An All-American Love Story

What can you say about a 25-year-old girl that died?  That she was beautiful.  And brilliant.  That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me,” Ryan O’Neal narrates in the opening scene of the 1970 classic Love Story.  The movie tells the simple tale of a working-class Italian girl named Jenny Cavalleri (played by the gorgeous Ali MacGraw) who attends Radcliffe College, and meets a handsome Harvard blue blood named Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal).  The two inevitably argue, flirt and fall in love.  But is it ever that simple?  Oliver’s wealthy father disagrees with his choice of mate, but he isn’t easily swayed – Oliver stands by his woman!  As a result, his family cuts him off financially, and Oliver and Jenny decide to wed following their graduation.  The young couple face early hardship, struggling to make ends meet while Oliver attends Harvard Law School, and Jenny works as a private school teacher and camp counselor during the summer.  The two make it through the tough times, and after Oliver finishes third in his law school class, they head for New York City, where he accepts a position at a well-known law firm.  Jenny decides she wants to have children, but after several unsuccessful attempts, her doctors inform her that cancer is the reason she and Oliver can’t get pregnant – it’s not curable, either.  This tragic romance was nominated for the Best Picture, as well as six other Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress.  Harvard graduate Erich Segal wrote the screenplay and the accompanying book, which was the #1 best-seller of 1970.  (Fun Fact: Love Story was the first movie to be filmed at Harvard University.  Every year it is shown to the incoming freshman class, where traditional heckling also takes place.)  The other major star of this film was Ali MacGraw’s wardrobe!  Her combination of bohemian chic and collegiate preppiness set the tone for women’s clothing in the 1970s, and made MacGraw one of the all-time fashion icons of the 20th century.  Calvin Klein told Vanity Fair, “She exemplified this great American style.  In the beginning, there was that rich-hippie period.  But it went beyond that, and her style put her among the greats: Katharine Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, C. Z. Guest, Babe Paley.”  Early in the film, Jenny is very much a college girl in turtlenecks, striped-scarves, plaid miniskirts, knit caps, and peacoats.  She is a music student who works at the Radcliffe library, and sports some over-sized glasses when she’s studying or playing the piano.  MacGraw also has a very natural beauty style, with her dark eyes, accented by strong eyebrows, minimal makeup and long brunette locks, generally parted down the the middle: all of which became the go-to look of the earthy 70s.  Considering the majority of the film takes place in New England, prep-school style had to be incorporated (especially considering Segal was the first author to ever have the word “preppy” published).  Jenny’s outerwear has to be the best part of her wardrobe.  Her dark peacoat, camel trench and cream-colored coat have to be three of the chicest items of her clothing, that are routinely mentioned in fashion guides (including our favorite, Victoria Beckham’s).  Her proper “popped collar” is also the way a collar should be up: it protects the neck, and provides structure for a scarf to sit.  Following their financial independence and subsequent simple wedding ceremony (pictured, left), Jenny and Oliver are the epitome of nautical preppy in various combinations of navy blue and white during the summer.  Even though it’s over 40-years-old, the style of Love Story is so timeless, every outfit could be worn today without blinking an eye.  The film reminds our editors’ of their own parents, a feisty Italian girl and an Irish collegiate athlete, who met while she was working on campus, just like Jenny and Oliver.  The two also faced disapproval from their parents, and went on to experience trouble having children (until they were blessed with us!  Thank God.)  Since they also both entered college in the same year Love Story was released, it’s amazing to see how many similarities in our own parents’ closets resembled Jenny and Olivers’ cool styles.  The handsome Ryan O’Neal looked great in layered button-down shirts, v-neck sweaters, neutral scarves and gloves, plaid blazers, suede jackets, and even his Harvard hockey jersey!  It’s the perfect combination of a relaxed college guy in the 1970s, and the well-dressed independent man Oliver grows into.  (Geez, so much more sophisticated than band t-shirts, dirty baseball caps and baggy jeans so many undergrads sport today!)   It’s actually kind of spooky how close our own father’s wardrobe still looks like Oliver’s digs.  During Oliver’s grad school years, the couple’s clothing slowly transitions from student to young adult.  Oliver starts to dress like a young professional, and Jenny’s skirts and sweaters become more streamlined. Once the Barretts move to New York, Jenny mentions that they’re now “nouveau riche,” and they certainly exemplify that style of the 1970s in collared shirts, classic knits and beautiful jackets.  Unfortunately, the stunning young couple’s happiness is cut short, once they realize they won’t be parents, and Jenny won’t live to see her next birthday (which, oddly enough, today is this editor’s 26th birthday – a day Jenny doesn’t live to see.)  In one of the final scenes of the movie, Oliver and Jenny look particularly chic when they go ice-skating in Central Park (pictured, below).  Jenny sports a cream-colored cashmere coat with a fur hat and scarf, while Oliver looks gorgeous in his Irish fisherman sweater, as they share a cup of cocoa.  With the couple’s final scenes in a cold New York, playing in the snow as undergrads, and studying together curled up on a couch, this movie inspires lots of winter weather looks that will certainly make your honey want to snuggle!  Even though the opening line gives away the inevitable tragic ending, this tearjerker will surely having you sobbing.  (Fun Fact #2: Rachel McAdams watched this film the night before she auditioned for The Notebook, and thought she wasn’t going to get it, because her eyes were so puffy from crying all night!)  Even though it’s sad, Love Story showcased a specific style that influenced millions, and exalted Ali MacGraw into icon status.  Calvin Klein was quoted as saying, “She exemplified the great American Style.”  Even though Jenny doesn’t make it to the end of the movie, her legacy lives on.

5 thoughts on “An All-American Love Story

  1. Thanks for the memories! Saw the preview in NY city and sobbed my eyes out at the end – you seem to forget Oliver’s opening lines about Jenny being dead.
    Classic clothes are always in style!

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