Friday, April 1, 2011

Love means never having to say "Happy Birthday"

Today marks the 72nd Birthday of Oscar-nominee Ali MacGraw.  She's most famous for her role as Jennifer Cavalleri in the 1970 monster hit Love Story, for which she received her Oscar nomination.  At the time of the film's release, she was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, snagging an impressive three Golden Globes in a span of four years.  Strangely, though, her star quickly faded, and now an actress that was considered the next hot thing is all but forgotten about.

She was so big in the early 70s, she had her footprints and autograph enshrined in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre after only four films.  Only four films!  Then she married action superstar Steve McQueen, her priorities shifted, and she passed up huge roles in The Great Gatsby and Chinatown.  A small stint on Dynasty in the 80s reminded people she still existed, but she didn't do much work after that.

Love Story was the highest grossing film of 1970, which was (and still is) an impressive feat for a film that's primarily story.  Typically action film are your year-end blockbusters, but in 1970, it was an emotional drama.  And the star of this drama was Ali MacGraw.  She was huge, and a classic Hollywood beauty.  She should be held in higher regard, but I fear that since the popularity of Love Story has faded, she has faded as well.  It doesn't help that Love Story has become a favorite target for Oscar bloggers and commentators, who often cite the film as one of the worst and most dated nominees for Best Picture.  It's not really fair though; the Oscars aren't supposed to recognize greatness in hindsight, but rather what they think is brilliant at the moment.  Her performance was guarded yet vulnerable; each time she muttered "preppy," you knew it was her way of saying "I love you."  Sure the movie was corny, but it also has a very real emotional core, which audiences in 1970 connected with.  It gave us the timeless film line "Love mean never having to say you're sorry" and it managed to make me cry like a baby.  Happy Birthday to a great actress who at least this blogger hasn't forgotten about.

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