Last night I was honored to videotape an interview with Ali McGraw at a Valentine’s Day screening of “Love Story”. The one-time Hollywood “it” girl and tabloid staple, Ali McGraw has left the Hollywood scene many years ago to lead a more normal life. It was refreshing to hear stories from her amazing life coming from a point of honesty and integrity without an agenda or hype. She was not selling a book, a show, or a movie. She was just there to meet her fans.
Part of Ali McGraw’s ability to back away from the Hollywood machine is because she never intended to be an actress. She was in the fashion industry, first as an assistant to Diana Vreeland, and later a photographer’s stylist, which lead her to modeling and commercials. (We screened her breakout commercial for the Polaroid Swinger camera.)
She was married to Robert Evans, then Head of Production at Paramount, when the studio was in major trouble. Ali had never done any acting before, so it was a big risk that paid off. “Love Story” essentially saved Paramount Studios from being torn down and turned into a cemetery(!). She eventually left Evans to marry Steve McQueen and the two became the tabloid version of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown of that time.
She told so many detailed stories of having met people like Salvador Dali, Ryan O’Neal, Rock Hudson and CoCo Chanel, but the surprise of the night came when the woman who was Ali McGraw’s “Love Story” stand-in was introduced from the audience. She told how besides being stand-in, she was also in charge of recruiting students to help build the skating rink for the movie and recruiting extras. The toughest part was convincing guys to get their long hair cut to look like “preppies”.
I stayed for the screening of “Love Story”, too. It was a good print, and surprisingly, most of the movie did stand the test of time. The witty banter and snarkyness of Ali McGraw’s character was revolutionary at the time, but it’s now standard fare of sitcoms. The melodrama near the end was just as hokey then as it is now, so I’ll give it a pass, but the relationship of Ryan O’Neal’s character to his father was poorly developed and leaves you wanting more.
And speaking of more, I could have listened to much, much more stories from the lovely Ali McGraw.