Elizabeth Alice MacGraw, better known as Ali MacGraw, is an award-winning American model, actor, author, designer, and animal rights activist. She is renowned for her movies like ‘Love Story’ (1970), ‘Goodbye, Columbus’ (1969), and ‘The Getaway’ (1972). Born and raised in an artistic family in New York, she wished to work in the field of arts. She began working as a photography assistant, and then turned to modeling, and acting. She was noticed in her first two movies and received ‘Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer.’ MacGraw’s 1970 film, ‘Love Story,’ proved a major hit and fetched her worldwide fame, as well as an ‘Academy Award’ nomination and a ‘Golden Globe’ award. With just three releases, she was voted the ‘Top female box-office start in the world.’ In 1972, her hand-footprints and autograph were engraved at ‘Grauman’s Chinese Theater.’ She has starred in several other films, including ‘The Getaway,’ ‘Convoy,’ ‘Players,’ and TV miniseries ‘The Winds of War’ among others. Her autobiography, ‘Moving Pictures,’ was published in 1991. MacGraw has married thrice.
Childhood & Early Life
MacGraw was born on April 1, 1939, in Pound Ridge, New York, to Frances (née Klein) and Richard MacGraw. Her Jewish mother was a commercial artist, while her father grew up in an orphanage in New Jersey and studied art in Munich. Her younger brother Richard Jr. is also an artist.
MacGraw studied at the ‘Rosemary Hall’ in Greenwich, Connecticut, and later at the prestigious ‘Wellesley College’ in Wellesley, Massachusetts. With a creative family background, she too wanted to pursue a career in arts. Her childhood wasn’t an easy one, as her parents were not affluent and had their own personal issues, which affected her childhood.
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In 1960, at the age of 22, MacGraw began working as photography assistant with the editor of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ Diana Vreeland, and as a fashion stylist for Melvin Sokolsky at ‘Vogue.’ Her natural beauty was noticed and soon she was asked to model for commercials. She appeared in television commercials such as ‘Polaroid Swinger Camera.’ Her clean look, which needed little make-up, brought in a new fresh-face trend of looking more natural than made-up.
From modeling she turned to performing and began her acting career in 1968 with a small role in the movie ‘A Lovely Way to Die.’ She was noticed in her next movie ‘Goodbye, Columbus’ (1969), and earned critical acclaim. She was awarded the ‘1970 Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Most Promising Newcomer-Female.’
During the filming of ‘Goodbye Columbus,’ she became close to Paramount executive Robert Evans and the two got married in 1969. He also helped her in guiding her career.
In 1970, her role as a music student ‘Jennifer Cavalleri’ opposite Ryan O’Neal in the major hit film ‘Love Story’ brought her immense fame. She was nominated for the ‘Academy Award’ and received her second ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Actress – Drama Category.’
MacGraw’s next film was ‘The Getaway,’ which also starred Steve McQueen. Initially, she didn’t like the script and was reluctant to sign the film, but her husband, Robert Evans, persuaded her to try new roles. ‘The Getaway’ proved a successful film and changed her life professionally as well as personally.
In 1978, after being away from her profession for 5 years, she signed for the role of ‘Melissa’ in the action film ‘Convoy,’ opposite Kris Kristofferson. The film was a commercial success.
In spite of her personal difficulties and natural disasters, MacGraw kept working and appeared in films, including ‘Players’ (1979) and ‘Just Tell Me What You Want’ (1980). She made her television debut in 1983, in the role of ‘Natalie Jastrow’ opposite Robert Mitchum, in the miniseries ‘The Winds of War.’
In the 1985 television show, ‘Dynasty,’ she portrayed the role of ‘Lady Ashley Mitchell.’
After the 1986 film, ‘Murder Elite,’ she didn’t appear on the screen for 7 years.
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MacGraw next appeared in the 1992 television movie, ‘Survive the Savage Sea.’ Before that, in 1991 at the age of 52, she was listed by the ‘People’ magazine in their ‘Top 50 most beautiful women in the world.’
Later, she appeared in ‘Natural Causes’ (1994), ‘Glam’ (1997), and ‘Get Bruce’ (1999). She was also seen as herself in some television shows. She appeared twice on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show,’ first in 1990 and then in the farewell season of 2011. She made her theater debut in April 2006 with the ‘Broadway’ play ‘Festen.’
MacGraw got interested in ‘Hatha Yoga’ and released a yoga video (‘Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind and Body’), which became a bestseller. In the 1990s, yoga wasn’t popular or widely known, and she is given the credit of making it a mainstream practice.
MacGraw started a clothing line to help women around the globe become self-reliant. Her clothing business, called ‘ali4ibu,’ uses material from 71 crafts worker groups of 34 nations. In Indonesian language ‘ibu’ means ‘a woman of respect.’
She got involved in animal rights activism and works toward spreading awareness about animal protection. She presented a public service announcement for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) through which she has advised people to take care of their pets in the event of natural disasters. For her efforts, MacGraw earned the ‘Humane Education Award’ by ‘Animal Protection’ of New Mexico.
Family & Personal Life
In 1961, MacGraw married her college sweetheart Robin Hoen, a Harvard graduate and a banker, but they divorced after a year and a half. (She has admitted to having an abortion in her early twenties, when it was illegal.)
While working on the film, ‘Goodbye Columbus,’ she fell in love with a Paramount executive Robert Evans and the two got married on October 24, 1969. The couple has a son, Josh Evans, who is an actor, director, and a screenplay writer.
On her husband’s persuasion, she worked opposite Steve McQueen in the movie ‘The Getaway,’ and the two co-stars fell in love with each other. MacGraw and Evans divorced in 1972, and she married Steve McQueen on August 31, 1973, in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
After the marriage, McQueen asked her to leave films and take care of their home. Though she gave up her successful career for him, he continued indulging in substance abuse and numerous affairs. After staying away for five years, MacGraw expressed her wish to return to her profession, but her controlling husband refused. Finally, she signed on a new film (Convoy), and in 1978, their marriage ended in a bitter divorce. He died of cancer in 1980. MacGraw wished to meet and make peace with him, but he refused.
Later, MacGraw lost her Malibu home in a wildfire and moved to New Mexico. All her personal difficulties led her into depression and substance abuse. She then decided to go to the ‘Betty Ford Clinic,’ which brought a positive change in her life. In 1991, she released her autobiography, ‘Moving Pictures,’ wherein she wrote about her alcoholism and male dependence, and the curing treatment at the clinic.
She has been friends with Ryan O’Neal and toured with him in 2016 to promote the play, ‘Love Letters.’ She remains on good terms with her ex-husband, Evans, and accompanied him when he got a star on the “Hollywood Walk of fame.’