‘Love Story’ Star Ali MacGraw Opened Up About Leaving Hollywood

by Suzanne Halliburton

For so many years, Ali MacGraw was the toast of Hollywood. Thanks to her breakout role in Love Story, she also proved to be the top female box office draw in the world.

MacGraw played Jenny Cavilleri in Love Story, only her second-ever movie. She was beautiful, with a very unique look as she starred opposite Ryan O’Neal.

Love Story was a classic tale with familiar themes. Oliver, a rich Harvard student, falls in love with Jenny, a working-class girl studying classical music at Radcliffe. They marry. His disapproving parents cut him off. But here’s the twist on the ending. The beautiful young woman dies of cancer. Guaranteed, every person watching the movie cried along with Oliver as he held onto Jenny as she died.

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But despite all her popularity and success, MacGraw left the bright lights of Hollywood for a wide-open, uncluttered sliver of New Mexico outside Santa Fe.

“I love it because there are grownup women—women who don’t strut around in the latest fashion and aren’t afraid to let their hair go gray,” the Love Story star told AARP.

MacGraw also described her New Mexico lifestyle in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune back in 2019. “I created a life for myself with those kind of people and community service and animals. And it’s been wonderful. I love as you go further up in New Mexico where there is no one, the landscape is completely jaw-dropping—the sky, the clean air, endless miles of vista.”

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It sounds like a blissful life. MacGraw now is 82. Long ago, she let her long dark brown hair go gray. In New Mexico, she’s her authentic self down to her roots.

Her first movie role was in the 1969 movie Goodbye, Columbus. She won a Golden Globe as most promising newcomer. Then came Love Story, a role that defined her career. The movie premiered in early December, in the holiday gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. All total, it spent 15 weeks as the No. 1 movie at the box office. In October 1972, ABC aired it on the network. And it became the most-watched movie on TV all-time, topping Ben Hur. Love Story owned the record until Gone with the Wind made it to TV in 1976.

In 1972, MacGraw also enjoyed another box office success with The Getaway starring opposite Steve McQueen. The two had an affair on set, then got married a year later. She said she started working less when she was married to McQueen. In her Hollywood career, she also had high-profile romances with the likes of Warren Beatty and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

And in the 1980s, MacGraw starred in several big TV projects. She was part of the mini-series Winds of War. And she joined the cast of Dynasty, the prime-time soap. On the show, she was rich woman who had a relationship with Blake Carrington and ended up in a dalliance with Jeff Colby. Alas, she died in a terrorist attack at a wedding.

But by 1997, she retired from acting. She’s lived in Tesuque, N.M since 1994. But because of Love Story, she remains an international star.