It was a hard sell, with a poor response in Hollywood. But when the movie, Love Story, was released in 1970 it was immediately clear that this movie was different. Love Story, based on Erich Segal's best-selling novel, went on to earn seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture. Made for a modest $2 million, the movie has stood the test of time. The film, well known as a tragedy, is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time and is ranked number nine in this category by the American Film Institute.
The movie tells the story of Oliver Barrett and Jenny Cavelleri, college students from vastly different backgrounds who fall in love. When Oliver’s wealthy father disowns him, the couple struggles on their own, first believing that their love will enable them to conquer any obstacles only to face the hardship of a serious illness that intervenes and causes Jenny’s death. The film is best known for the iconic phrase, "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
The week the film’s stars, Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, were reunited on the Oprah Winfrey Show. According to the show, there was a strong chance that the movie might never have been made. Winfrey said McGraw was so enamored with the script that she asked for a meeting with the head of Paramount Pictures and charmed him into greenlighting the project.
The popularity of the movie, and the timeless nature of it, has made it one of the key ways that the public learns about the medical condition that takes Jenny’s life – leukemia - and why leukemia is immediately viewed by many as a tragic, fatal illness. In an ironic twist of fate, Ryan O’Neal was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2001. He started targeted drug therapy shortly after diagnosis.
In an interview with Julie McKenna of Coping magazine in 2002, O’Neal was asked what advice he would give to new cancer survivors. “I would tell them this: There is help. There are amazing advances in treatment.” After a long pause he continues, “You’re the first person I’ve talked to. This is important journalism. I have to say something.