On this day: Erich Segal was born

16 June 1937: Author of a great love story

By Anna Slater, June 16, 2011

Coming from two generations of rabbis, Erich Segal was expected to attend yeshiva and follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

But desperate to pursue a career in writing, he struck a deal with his father as a teenager. He would be allowed to attend a mainstream school, as long as he agreed to spend his evenings studying the Bible at the local Jewish Theological Seminary.

He went on to graduate from Harvard as class poet and gain a PhD in comparative literature. With the screenplay for Yellow Submarine for the Beatles, he kick started his writing career.

In 1969 he went on to write a screen play called Love Story, that did just what it said on the tin. After a rocky start, he followed advice to turn it into a novel.

The resulting tale of star0crossed lovers Oliver and Jenny was a great success, and the phrase Love means never having to say you're sorry became known around the world.

It was later made into a film, one of the great tearjerkers of the century, and was recently resurrected as a West End musical.

The sad end to his great life, which for the last 25 years was stricken with Parkinson's disease, came in January 2010, after a heart attack, at the age of 72.

What Erich Segal told the JC: "I'm no longer apologising for Love Story – the book is far from being rubbish. It's not demeaning to write a book like that. There are so many English professors who write mysery novels, why can't an American professor write a romantic novel?"

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:43am, June 16 2011