It’s unlikely “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” would have been the treacly ubiquitous catchphrase it was if it weren’t uttered with such doe-eyed sincerity by Love Story’s utterly lovable Ali MacGraw. Briefly but brightly a star, MacGraw was the 1970s brunette, earnest Everywoman and an antidote to the outsized icons – Welch, Streisand – of the era.
Born Alice MacGraw on April 1, 1938 in Pound Ridge, New York, Ali was an Art History student at Wellesley before joining “Harper’s Bazaar” as a photographer’s assistant. But MacGraw’s exotic yet wholesome dark good looks made her a natural in front of the camera, and she soon found herself a top fashion model, complete with a requisite forgettable bit part in A Lovely Way to Die (1968). However, MacGraw made a huge impact with her next role as the spoiled suburban princess in the celluloid adaptation of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus (1969).
But it was as Jenny, the poor college student wooed by smitten rich boy Ryan O’Neal in the following year’s surprise blockbuster Love Story (1970) that MacGraw became America’s Sweetheart – and an international star. The tragic tale of Oliver and Jenny’s doomed romance struck a chord and the heart-wrenching weepie became a huge hit and earned Ali an Academy Award® nomination as Best Actress. In her next production MacGraw starred with future husband and mega-star Steve McQueen in Sam Peckinpah’s sexy crime caper The Getaway (1972). Very much in sync with her on-screen down-to-earth image, McGraw retreated from making movies at the height of her fame to devote time to her “personal life.”
She later returned to Hollywood in a mixed bag of films including the throwaway trucker opus Convoy (1978), Players (1979), and – in a complete departure from co-stars like Steve McQueen and Ryan O’Neal – she played obnoxious tycoon Alan King’s mistress in Sidney Lumet’s comedic Just Tell Me What You Want (1980). Since then she’s been mostly out of the public eye, save for two TV mini-series, “China Rose” and “The Winds of War,” and gigs as spokeswoman for a cosmetics line and as an early yoga evangelist. In addition to her marriage and divorce to Steve McQueen, MacGraw was also married to, and divorced from, notorious film producer Robert “The Kid Stays in the Picture” Evans. MacGraw is also the author of a memoir, “Moving Pictures”, and was voted one of “People Magazine’s” “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1991, neither of which she was presumably sorry about.
Since then McGraw has maintained a pretty low profile on screen preferring instead to concentrate on yoga and animal rights issues.