Love Story author dead

Erich Segal, the author of the hugely popular novel Love Story, died on Sunday of a heart attack, his daughter said. He was 72.

By (AP)

Published: Fri 22 Jan 2010, 9:40 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:07 AM

Francesca Segal said her father died at his home in London. She said he had suffered from Parkinson’s diease, for 25 years.

Segal was a Yale classics professor and screenplay writer when he turned a proposed movie about two college students — preppy Oliver and smart-mouthed Jenny — into a novel. Published in 1970, Love Story was a weeper about a young couple who fall in love, marry and discover she is dying of cancer. It was a million seller guaranteed to make readers cry and critics scream.

A much bigger audience caught up with the film version, which starred Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. Love Story gained seven Oscar nominations — including one for Segal for writing the screenplay, as well as for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and Actress. It won one Oscar, for Best Music.

Segal also wrote a sequel, Oliver’s Story, published in 1977, and made into a film, with O’Neal again in the male lead role. Segal would later say that Oliver was based in part on a couple of Harvard undergraduates who later became quite well known: Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. (He disputed reports that Jenny was based on Gore’s future wife, Tipper).

The famous Love Story line — “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — became a national catchphrase, but provided endless fodder for jokes. John Lennon countered that “love means having to say you’re sorry every 15 minutes.” Even O’Neal parodied his earlier role. In the comedy What’s Up Doc?, he responded to the famous line with the riposte, “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”

Segal had a long, distinguished academic career in classics, gaining a doctorate at Harvard and teaching at Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth while writing era-defining screenplays and novels. He worked on surreal popular works like the 1968 screenplay to the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine while also publishing works on Greek tragedy, Latin poetry and ancient athletics.

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