Lovers on the Big Screen, Friends in Real Life: Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal
By Skip Sheffield
“Love Story” stars Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal are back together again. This time they are on stage, reading A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-Prize finalist work, “Love Letters,” at Broward Center for the Arts July 21-26.
“Love Letters” is a show designed for guest celebrities because it does not require lengthy rehearsals. It is more akin to reader’s theater, as the actors read the love letters of the title, sent between a man and a woman over a 50-year span. It helps if the actors are actually fond of each other. McGraw and O’Neal are.
“Ryan and I have travelled the world making appearances for `Love Story’ screenings,” she revealed by telephone from her home in Santa Fe, NM. “It seems everywhere we go, people know who we are. It is amazing that such a little tiny movie became such a worldwide phenomenon that continues to this day.”
“Love Story” certainly changed the life of Ali McGraw. It was only her second film after “Goodbye Columbus” in 1969. She won the Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer for her role as Richard Benjamin’s rich girlfriend in that film. In 1970 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Ryan O’Neal’s doomed love interest in “Love Story.” In 1972 she was voted top female box office star in the world and was invited to put her foot and handprints at the walk of fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In 1991 People magazine selected McGraw as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” In 2008 GQ magazine listed her in their “25 Sexiest Women in Film Ever” edition. Though she has allowed her dark hair to go silver, McGraw is still of the most beautiful women her age (76) in the world.
Elizabeth Alice “Ali” McGraw is also very smart. She is an alumna of Rosemary Hall (now Choate Rosemary Hall) on scholarship and prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“My family was not wealthy, but I was on scholarship so I got to attend schools people associate with the rich,” she said. “I could see the differences between upper and lower classes in the 1960s. It was a time of extraordinary freedom.”
After appearing on Broadway, McGraw and O’Neal have taken their two-person act “on the road."
“I have never been to Fort Lauderdale, so I’m looking forward to that,” McGraw said. “I love working with Ryan. We have gotten together over the years for `Love Story,’ but `Love Letters’ is special. It’s a touching and funny depiction of a long-term relationship that I think people will enjoy.”
Tickets start at $35. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.browardcenter.org.