Ali MacGraw became a Hollywood superstar overnight. But just as quickly as she rose to fame, she disappeared from show business altogether.
Today, the 84-year-old actress has settled down in a remote and tiny town, and she’s aging gracefully with her grey hair.
Ali MacGraw – born Elizabeth Alice MacGraw – was born on April 1, 1939, in Pound Ridge, New York, USA. Her mother, Frances, was an artist and worked at a school in Paris, later settling in Greenwich Village. She married Richard MacGraw, who was also an artist. In 1939, Ali was born.
Ali’s father Richard supposedly had issues from his own childhood which made him a little bit different from others.
He had survived a terrible childhood in an orphanage, running away at the age of 16 to go to sea. He would later study at an art school in Munich, Germany.
“Daddy was frightened and really, really angry. He never forgave his real parents for giving him up,” Ali explained, saying said her father’s adult life was spent “suppressing the rage that covered all his hurt.”
Ali MacGraw – childhood
Money was short for their family, too. Frances and Richard, together with Ali and her brother, Richard Jr, had to move into a house on a Pound Ridge wilderness preserve which they shared with an elderly couple.
“There were no doors; we shared the kitchen and bathroom with them,” Ali said. “It was utter lack of privacy. It was horrible.”
Mom Francis worked with several commercial-art assignments and supported the family. At the same time, Richard had a hard time selling his paintings, and as a result became very frustrated. Ali’s brother Richard became a victim for his anger at home.
“On good days he was great, but on bad days he was horrendous,” she recalled. “Daddy would beat my brother up, badly. I was witness to it, and it was terrible.”
Ali was the daughter of artists, and she knew that she, too, wanted to go into a creative line of work as she got older. She earned a scholarship at the prep school Rosemary Hall, and in 1956, she moved to study at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
By the age of 22, Ali MacGraw moved to New York and got her first job as an assistant editor at Harper’s Bazaar, working with photographers as an assistant.
Fashion work in New York
Fashion editor Diana Vreeland hired Ali as, what she recalls as, a “flunkie”. Ever seen the film The Devil Wears Prada? Well, it was pretty much that.
“It was ‘Girl! Get me a pencil!’,” MacGraw recalled.
The future Hollywood celebrity worked her job as an assistant for several months. Then, about six months in, fashion photographer Melvin Sokolsky noticed her beautiful looks, and Ali MacGraw was hired as a stylist,and given a better salary. She’d end up staying in that position for six years.
“I don’t know where she got this work ethic, but Ali would come in at eight a.m., and many times I’d come back at one in the morning and she would still be doing things for the next day,” Ruth Ansel, a former art director of Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar recalls.
Ali was great as a stylist. But soon, she was asked to work in front of the cameras as a model. It didn’t take long before she was on magazine covers all over the world, even appearing in television commercials. For thing led to another, and Ali tumbled headfirst into the profession of acting.
She had been sketched nude by Salvador Dali a couple of years earlier. But when the surrealist artist started sucking her toes, MacGraw decided that she’d rather be an actress than a model.
Ali MacGraw – films
Ali went straight from an unknown stylist and into the world of cinema, and boy, did she do it with a bang.
She was untutored in the art of film, which gave her acting another dimension. Her natural beauty was stunning, and the audience loved her.
Following a small role in A Lovely Way to Die (1968), she was asked to star in the 1969 film Goodbye, Columbus. It turned out to be a great call, with MacGraw receiving a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female. The following year, she got her big international breakthrough with a role that would pretty much sum up her career.
Ali MacGraw had received a script from her agent. She’d read it and wept twice because of how much she loved it. She decided she really wanted a part in it, and got herself a meeting with the film’s producer Robert Evans – who at the time was Paramount Picture’s head of production – at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge. Not only did Evans think she was perfect for the part in the movie Love Story, he absolutely fell in love with her.
MacGraw – playing the role of Jenny – acted alongside Ryan O’Neal in the movie Love Story. The American romantic drama film, in which Ali played a working-class college student, became a smash hit.
Love Story hit the cinemas in 1970, and wow did the audience cherish it. It became the No. 1 film in the United States, and at the time, it was the sixth highest grossing movie in history in the US and Canada.
MacGraw earned an Academy Award nomination for her role, and the film itself earned her another win and five Academy Award Nominations. She also won herself a second Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
Film producer Robert Evans not only loved her on screen, he had fallen in love with her in real life, and that love was reciprocated. In 1969, the couple tied the knot, and two years later, they welcomed their son, Josh Evans.
Ali MacGraw was the hot new star of the 1970s, but her private life and marriage with Evans would soon come to an end. Steve McQueen had visited their home to ask her to star alongside him in The Getaway, and the two Hollywood stars clicked right away.
“I looked in those blue eyes, and my knees started knocking,” MacGraw recalled. “I became obsessed.”
MacGraw and McQueen had an affair, and she soon left Evans to live with the actor in Malibu, along with her son Josh.
“Steve was this very original, principled guy who didn’t seem to be part of the system, and I loved that,” she said.
Ali MacGraw – Steve McQueen
But after a while, Ali realized that Steve McQueen had his own problems. Following his father abandoning his mother, a then-14-year-old Steve was sent to a school for delinquent children. MacGraw said he never trusted women after that.
He didn’t like that she worked and had her own career. For a while, Ali stayed home to raise their sons. But her husband’s demands were something Ali simply couldn’t accept in the long run.
Not only that, but he’d explode if she even looked at another man. He also wanted her to sign a prenuptial agreement, promising not to ask for anything if they’d divorce. She abided by the agreement when they did divorce in 1978.
“I couldn’t even go to art class because Steve expected his ‘old lady’ to be there every night with dinner on the table,” she recalled.
“Steve’s idea of hot was not me. He liked blond bimbos, and they were always around.”
This was the start of a pretty dark time in MacGraw’s life. She arrived on set to shoot the 1978 film Convoy both drunk and high, which prompted her to quit drugs.
Leaving show business
At the same time, several of her movies, such as Players (1970) and Just Tell Me What You Want (1980) flopped.
“It’s brutal for women,” MacGraw told The Guardian about returning to show business in the late 1970s.
“I don’t think there’s a woman over 40 who’s ever been conspicuously in the spotlight who doesn’t get sick of the kind of questioning the media lays on you, the fashion industry, all of it. It’s cruel.”
MacGraw had a short stint as a Hollywood superstar actress. Thereafter, she decided to start working in interior design instead, but didn’t fully give up on her show business career. She appeared in the television miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and China Rose (1985), but soon, her life would change for the worse.
Ali MacGraw simply couldn’t get any work in film, and she thought she was useless. At the same time, she didn’t feel complete unless she had a partner, describing being in love like “a drug high”.
She felt alone and desperate, and drank heavily. In 1986, she checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in California.
“The worst stuff happened when I drank,” she said. “I lost my judgment; I fancied other women’s husbands.”
Her son Josh Evans was 15 at the time and had a hard time watching his mother suffering. MacGraw spent 30 days in group therapy and came out a stronger person.
In 1993, another family tragedy occurred when her house in California burnt down due to a wildfire. She then decided to move from Los Angeles and settled in a town near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“I live in a little village north of Santa Fe, New Mexico called Tesuque,” she revealed last year.
According to McGraw, her neighbors don’t see her as a former Hollywood star – instead they appreciate all the community work she’s been doing.
For example, she has been doing volunteer work at the annual International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ali MacGraw left acting, but in 2006, she found herself once again on stage. She reunited with her Love Story co-actor Ryan O’Neal in the Broadway adaptation of the Danish film Festen.
Outside of the Broadway show, MacGraw’s been out of the spotlight the last couple of decades. She’s put her heart into work for animal rights … and produced plenty of successful yoga videos.
Speaking to the Herald-Tribune in 2019, MacGraw stated that she’s still open to new adventures and work.
“One of the lucky things for someone my age is that I’m open and curious,” MacGraw said. “There’s not just one thing I love to do and feel bereft if I can’t. But I know that I’m not happy when I’m not doing something creative.”
Josh Evans – Ali MacGraw
Even though Ali left acting, her family still has a foot in the business. Son Josh Evans is an actor and director, and he’s made a great name for himself in Hollywood.
Also, he looks so much like his mother!
Being the child of Hollywood celebrities Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw certainly came with plenty of pressure.
But for Josh Evans, born in January of 1971, it was pretty much show business he wanted to do from the start.
The first job he ever wanted to do, however, wasn’t in the film business. He didn’t dream about working as an actor, but it was just one of those things that happened.
In 1989, Josh Evans had a small part in Dream a Little Dream (1989), but he wanted to do more. As a teenager with nothing to lose, he used to go to the manager’s office to see the breakdowns of movies being made.
Josh Evans – actor & director
That’s when he met someone he recognized in famous director Oliver Stone. He was making Born on the Fourth of July at the time, starring Tom Cruise. And Josh wanted in.
“At the time I just knew [Oliver Stone] from Platoon. He was making a movie with Tom Cruise and there was a role for the little brother. I wanted to play that part, so he got me a meeting with Oliver Stone,” Josh Evans recalls.
“When I sat with him, Oliver asked ‘Oh, you think you look like Tom Cruise?’. Now knowing him, I realize he was mocking me, but I said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ So, he said, ‘We’ll see what happens.’ Four months later, I got a call to audition and I got the part. It was very exciting and you could feel how special that movie was going to be.”
Since then, Josh has had a great career both acting and directing. He starred in the biographic film The Doors in 1991 and since, he’s been both acting and directing.
With eight films on his resume as a director, he actually had Michael Madsen starring in his 2015 film Death in the Desert. But what does he like best?
“I am definitely more comfortable on the side of the camera that does not show myself,” Josh Evans says.
“If an interesting opportunity presents itself, I am not opposed to it. I think there are other people out there who are more qualified and want it more than I do. As far as directing and telling my stories, I would do that for free, whereas acting is more of a job, but I enjoy it once I do it.”
Josh Evans – family
Josh is a really handsome man, and the resemblance to her mother Ali MacGraw truly is great, especially in his big wonderful eyes.
In 2019, his father – Ali’s ex-husband – Robert Evans passed away. However, the family had the great memory of being together for him when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.
Josh has been married twice. In October 2012, he married American singer and musician Roxy Saint. By then, their son Jackson was two years old – Grandma Ali MacGraw loves spending time with her wonderful family.
“He’s so wonderful,” MacGraw said about her son. “He’s my favorite human being on the planet, and he goes out with a girl I’m nuts about. Their relationship is so much about, among other things, friendship and respect.”