar nom) and followed up with a few more big films. She might be flash in a pan, but what flash.

As a history piece, Love Story is the perfect example of art representing its era (but the Peckinpaw movies and Goodbye Columbus are all better). I think the biggest issue with her career was her inability to look bad. She didn't even look normal. She wears clothes better than most any actress ever has, and made everything she wore look like the most beautiful clothes ever created.

I was obsessed with the theme from Gone with the Wind for a brief period in my youth until I was banned from playing it anymore by my parents who were less taken.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

granted i haven't seen every best actress nominated performance over the years, but if there's a worse one than this i'd rather not know...

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

It's been years since I saw Love Story but I did see a musicalized stage version of it last year. It was as clunky as the film!

I've seen several things she's done: Love Story(bad), The Getaway(dumb but actiony), Goodbye, Columbus(tepid), Convoy(incredibly bad), Players(the horror!!!), the TV mini-Winds of War(average), of course Dynasty and Tell Me What You Want-the ONLY thing film or television that I've seen where she gives a half way decent performance. TMWYW also has a lovely performance by Myrna Loy in her last theatrical film-she's by far the best thing in the film.

Ali's an odd case. I've seen her being interviewed and she's smart, warm, lively, obviously intelligent, charmingly down to earth and funny. Turn a camera on the woman and for some reason she turns into a tree. Incredibly she was Oscar nominated for Love Story, in a performance that is perhaps the worst ever to get the tip, yes worse than Zellweger in Cold Mountain!

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

don't get me wrong people. i saw her on Dynasty. I've just never seen a movie. I was OBSESSED with Dynasty. as was everyone in the 1980s. back when there were only 3 networks and communal obsessions were easier to come by.

April 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathan, Krystal was my girl! But I hated that evil twin storyline.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Love Story is not nearly as good as people of the time had agreed to pretend it was, nor is it as bad as people now have agreed to pretend it is. It is an average movie. No one is missing on much by not seeing it. I'd recommend it only for Oscar completism sake.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

We had a big book of movie themes, I remember playing the themes from 'Mahogany', 'Summer of 42', 'The Rose', 'Gone With The Wind', and 'Love Story', as well as a terrible version of the theme from 'Out of Africa' that had lyrics written in. Such a beautiful score, so terrible when sung with cheesy lyrics and a saxophone in the background.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Really really pretty people who really really can't act in a sappy but entertaining product of it's time (the fashions!) and a really really pretty theme song.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I can't add much to the Love Story comments except to urge you to see it. Sure it's no pinnacle of acting, I mean, look at the stars, but it is a very good soap opera romance movie. Really, the main reason to see it is to watch the fashions, cars, technology, etc. That is a LOT of fun, and who looks better in clothes (or out of them) than Ryan & Ali?

As for sheet music, I remember saving up my allowance and buying the sheet music to Laura. Yes, I was old-fashioned even then. It was probably the most complicated thing I'd ever played but I really did love the music. I also remember excessively playing the theme to Exodus because you could really get out your aggression with those first few pounded chords.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

If you think Love Story is bad, you should see the sequel, Oliver's Story.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Dave in AB -- I totally loved playing the Exodus theme for the same reason!

My mom has SO much movie-themed sheet music, so of course I have played the song from Love Story. Both the song and the movie are gooey, but not actively bad. I wouldn't seek it out for art's sake, but you don't have to avoid it, either.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercash

I really think you should watch it. I'm pretty sure you will enjoy several aspects. Please share your thoughts if you do.

Sadly, I don't play the piano, but I used to torture my American brother begging him to play for me the main theme of Terms of Endearment.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Ummm, I don't know who this woman is lol. Running off to my corner now.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKylie

Happy Birthday Ali McGraw I can't believe she is 75 and that Love Story was released in 1970! I didn't actually see Love Story until much later and wasn't particulary impressed. I seem to recall Ali McGraw in teli movies in the 80s? I played the theme music to Love Story and The Sting ( the Entertainer) poorly when I was learning piano. I didn't keep up my lessons but still can pick out the melody to both.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

I've never seen Love Story, but we had that sheet music in my house too! My mum could play it on the piano, but I don't think I ever learnt it. The first movie theme I learnt how to play was The Pink Panther.

And, oh yes, Dynasty - heaven!

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

If she had stayed married to Evans ( who was preparing "The Great Gatsby" for her) she might have had a longer more interesting career. The Jennifer Jones of the 70's. But hey she couldn't resit McQueen at his masculine peak - and can you blame her?.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Jaragon -- I was amazed that Evans was also married to Camilla Sparv -- just saw her in DownHill Racer. He certainly had a few of these ladies at their peak. My goodness!

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

She's so beautiful.

Interestingly, Robert Evans was going to have her play Faye Dunaway's role in 'Chinatown' before she left him for Steve McQueen. She gave up a lot to be with him.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

It has been said already in some of the above comments, but I will also chime in with what I wanted to say..... out of all the Oscar-nominated acting performances I have seen in my lifetime, Ali MacGraw's is by far the least deserving of a nomination. I have always been open to being convinced that I am just not in sync with the character as written, but nobody has managed to convince me.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

Jaragon, please tell me you did not just compare Jennifer Jones to Ali MacGraw! That is so wrong.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy1

Wasn't Love Story the first film that Ray Milland made without his wig?

April 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe (uk)

For a short period of time, 1970-1973 Ali MacGraw was the biggest female star in the world. Her first film "Goodbye, Columbus" was a huge hit, her second "Love Story" was a blockbuster and her third with Steve McQueen "The Getaway" was also a huge hit. She did not want to be an actress and left the business for Steve McQueen but came back because she needed the money. And most people judging "Love Story" was not in that time period and watch it on TV with commercials or constant interruptions when you are in your own room so does not get the full attention. Her time was brief but BRIGHT!

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

Love Story is a cheesy schmaltzy move with a story written by someone who doesn't know what real love is, only childish infatuation. Neither O'Neal or Macgraw were ever good actors, and I don't understand Macgraw's appeal at all, she was never very attractive and too much tanning and booze made her leathery by the time she did "Winds of War" in the early 80s. Good thing they replaced her and Jan Michael Vincent (of Airwolf fame) for War And Remembrance, too bad they didn't cast Jane Seymour in Winds of War.

March 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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