• Golden Globe Awards

Tomorrow’s Stars Yesterday: Ali MacGraw, 1970

Between 1948 and 1983 Golden Globes were awarded in a special category of “New Star of the Year” conceived to recognize young actors making a mark in their early roles. In this series, the HFPA’s Phil Berk highlights those that would follow their auspicious starts with distinguished careers.
Ali MacGraw was America’s sweetheart in the 70s, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer Jewish girl.
When she played the ill-fated Jenny in Love Story, she became the epitome of the all-American WASP, even though in her earlier film she had played a spoiled Jewish American Princess, but with a name like MacGraw who would believe she was Jewish! But yes, she was. Her mother was Jewish, even though she chose not to disclose her ancestry (according to Ali, her father was a violent bigot) and during most of Ali’s growing up, she was unaware of it. Only after marrying Robert Evans, her producer, did she acknowledge her heritage.
Surprisingly she was 30 when she received her Golden Globe as New Star of the Year. Love Story, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, has weathered the test of time. At the time of its release, it was widely denigrated. The HFPA was the only body that named it Best Picture, although both MacGraw and her costar Ryan O’Neal were nominated by the Academy. The film turned out to be a phenomenon. Made for peanuts it eventually grossed in today’s figures almost a billion globally. When the screenplay was first shopped around no studio was interested in making it until Paramount (Robert Evans) took a chance. Fifty years later, last week, in fact, MacGraw received her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Growing up in a dysfunctional household, she was ambitious – she could name Wellesley as the college she attended. After graduation, she was hired as an assistant to fashion icon Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar. She was there for six years, eventually becoming a fashion model herself. Her acting career began in TV commercials. As a result, she was hired for the pivotal role in Goodbye Columbus. One look at the rushes and studio head Robert Evans fell in love with her. He also signed her to a three-picture contract, and shortly after they were married. They remained so until she met Steve McQueen during the filming of her third movie, The Getaway
In quick order, she fell in love with McQueen, divorced Evans, and married McQueen. They were together for five years. The marriage ended two years before he died prematurely of cancer.
But of course, her story is Love Story. Besides winning the hearts of audiences the world over, it won the Golden Globe as Best Motion Picture Drama. She was nominated for the Oscar and won the Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama. A year later she was voted the top female box office star.
She literally skyrocketed to fame, and from her very first film (Goodbye Columbus) even though Richard Benjamin was the star, it was Ali who drew all the attention. As a reward, she got Love Story. After that everyone wanted her, and unfortunately for Evans, the highest bidder was Steve McQueen. The Getaway was critics’ darling Sam Peckinpah’s first commercial film. And it served everyone well. So well in fact that Peckinpah wanted her again for Convoy, this time her costar was Kris Kristofferson, but the critics were considerably more lukewarm.
She next played Dean Martin’s golden-haired son, Dean Paul Martin’s cougar lover in Players, equally despised by critics, even though her ex-husband produced it. She did somewhat better working with Sidney Lumet on Just Tell Me What You Want, thanks to a Jay Presson Allen screenplay, but essentially after those six films, her career was over. She appeared in two TV series, one of them The Winds of Warwas highly acclaimed, the other Dynasty, highly popular.
Nothing she did after that is worth mentioning least of all her last film, directed by her son Josh Evans. In her autobiography, “Moving Pictures,” she revealed her struggles with alcohol and sex addiction for which she was treated at the Betty Ford Center.
She currently serves as a U.S. Ambassador for the animal welfare charity, Animals Asia. An animal rights advocate throughout her life, she received the Humane Education Award by Animal Protection of New Mexico for speaking out about animal issues. She ultimately reconciled with Evans and was with him when he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002. After Evans’ 2019 death, McGraw told The Hollywood Reporter, “Our son, Joshua, and I will miss Bob tremendously, and we are so very proud of his enormous contribution to the Film Industry.”  During the last four decades of his life, MacGraw had been a good friend to him.
Her classic movies Love Story, Goodbye Columbus and The Getaway, all while married to Evans.
For the record, the previous year’s New Star winners were the star-crossed lovers of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, neither of whom became stars.