On December 16, Love Story starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal had its golden anniversary, meaning that it was released fifty years ago.
Have you recovered from the shock? Good.
As all Ivy-Style readers know, the clothing has held up. I recently wore the dark turtleneck, khaki skirt, and knee-high boots combo made iconic by MacGraw’s Jenny. If you don’t have a camel coat, don’t speak to me. Only the first jacket O’Neal is seen wearing as Oliver could be considered too “horsey.” I only give that example because it resembles a windowpane sport coat I tried and failed to sell during my time at The Andover Shop. I still disagree with that feedback. It too was from the era of Love Story, and its slim lapels aged well.
Not so for the sport coat’s grotesque paisley lining, to which I’ll compare the film’s insipid plot. That is not to criticize the romance or even the melodrama of Love Story. Heroes were losing their heroines thousands of years before we’re told in the first few minutes of the movie that Jenny won’t make it to the end. What was irksome then, and still is now, is Oliver’s pigheadedness in not waiting to finish his law degree before marrying Jenny, cutting himself off from his parents’ assistance. Logic at least prevails in Harvard’s Financial Aid office, where “sticking it to my old man” does not equate to being “in need.”
The greater offense in Love Story is the musty smell that I haven’t been able to get out of my hair since watching it: how much things used to cost. In 1970, Harvard Law School’s annual tuition rates were raised from $1750 to $2100. Because Oliver is denied a scholarship, Jenny must support her tantrum-throwing husband with a teacher’s salary, $3500 per year. After paying $82.50 a month for rent, that leaves the young couple about $35 a month for utilities, food, and however much it costs to run a 1945 MG TC. Later when Jenny falls ill, Oliver begrudgingly requests and accepts a $5000 loan from his father for medical bills. Student loans are never discussed, nor are insurance copays.
Today Oliver would either have to swallow his pride and accept his father’s terms, or deign to look at a program elsewhere. The estimated budget for the 2020-2021 academic year at Harvard Law is $100,416. The median entry-level public school teacher’s salary in Cambridge, Massachusetts is $66,133. Their apartment building at 119 Oxford Street is about a ten minute walk from the Law School, and the off-market property is valued in the $3M – $3.25M range. According to Zillow, the monthly cost for a studio apartment in that area ranges from $2000 to $2500. Oliver’s New York law firm would definitely provide spousal insurance, even still his updated loan for paying off “a girl in trouble” has inflated to $33,534.66.
These are objective figures, and of course prices tend to rise within half a century. Yet with Harvard Square being next to abandoned since the exodus of students and faculty last spring, it’s frightening to imagine what’s next to shutter its doors. Although the university and real estate continue to thrive, Boston is rolling back to a modified Phase 2, Step 2 for at least three weeks following a spike in COVID-19 cases. Cambridge is likely to follow suit. A bride with an Italian last name is less likely to cause such a stir these days, but one wonders how many love stories have already been stunted by plague and how many more never began due to skyrocketing financial disparity. What’s the point of saying sorry now? —ZG BURNETT