Erich Segal, the man of a success, “Love Story”

Forty years ago, the film rocked America and featured Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw.

He is 72 years old. He wrote Love Story. He likes Latin. Musicals. And running. When we learn of Erich Segal’s death, it is inevitable that the beginning of his 1970 bestseller comes to mind: “He was beautiful. He was smart. He loved Mozart, Bach, the Beatles. And me.” For the rest of the world, he will remain the author of a novel that inspires a film with an international audience. Initially, it was a script. Segal failed to sell it and decided to make this book. Meanwhile, Ali MacGraw loves the script, really wants to play the hero who suffers from leukemia and convinced Paramount to adapt it. It should be noted that at the time the actress was married to Robert Evans, the boss of the studio. Maybe it helped. Filming began even before the novel was released in bookstores. The sequel is known. Millions of copies were sold, translations into twenty languages, Ryan O’Neal in a sheepskin jacket weeping over bleachers at the Central Park ice rink as Francis Lai’s music rose (the French won the Oscar for the soundtrack). Ah, the tears that the public was able to shed in the face of the unfortunate love of an heir and a student of Italian descent (in the first version, the character of the woman was Jewish). Harvard, ice hockey, social differences, cancer, the cocktail is well dosed. Oliver Barrett and Jenny Cavalleri were the best commercials for Kleenex.

In 1971, the film reached 5th position at the French box office with more than 5 million admissions, despite being beaten by To die of love, where we saw Annie Girardot, a teacher, have a relationship with one of his students. In the United States, it is the largest taker of the year. The audience repeated the famous line: “Love doesn’t have to say you’re sorry.”

Without warning

Erich Segal was the son of a rabbi in New York. Born in 1937, he was raised by his grandparents. His solitary childhood pushed him to resort to imagination, which did not prevent him from going to Harvard, to be covered by diplomas, to translate at Plautus and to teach at the prestigious Yale University. On campus, her reputation was built before Love Story was published. He wrote lyrics for musicals (including one on Trojan War and an impossible adaptation of The Odyssey with Yul Brynner) and participated in the script for Yellow Submarine, the Beatles cartoon (1968). This eccentric also writes a thesis on what made the Romans laugh.

Success fell to him without warning, at the age of 32. Among his students were Al Gore and George Bush. Gore even later claims to have inspired the hero’s character. We see in the film another of his students: Tommy Lee Jones, chaotic and hairy. Segal couldn’t resist: he started a series, Oliver’s Story, which produced a feature film with Ryan O’Neal and Candice Bergen. He continues to write, practice marathon, comment on athletics events for the ABC channel. His prints never again reached the marks of his first work (La Classe, in 1985). Her name sometimes appears in the credits (The Games, by Michael Winner, the Olympic champions in 1970, A Change of Seasons, with Shirley MacLaine and Anthony Hopkins, in 1980).

A bitterness gripped him. His companions turned their backs on him, not taking him seriously. There are days when Love Story seems like a burden to this scholar who sucks Hollywood and fame. In the long run, Parkinson’s disease complicated his life. He is survived by a wife and two daughters. Like in Central Park yesterday we saw the silhouette of a young woman wearing a tartan skirt. Some say it’s Jennifer’s ghost.

what they have become

Released in the United States in 1970, Love Story is the film that marks the couple’s career shaped on the screen by Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neil. Stuntman in his early days, then young first star in the TV series Peyton Place, in the 1960s, he then appeared in light comedies by Peter Bogdanovich (We made the suitcase, doctor? In 1972 and La Barbe à Papa in 1973 where he played with his daughter, Tatum O’Neil) before seeing a major role in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, in 1975. Three years later, he returned, with a huge 15 million dollar contract, Oliver Story, the sequel to Love. Story. Where did she forget her grief in the arms of a divorce ?. Now, at age 69, Ryan O’Neil has landed a supporting role in the TV series Bones.

As for Ali MacGraw, after her Oscar for Love Story, she divorced her producer husband Robert Evans to marry Steve McQueen. He met the actor during the filming of Guet-apens, by Sam Peckinpah (1972). (J.-LW)

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