Love Story (1970 film)

Love Story is a 1970 American romantic drama written by Erich Segal, who was also the author of the best-selling 1970 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
Love Story (1970 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Screenplay byErich Segal
Based onLove Story
by Erich Segal
Produced byHoward G. Minsky
CinematographyRichard Kratina
Edited byRobert C. Jones
Music byFrancis Lai
Paramount Pictures
Love Story Company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 16, 1970 (1970-12-16)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.2 million
Box office$173.4 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, heir of an American upper-class East Coast family, attends Harvard College where he plays ice hockey. He meets Jennifer "Jenny" Cavilleri, a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music; they fall in love despite their differences.

Oliver is upset that he does not figure in Jenny's plans to study in Paris. She accepts his marriage proposal and he takes her to the Barrett mansion to meet his parents, who are judgmental and unimpressed. Oliver's father says he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny, but after graduation they marry nonetheless.

Jenny works as a teacher but without his father's financial support the couple struggle to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School. 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 continue as normal without telling Jenny of her condition, but she confronts her doctor and finds out the truth. Oliver buys tickets to Paris, but she declines to go, wanting only to spend time with him. Oliver seeks money from his estranged father to pay for Jenny's cancer therapy. His father asks if he has "gotten a girl in trouble". Oliver says yes, and his father writes a check.

Jenny makes funeral arrangements with her father from her hospital bed. She tells Oliver 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 for Oliver to embrace her tightly as she dies.

A grief-stricken Oliver leaves the hospital and he sees his father outside, who has rushed to New York City from Massachusetts to offer his help when heard about Jenny's condition. 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 alone to the open air 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 of Oliver Barrett IV was turned down by Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Beau Bridges, Michael York and Jon Voight.[5] Christopher Walken auditioned for the role [6] but Ryan O'Neal was cast on the recommendation of Erich Segal, who had worked with him on The Games; he was paid $25,000.[7]

Filming Love Story on location caused significant damage to the Harvard campus. This experience, followed by a similar experience with the film A Small Circle of Friends (1980), caused the university administration to deny most subsequent requests for filming on location.[8]

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.[9]

Critical receptionEdit

Overall, Love Story has received generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 28 critics and gave the film a score of 68%. The critical consensus reads: "Earnest and determined to make audiences swoon, Love Story is an unabashed tearjerker that will capture hearts when it isn't inducing eye rolls."[10]

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?"[11] 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."[12]

Newsweek felt the film was contrived[11] and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story "Camille with bullshit".[13] 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."[14] 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."[15] 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."[16] 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.[17]

The film was ranked number 9 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 officeEdit

The film was an instant box office smash.[18] It opened in two theatres in New York City, Loew's State I and Tower East, grossing $128,022 in its first week.[9] It expanded into another 166 theatres on Christmas Day and grossed $2,363,767 for the weekend, becoming the number one film in the United States and grossed $2,493,167 the following weekend.[19][20] It remained number one at the US box office for the next 4 weeks before finishing second behind The Owl and the Pussycat for one week and then returning to the top of the box office for another six weeks. It went into general release in the United States on June 23, 1971 expanding into an additional 143 theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and St Louis, grossing $1,660,761 in five days and returned to number one at the US box office for another 3 weeks, for a total of 15 weeks at number one.[21][22] It was the sixth highest-grossing film of all time in U.S and Canada with a gross of $106,397,186. Adjusted for inflation, the film remains one of the top 50 domestic grosses of all time.[4] It grossed an additional $67 million in international film markets for a worldwide total of $173.4 million.[2]


The film was first broadcast on ABC television on October 1, 1972 and became the most watched film on television surpassing Ben-Hur with 27 million homes watching, a Nielsen rating of 42.3 and an audience share of 62%.[23][24] The rating was equalled the following year by Airport and then surpassed in 1976 by Gone with the Wind.[24]

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.[25]


The soundtrack from the film was released separately as an album, and distributed by Quality Records.[26]

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


Chart (1971) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[27] 18


Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards April 15, 1971 Best Picture Howard G. Minsky Nominated
Best Director Arthur Hiller Nominated
Best Actor Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Best Actress Ali MacGraw Nominated
Best Supporting Actor John Marley Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced Erich Segal Nominated
Best Original Score Francis Lai Won
David di Donatello Awards June 29, 1971 Best Foreign Actor Ryan O'Neal Won
Best Foreign Actress Ali MacGraw Won
Directors Guild of America Awards March 12, 1971 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Arthur Hiller Nominated
Golden Globe Awards February 5, 1971 Best Motion Picture – Drama Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Ali MacGraw Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John Marley Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Arthur Hiller Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Erich Segal Won
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Francis Lai Won
Golden Screen Awards 1972 Golden Screen Won
Grammy Awards March 14, 1972 Best Instrumental Composition Theme from Love Story – Francis Lai Nominated
Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Love Story – Francis Lai Nominated
Best Pop Instrumental Performance Theme from Love StoryHenry Mancini Nominated
Laurel Awards 1971 Best Picture Nominated
Top Male Dramatic Performance Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Ali MacGraw Nominated
Top Cinematographer Richard C. Kratina Nominated
Top Composer Francis Lai Nominated
National Board of Review Awards January 3, 1971 Top 10 Films 8th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards 1971 Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen Erich Segal Nominated

Later recognition and rankingsEdit

American Film Institute recognition

Year Category Nominee Rank
1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies[28] 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)[29] 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 No. 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 in deadpan fashion, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Sequels and remakeEdit

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 Hindi language entitled Sanam Teri Kasam 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.

In February 2021, remodeled ViacomCBS streaming service Paramount+ announced a remake of Love Story as a TV series, to be part of their new lineup of content. The series is to be produced by young adult stalwarts Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, made prominent due to young adult hits such as The O.C., Gossip Girl and Looking for Alaska. It is to be made for Schwartz and Savage's production house, Fake Empire, as a co-production between Paramount Television Studios and CBS Studios.[30]

Ali MacGraw's "disease"Edit

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".[14] 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".[31][32] 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".[33]

In popular cultureEdit

In 1971, the 20th 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.[34]

The film'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.[35] It would hold this position for 14 years.

In 2020, the film's theme music was played during the funeral procession of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.[36]

In Westworld season 3, the film's theme music is played while a character is on a drug called 'genre' which makes him see the world in different film genres.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "LOVE STORY (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. January 20, 1971. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  2. ^ a b D'Allesandro, Anthony (July 15, 2002). "Top 50 worldwide grossers". Variety. p. 52, Paramount at 90 supplement.
  3. ^ "Howard Minsky, Hollywood Producer, Is Dead at 94".
  4. ^ a b "Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  5. ^ Lee, Grant (August 28, 1977). "Ryan O'Neal: A Love-Hate Story". Los Angeles Times. p. q1.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Haber, Joyce (December 6, 1970). "Ryan O'Neal Has Plenty of Stories". Los Angeles Times. p. v31.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Nathaniel L. (September 21, 1999). "University, Hollywood Relationship Not Always a 'Love Story'". The Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on March 3, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "It's Everybody's 'Godfather'". Variety. March 22, 1972. p. 5.
  10. ^ "Love Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Roger Ebert (January 1, 1970). "Love Story".
  12. ^ Champlin, Charles (December 20, 1970). "'Love Story' Tells It Like It Always Was". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 29.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (December 18, 1970)."Screen: Perfection and a 'Love Story'". The New York Times. p. 44.
  15. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 27, 1970). "'Love Story' a Return to Tearful Melodrama". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 2.
  16. ^ Arnold, Gary (December 26, 1970). "Love Story". The Washington Post. B1.
  17. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 29.
  18. ^ Champlin, Charles (January 1, 1971). "The Lesson of 'Love Story'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  19. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. January 13, 1971. p. 22.
  20. ^ "Love Story Is Now An Institution (advertisement)". Variety. January 13, 1971. pp. 10–12.
  21. ^ "And "Love Story" Is Just Beginning (advertisement)". Variety. June 30, 1971. p. 16.
  22. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. July 7, 1971. p. 11.
  23. ^ "Alltime Top 20 Movies on TV". Variety. December 13, 1972. p. 26.
  24. ^ a b "Hit Movies on U.S. TV Since 1961". Variety. January 24, 1990. p. 160.
  25. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas. "The Disease: Fatal. The Treatment: Mockery" The New York Times, 20 August 2010.
  26. ^ Ritchie York (June 26, 1971). From the Music Capitals of the World. Billboard. pp. 47–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  27. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 281. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  28. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF).
  29. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot" (PDF).
  30. ^ "'Love Story,' 'Fatal Attraction,' 'Parallax View,' 'Italian Job,' 'Flashdance' TV Shows a Go at Paramount+". The Hollywood Reporter. February 24, 2021.
  31. ^ Siegel, Larry (October 1971). "Lover's Story". Mad. Vol. 146. No. 9.
  32. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Milk Money". People. September 12, 1994. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  33. ^ Roger Ebert. "For Roseanna (Review)". Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  34. ^ "The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) Episode #4.20". IMDb. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  35. ^ Gerson, Jen (January 23, 2015). "The Jennifer epidemic: How the spiking popularity of different baby names cycle like genetic drift". Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  36. ^ "Qasem Soleimani burial: Stampede kills 56 mourners". RNZ. January 8, 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2021.

External linksEdit