Erich Segal, who died on January 17 aged 72, was an esteemed Classics professor who produced the critically-panned but popularly-adored novel Love Story, which was turned into a film starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal; he also wrote the screenplay for the Beatles’ animated feature Yellow Submarine.
But it was Love Story, the mawkish tale of a poor girl who meets a rich boy and supports him through law school, only to die of leukaemia, that made his name. Segal, who had long combined serious research with lighter-hearted writing, adopted the plot from a conversation he had overheard in 1968. The main characters were based on acquaintances.
He initially conceived the project as a screenplay, and found that “the story poured out of me”. It was finished in under a month and dispatched to studios across the land, all of which rejected it. “This is soap opera stuff,” noted one.
Segal sat down to transform Love Story into a novel, only for his friend Ali MacGraw to find his original script and demand that Paramount turn it into a film with her as the lead. The novel rights were snapped up.
The book, at 131 pages, was released first, in February 1970. The majority of reviewers found it saccharine but largely unobjectionable. A few, however, seemed to concur with Dorothy Parker’s famous remark. “The banality of Love Story makes Peyton Place look like Swann’s Way,” ran the notice in Newsweek. “It skips from cliché to cliché with an abandon that would chill the blood of a True Romance editor.” Inevitably, it was a smash hit.
When the film version was released six months later, the book was still at number one in the bestseller list. The paperback sold more than four million copies with one in five Americans estimated to have read it.
The film could hardly fail, despite the best efforts of The New Yorker, which described it as “the kind of weepie one had hoped might have been laughed off the screen forever”. Most critics could only testify to its tearjerking qualities and watch as the queues stretched from box-offices across the country.
Popular acclaim was one thing, but even Segal seemed a touch embarrassed when Love Story was subsequently recommended for America’s National Book Award: “I honestly don’t think I should be placed on the same page as Bellow and Updike,” he admitted. Fiction jurors for the award even threatened to resign if Love Story was nominated. “It’s just not literature,” one of them wailed.
Erich Wolff Segal was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 16 1937. His father was an orthodox rabbi. As well as Hebrew, Erich learned Latin and was proficient in several other languages. He also developed a passion for running.
He studied Classics at Harvard, where he met Ali MacGraw, who was studying at nearby Wellesley College. The two became, and remained, friends. Working towards his PhD, Segal wrote lyrics and music for revues and ran, an unfusty combination that made him, according to his peers, an “implausible academic”.
He ventured beyond the campus stage with the shows Voulez-Vous? (cancelled after five nights) and Sing, Muse? a musical comedy stuffed with classical allusions, which won the admiration of Richard Rogers, though not the general public (it lasted for 39 performances).
In the late 1960s, Segal was a Classics professor at Yale when Al Brodax, the producer of Yellow Submarine (1968), recruited him to stitch together the screenplay of the Beatles’ new film. Flown to London and required to work under intense pressure, Segal joked that he was only allowed out of his hotel room for a daily jog.
After the success of Love Story, Segal neglected neither his academic, nor his popular, writing. He was successful in both fields. The Class (1985) and Doctors (1988) were both bestsellers. Despite his success he remained respected by colleagues and popular with students at Yale and Oxford, whom he charmed with lectures sometimes described as “living theatre”.
Erich Segal is survived by his wife Karen and his two daughters.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/books-obituaries/7029749/...
Love Story author Erich Segal dies from heart attack
Love Story author Erich Segal has died from a heart attack at home in London aged 72, his daughter has said.
Segal was a classics professor at Yale University when he wrote the book, which became an Oscar-winning 1970 film starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw.
Francesca Segal said her father, who died on Sunday, had suffered from Parkinson's disease for many years.
New York-born Segal also wrote the screenplay for the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine.
At his funeral in London on Tuesday, Ms Segal said during the eulogy: "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was, a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity.
"He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."
Love Story, which had the tagline "Love means never having to say you're sorry", was nominated for seven Oscars - including Segal's screenplay - and won one for best original score.
Segal, who was an honorary fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is survived by his wife Karen James and daughters Francesca, 29, and Miranda, 20.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8469172.stm
Жаль, смешной был мужик. Как он в допах на ДВД рассказывал о том, как его завербовали в проект! :)))