Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Tearful "Love Story" will break your heart

Cleveland Press May 19, 1966

"Love Story" is a three-handkerchief movie if you are hard boiled. Otherwise it rates six hankies.

By now millions know the story and millions more will via the novel which Erich Segal extracted from his screen play and which became and has remained an amazing bestseller.

Like the novel it is slickly done, a romantic fantasy that makes no apologies about tugging at your heart.

If anything, the movie works even better. It is easy enough to sit back and pull the movie apart -- to say that this part is hokey and that part is fraudulent.

But it works. If the idea was to make an audience involved, to weep, to identify it works as few movies ever have.

THE STORY is about a wealthy Harvard lad who falls in love with a poor girl who has made it to Radcliffe. Told in a series of flashbacks you know from the beginning how it will end.

"What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?" The hero asks at the beginning. And having evoked the proper goose pimples and lump in the throat the line serves to intensify the emotion of every moment that is to follow.

"Love Story" has the trappings of today although basically it is very old-fashioned. So to make it sound hip the couple make love before getting married, but discreetly so far as modern movies are concerned.

And the heroine uses a single vulgarity over and over again as kind of a trademark. That also makes her hip.

The rest is formula. The son's insistence on marriage causes his wealthy father to cut him off. So the couple marry and starve together and she works while he finishes law school. Then, with success and happiness virtually assured -- both come quickly in fantasies -- the girl is given only a short time to live.

THE DISEASE is nameless and when death comes, she in his arms, she is as lovely as the day their court ship began. And in between there are the poignant times, the clutching at happiness with the knowledge that each moment is to be the last.

Maybe at times I had the feeling that my emotions had been carefully programmed. But why fight it; that's the purpose of the movie.

Director Arthur Hiller has put this together with great skill. The tricks are at a minimum -- that is, they don't show as tricks and those are the best tricks of all.

The movie was made in Boston. The bright colors of fall, and later the clean, brilliant snow are the back drop for the romance. When death hovers on the scene it also is cold and snowy but it is old snow and the light is muted. Two figures, arms around each other's waists, trudge through that snow -- lonely, growing smaller as the camera pulls back, helpless and alone in their grief.

THROUGH IT all a romantic theme by composer Francis Lai throbs and pulsates on the soundtrack.

Author Segal has assembled this skillfully. You know of course that people don't talk like this with witty rejoinders, with bright entrance lines and telling exit lines. The sentiments are often fatuous and he plays with death wish fantasies. He also knows what an audience, readers and moviegoers alike, wants.

It helps that Ali MacGraw is the girl, lovely but not in the made up, phony way that movie heroines so often are. Ryan O'Neal, whose past work made him an unlikely choice as the leading man, is excellent in the role. Ray Miliand, without wig and looking jowly, is properly stuffy as his father.

JOHN MARLEY, as the girl's father, comes on like a breath of fresh air just when matters were beginning to cloy a trifle.

Paramount Pictures, whose movie this is, released the youth-oriented version of "Romeo and Juliet" not too long ago. That one left adolescent girls sobbing and coming back for more. "Love Story" will have the same affect, not only on them but on their mothers and aunts as well.

Paramount may have to put on extra auditors to count the money.