A Love Letter to the Harvard of “Love Story”

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Book Flights

Jun 20, 2017

by STEVE MCKENNA, Writer

Learn about Harvard’s backstory while wandering its hallowed grounds – the principal setting for this Oscar-winning tear-jerker.

Renowned for its catchphrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” Love Story charts the roller-coaster romance of Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal), an upper-crust hockey-jock law student, and Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw), a baker’s daughter and music student. Despite their different social backgrounds, the two quickly fall head over heels in love, their “verbal volleyball” (as Oliver describes their flirting) playing out amid the atmospheric environs of Harvard University.

While this Ivy League school no longer allows movie crews on campus (more recent flicks set at Harvard, such as Legally Blonde and The Social Network, were shot elsewhere), visitors are free to explore its grounds in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. Discover the history of the United States’ oldest higher-education institution, founded in 1636, on a guided or self-guided tour (harvard.edu), taking in Love Story locations such as Harvard Yard, the university’s leafy centrepiece. Your best chance of frolicking in the snow, like the couple did, is between December and March, when Harvard is at its wintriest.

As you retrace Oliver and Jenny’s steps past red-brick dorms, libraries and halls, you may find yourself humming Where Do I Begin?, the movie’s piano-centric theme song. Of its seven Academy Award nominations, the film won just one: Best Music for the score by Francis Lai.

New York City also played a key role in the story, not least Wollman Rink on the south-east side of Central Park. It’s possible to ice-skate here (like Oliver) or just watch (like Jenny) from late October to early April and to take a great holiday snap or selfie against a Manhattan skyline that has changed dramatically since 1970, when the film was released.

Strikingly visible in the movie, The Plaza is now dwarfed by glossy skyscrapers. Yet this five-star hotel, built in the French Renaissance château style, has lost none of its allure, especially for lovebirds seeking a romantic Central Park wedding venue. Actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas tied the knot at The Plaza in 2000. 

SEE ALSO: Finding Notting Hill’s Famous Blue Door