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Ali MacGraw: Young 'Love Story' Beauty, Then And Now

Entertainment | September 1, 2019

Ali MacGraw in a fashion photo shoot for Glamour magazine, 1967. Photo by Sante Forlano/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Ali MacGraw, co-star of Love Story (1970) and The Getaway (1972), epitomized early-'70s glamour and star quality. A New York brunette from an artistic family, MacGraw was the sophisticated fashion icon and sweetheart America craved as the cultural bonfire of the late '60s was still burning. “She exemplified this great American style,” designer Calvin Klein told Vanity Fair. “In the beginning, there was that rich-hippie period. But it went beyond that, and her style put her among the greats: Katharine Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, C. Z. Guest, Babe Paley.”

Producer and former husband Robert Evans added:

Every girl in America wanted to be Ali. ... The 10 top box-office names of 1971 were nine men and one woman, and that woman was Ali.”

Interestingly enough, MacGraw became a movie and style icon despite only having acted in a handful of successful films. She hasn't appeared in a movie since 1997. And yet, just about everyone who lived through the '70s knows her name, her work, and her persona.

Ali MacGraw's Life Before Acting

Left: MacGraw on the cover of Vogue in 1970. Right: Ali MacGraw modeling a bikini in an undated photo. Sources: eBay; Reddit

Ali MacGraw did not originally intend to become an actress. Born on April 1, 1939, she graduated from Wellesley and married Robin Hoen, her college sweetheart, in 1961. This marriage, her first, only lasted a year and a half.

MacGraw’s career took some interesting turns. She started out as an assistant to the fashion columnist and editor Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar when she was 22. Around that time, she also worked as a photographer’s stylist for Vogue; while working for Vogue, they were impressed by her fresh-faced beauty and her next career, as a model, began. When she modeled for Chanel No. 5, she was noticed by an agent who suggested a career in acting. With no acting background, she followed this advice and began appearing in television commercials.

From Commercials To The Big Screen

Left: MacGraw in '60s fashion, including go-go boots. Right: With Ryan O'Neal in 'Love Story.' Source: Reddit; IMDB

Her first film role was a small part in the film A Lovely Way to Die. After that, she was cast in her first big role, Goodbye, Columbus (1969). For her performance, she won a Golden Globe award as the “most promising newcomer-female.”

After this role, she met and married producer Robert Evans. The couple had a son, Josh, who has pursued a career in the film industry as well.

She then played the role she is best known for: Jenny in Love Story (1970), which Evans produced. She played opposite Ryan O’Neal, with whom she had great chemistry. She was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for the role.

She Meets The Love Of Her Life

With Steve McQueen in The Getaway. Source: (purpleclover.littlethings.com)

MacGraw then starred alongside Steve McQueen in The Getaway (1972). While working together, she and McQueen fell in love and had a rather public affair. She was still married to Evans at the time, but in 1972, they divorced. By 1973, she had married McQueen. For five years, she put aside her career to be a full-time wife. McQueen had a history of substance abuse throughout their marriage and had several affairs.

Ali MacGraw Made One More Movie Of Consequence

Left: With McQueen. Right: In 'Convoy' (1978). Sources: Reddit; IMDB

MacGraw decided to return to acting and was cast alongside Kris Kristofferson in the 1978 trucker movie Convoy, which was one of the highest-grossing films that year. Her marriage to McQueen, who did not want her to act again, then ended in a bitter divorce. Because she had signed a prenuptial agreement, she was left with nothing. After a wildfire destroyed her California home, she moved to New Mexico. 

A '70s Icon In The '80s

Left: MacGraw on the cover of Look magazine in 1970. Right: Ali MacGraw in an undated photo shoot. Sources: eBay; Reddit

In 1983, MacGraw appeared in the mini-series The Winds of War, based on the novel by Herman Wouk. It was a hugely successful TV event and is the highlight of MacGraw's post-'70s acting career. In 1985, she played Lady Ashley Mitchell in Dynasty, a role she took for the money. She only lasted 13 episodes before being killed off in a cliffhanger.

After battling depression and substance abuse, she entered the Betty Ford Clinic. In 1991, she was named one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” GQ also listed her in their “25 Sexiest Women in Film Ever” edition.

Life After The Big Screen

Left: Ali MacGraw in 'Players' (1979). Right: Publicity shot of a young Ali MacGraw. Sources: IMDB; Reddit

In her 50s, MacGraw began to practice yoga. She released a home video, Yoga Mind and Body, that was a best-seller and sparked renewed interest in yoga in the United States. She also wrote an autobiography, Moving Pictures

After she met Susan Hull Walker, the founder of Ibu Movement, MacGraw released a clothing line, ali4ibu. Ibu works with women around the world to empower them to preserve their skills and to make a living. The clothes are produced from natural fabrics like silk. In addition to working on this project, she has also become an animal rights activist.

Acting On Stage And Returning To Modeling

Ali MacGraw in a 2017 photo shoot for Porter magazine. Source: thatsnotmyage.com

While her focus in life has turned away from acting, she made her stage debut on Broadway in Festen, a drama about a family’s patriarch celebrating his 60th birthday. And now, in a way, her life has come full circle, as she is once again modeling for Chanel, but this time, for their J12 Watch.

Tags: Ali MacGraw | Convoy | Goodbye Columbus | Ladies | Love Story | Movies In The 1970s | Robert Evans | Steve McQueen | The Getaway | Then And Now

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!