If in your head you are hearing “to tell the story of how great a love can be,” you most likely are my age or thereabouts. And either holding back a tear or bursting out laughing.
The movie “Love Story” tends to have one effect or the other on those of us who remember being caught up in the frenzy that accompanied it when it was released on Christmas Day in 1970.
50-plus years ago.
Which means no matter what effect it had on you back then, 50 years later it has the same effect on every one of us Baby Boomers. It’s yet another reminder that we’re growing old. As if trying to figure out who the heck The Weeknd was during the Super Bowl weren’t enough.
“Love Story” was a tear-jerker all right. Unlike today’s Hallmark movies (I’m an expert, thanks to my wife) where it seems every young, handsome guy with a cute little kid has a wife who’s dead, a perky, full-of-life young woman dying of cancer was unheard of in movies back then.
But that’s what happened in “Love Story.”
Pass the tissues, please.
Although not for everyone.
Despite breaking box office records and being listed as the ninth greatest romantic movie of all time by the American Film Institute, “Love Story” came off as either heart-wrenching or sappy, depending on your personal circumstances, which in my case came down to whom I saw it with.
The first time — which may actually have been on Christmas in ’70 — I was with the girl I had been dating for more than three years. We huddled in the movie theater with our arms around each other, feeling to the depths of us the pain of lost love being played out on the screen.
A few months later one of us felt it for real when the other found a new love and moved on. Our own love story was over, and although no one died, one sort of felt that way. And it wasn’t her.
That summer, I was ready to risk dating again and with “Love Story” enjoying a second run in the theaters, I asked a pretty lady if she wanted to go with me. She was a few years older than I and she wound up laughing her way through the whole movie. I did too. It was either that or cry, which I figured might be a bad look given her reaction. Not to mention difficult to explain.
She was downright hysterical at the line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” a concept even fans of the movie had trouble getting behind.
I can’t say I wasn’t thinking about my old girlfriend as my new date’s guffaws started drawing dirty looks from the couples around us. One line was a dagger in my heart. After learning that her boyfriend’s snobby father looked down on her, Jenny, a poor kid whose brains alone got her into Radcliffe, says to Oliver, who grew up surrounded by New England wealth and was a hockey star at Harvard, that she’s not surprised. “Ollie,’ she says, “you’re a preppy millionaire and I’m a social zero.”
“Preppy millionaire” is a pretty good description of the guy I got dumped for. And “social zero” is kinda how I felt. I never held it against the character Ollie, though. In fact, I tried to be like him.
His attire on cold winter days in Boston of just a sweater, wool blazer, gloves and a scarf became my go-to winter “look.” And still is to this day. The only difference being that not blessed with actor Ryan O’Neal’s thick hair, I must cover my bald noggin with a ski cap.
That outfit never did for me what it did for Ollie and I could only conclude that not having a 1947 MG convertible to tool around in, as he did, was the difference.
By the way, dumb as it may sound, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is No. 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Movie Quotes. It’s right between “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” from “Apocalypse Now,” and “The stuff that dreams are made of,” from “The Maltese Falcon.”
Number one on that list, by the way, is “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” from “Gone With the Wind.” Come to think of it, Clark Gable doesn’t add, “I’m sorry.”
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.