My very first act of film criticism in a public arena was in late ’70, or seven or eight years before I started writing. I was sitting shotgun in a car that was cruising past Westport’s Fine Arts theatre, and in front of it and wrapping around the building and way down the alley was a line of people waiting to see Love Story. I rolled down the window and yelled, “You effing milquetoasts!”
Some people turned and looked stunned, or hurt even, and I felt a little badly about that. But then I told myself, “Well, somebody has to say it.” It was common knowledge, after all, or commonly believed, that anyone who fell for that movie or the pablum behind it was being a total sentimental sap.
“What can you say about 25 year-old girl who died?”
That’s the second most famous line from Erich Segal‘s Love Story, which actually began as a screenplay before being turned into a book as a promotional tie-in for the Arthur Hiller-directed film, which opened in December 1970.
The most famous, of course, is “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That line has probably made more people retch than any other in the history of motion pictures.
Thomas Vinciguerra‘s 8.20 N.Y. Times story about the annual Harvard rite of mocking Love Story is what brought it all back. I always though it a bit odd that the 25 year-old girl who died, a Radcliffe music student from Providence named Jenny Cavalleri, was played by Ali McGraw, who was pushing 32 when the film was made. McGraw is now 72 — amazing.