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Love Story is a 1970 romantic drama film written by Erich Segal and directed by Arthur Hiller. The film, well-known as a tragedy, is considered one of the most romantic of all time by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list), and was followed by a sequel, Oliver's Story during 1978. Love Story starred actor Ryan O'Neal and actress Ali MacGraw and also is the film debut of Tommy Lee Jones with a minor role.

The novel also includes the double meaning of a love story between Oliver and his father.


The film tells of Oliver Barrett IV, who comes from a family of wealthy and well-respected Harvard Universitymarker graduates. Partly to break the traditional Ivy League mold, the Harvard student meets and falls in love with Jennifer Cavelleri, a working-class, quick-witted Radcliffe College student. Upon graduation from college, the two decide to marry against the wishes of Oliver's father, who thereupon severs ties with his son.

Without his father's financial support, the couple struggles to pay Oliver's way through Harvard Law School with Jenny working as a private school teacher. Graduating third in his class, Oliver takes a position at a respectable New York law firm.

With Oliver's new income, the pair of 24-year-olds decide to have a child. After failing, they consult a medical specialist, who after repeated tests, informs Oliver that Jenny is ill and will soon die. Oliver then tries again. While this is not stated explicitly, she appears to have leukemia.

As instructed by his doctor, Oliver attempts to live a "normal life" without telling Jenny of her condition. Jenny nevertheless discovers her ailment after confronting her doctor about her recent illness. With their days together numbered, Jenny begins costly cancer therapy, and Oliver soon becomes unable to afford the multiplying hospital expenses. Desperate, he seeks financial relief from his father. Instead of telling his father what the money is truly for, Oliver misleads him.

From her hospital bed, Jenny speaks with her father about funeral arrangements, and then asks for Oliver. She tells him to avoid blaming himself, and asks him to embrace her tightly before she dies.

The novel also includes the double meaning of a love story between Oliver and his father, highlighted by the scene between Oliver and his father at the end of the book. When Mr. Barrett realizes that Jenny is ill and that his son borrowed the money for her, he immediately sets out for New York. By the time he reaches the hospital, Jenny is dead. Mr. Barrett apologizes to his son, who replies with something Jenny once told him: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."


Erich Segal originally wrote the screenplay and sold it to Paramount. While the movie was being produced, Paramount wanted Segal to write a novel to help pre-publicize the release of the movie Valentine's Day. When the novel came out, it became a best seller on its own in advance of the movie.

While the movie has antagonists like almost every story, it doesn't feature any villains. From Harvard's hockey rival—Cornellmarker—to the aristocratic elder Barretts, every character is basically good.

The main song in the film, " Love Story" was a major success, particularly the vocal rendition recorded by Andy Williams.


Two lines from the film have entered popular culture:

What can you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. The Beatles. And me.

The first line in the film, which summarizes the story.

Love means never having to say you're sorry.

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 1972 comedy What's Up, Doc?, which stars O'Neal, mocks this trademark line. At the end of that film, when Barbra Streisand's character coos "Love means never having to say you're sorry" while batting her eyelashes, O'Neal's character responds with the line: "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

Main cast

Awards and nominations

Love Story was nominated for seven 1970 Academy Awards and won one It was nominated in the categories of In addition, Love Story won five Golden Globe Awards including Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director for Arthur Hiller. Ali MacGraw received an award for Best Actress, while Francis Lai received an award as well for his score. Finally, Eric Segal received one for his screenplay as well. O'Neal and Marley were each nominees.

American Film Institute recognition

Critical reaction

Although popular with audiences and most reviewers, such as Roger Ebert the film was disliked by many others. Newsweek felt the film was contrived and film critic Judith Crist called Love Story " with bullshit." Writer Harlan Ellison was also on record in his book The Other Glass Teat as calling it "shit". President Richard Nixon however, reportedly enjoyed the film, ironically regretting only that it contained so much cursing.

At the beginning of every academic year at Harvard, the movie is screened for freshmen, who generally respond derisively with Rocky Horror-type catch phrases and antics. The film is considered farcical by most Harvard students.

The film also holds a place with Cornell students. Before each Cornell vs. Harvard hockey game, the Cornell Big Red Pep Band members traditionally watch the beginning of the movie where Cornell beats Harvard at hockey, skip the plot of the film, and cynically rejoice at the end when Jenny dies. During the game, the pep band plays the theme from the movie in an attempt to set the tone for the game. To date, however, none of the Harvard hockey players have died mid-game of an inoperable brain tumor.

The film is scored 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-engergized melodrama on the silver screen as well as helping to set the template for the modern "chick flick".

Musical selections from the soundtrack


O'Neal and Milland reprised their roles for a sequel, Oliver's Story, that was released in 1978. It was based on Erich Segal's 1977 novel. The film begins with Jenny's funeral and then picks up 18 months after her death. Oliver is a successful, but unhappy lawyer in New York. Although he still mourns over Jenny's passing, he manages to find love with an heiress Marcie Bonwit (Candice Bergen). Suffering from comparisons to the original, Oliver's Story did poorly with both audiences and critics.

Ali MacGraw's Disease

In his glossary of movie conventions and cliches, Roger Ebert defines "Ali MacGraw's Disease" as a "Movie illness in which the only symptom is that the sufferer grows more beautiful as death approaches."


  • The name Jennifer was the most popular name for baby girls in the United States from 1970 to 1984. Though the name was already rising in popularity through the 1960s, the popularity of the book and movie is often cited as the reason Jennifer reached number one and stayed there 15 years.
  • The star-crossed couple in Philip Roth's 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, later adapted into a 1969 film, shares characterizations with Erich Segal's married couple in Love Story, with minor tweaks: Jewish actress Ali MacGraw appears in both films as the female lead (in LS she plays Jennifer, a Catholic, Italian-American working-class Radcliffe student; in GC she plays well-heeled, Jewish Radcliffe student Brenda Patimkin); in LS, actor Ryan O'Neal plays relatively successful Harvardmarker law graduate Oliver; in GC, Jewish actor Richard Benjamin plays Neil Klugman, a Jewish working-class Rutgersmarker student; the (marital) relationship in LS is cut short by Jennifer's terminal disease, and the (doomed) relationship in GC is terminated by Neil and Brenda's irreconcilable class differences (in real-life, interestingly enough, actor Benjamin is still married to Sicilian-American actress Paula Prentiss, since 1961).


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