Erich Segal

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Erich Segal
BornErich Wolf Segal
(1937-06-16)June 16, 1937
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 17, 2010(2010-01-17) (aged 72)
London, England
  • Author
  • screenwriter
  • educator
Alma materHarvard University (A.B., A.M., PhD)
SpouseKaren Marianne James (1975–2010; his death; 2 children)

Erich Wolf Segal (June 16, 1937 – January 17, 2010) was an American author, screenwriter, educator, and classicist who wrote the bestselling novel Love Story (1970) and its hit film adaptation.

Early life and education[edit]

Born and raised in a Jewish household in Brooklyn, New York, Segal was the first of three brothers. His father was a rabbi and his mother was a homemaker. His interest in writing and narrating stories developed as a child. He went to Midwood High School, during which he suffered a serious accident while canoeing. His coach advised him to jog as a part of his rehabilitation, which ended up becoming his passion and caused him to participate in the Boston Marathon more than 12 times. He attended Harvard College, graduating as both the class poet and Latin salutatorian in 1958, and then obtained his master's degree (in 1959) and a doctorate (in 1965) in comparative literature from Harvard University,[1] after which he started teaching at Yale.

Writing career[edit]

In 1967, through connections on Broadway, Segal was given the opportunity to collaborate on the screenplay for the Beatles' 1968 motion picture Yellow Submarine, based on a story by Lee Minoff. He occasionally worked as an actor, having a supporting role in the French crime thriller Without Apparent Motive and a cameo appearance as a gondolier in Jennifer on My Mind, which he also wrote.

His first academic book, Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus (1968), published by the Harvard University Press, gave him considerable recognition and chronicled the great Roman comic playwright who inspired the Broadway hit A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962).[citation needed]

In the late 1960s, and early '70s Segal collaborated on other screenplays. He wrote a romantic story about a Harvard student and a Radcliffe student but failed to sell it. Literary agent Lois Wallace at the William Morris Agency then suggested he turn the script into a novel, and the result was Love Story (1970). A New York Times No. 1 bestseller, the book became the top selling work of fiction for 1970 in the United States, and was translated into 33 languages worldwide. The motion picture of the same name was the number one box office attraction of 1970.

The novel proved problematic for Segal. He acknowledged that its success unleashed "egotism bordering on megalomania" and he was denied tenure at Yale. Moreover, Love Story "was ignominiously bounced from the nomination slate of the National Book Awards after the fiction jury threatened to resign." Segal later said that the book "totally ruined me."[2] He would go on to write more novels and screenplays, including the 1977 sequel to Love Story, titled Oliver's Story.

Segal published scholarly works on Greek and Latin literature and taught Greek and Latin literature at Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities. He was a Supernumerary Fellow and an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College at Oxford University.[3] He served as a visiting professor at Princeton, the University of Munich and Dartmouth College.

His novel The Class (1985), a saga based on the Harvard Class of 1958, was a bestseller, and won literary honors in France and Italy.[citation needed] Doctors (1988) was another New York Times bestseller. In 2001, he published a book on the history of theatre called The Death of Comedy.[4]


Segal was an accomplished competitive runner. He had been a sprinter at Midwood High School, and ran the two-mile at Harvard College. He began marathon running during his second year at Harvard, when track and field head coach Bill McCurdy was impressed with how fast he had run 10 miles.[5] Segal ran in the Boston Marathon almost every year from 1955 to 1975.[6] He finished in 79th place at 3 hours, 43 minutes in his first attempt,[5] and his best performance was in 1964 when he finished 63rd with a time of 2:56:30. He recounted that, after one Boston marathon, someone yelled, "Hey, Segal, you run better than you write".[7] Segal was featured in the 1965 documentary short Marathon, which documents the 1964 Boston Marathon and was directed by filmmakers Joyce Chopra and Robert Gardner.

Segal was a color commentator for Olympic marathons during telecasts of both the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics.[8] His most notable broadcast was in 1972, when he and Jim McKay called Frank Shorter's gold-medal-winning performance. After an impostor, West German student Norbert Sudhaus, ran into Olympic Stadium ahead of Shorter,[9] an emotionally upset Segal yelled, "That is an impostor! Get him off the track! This happens in bush league marathons! This doesn't happen in an Olympic marathon! Throw the bum out! Get rid of that guy!"[10] When Shorter appeared to be confused by the events, Segal yelled, "come on, Frank, you won it!"[11] and "Frank, it's a fake, Frank!"[12]

In 2000, The Washington Post included the incident among the 10 most memorable American sports calls (albeit misquoting the latter line as being "it's a fraud, Frank!").[13] In a 2010 posthumous tribute to Segal, marathon runner Amby Burfoot called Segal's call "one of the most unprofessional, unbridled, and totally appropriate outbursts in the history of Olympic TV commentary", taking into consideration the fact that Segal had taught Shorter at Yale.[7]

Personal life[edit]


Segal was married to Karen James from 1975 until his death; they had two daughters, Miranda and Francesca Segal. Francesca, born in 1980, is a freelance journalist, literary critic, and columnist.


Segal, who suffered from Parkinson's disease,[14] died of a heart attack on January 17, 2010,[15] and was buried in London. In a eulogy delivered at his funeral, his daughter Francesca said, "That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was – a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know."[16]




  • Segal, Erich (1970) [1968], Roman laughter: the comedy of Plautus, Harvard studies in comparative literature, Harvard University Press, OCLC 253490621
  • Segal, Erich (1968), Euripides. A collection of critical essays, Prentice-Hall, OCLC 490074853
  • Segal, Erich (1993) [1970], Love Story, Oxford bookworms, Oxford University Press, OCLC 271780786
  • Segal, Erich (1973), Fairy tale, Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-17703-7, OCLC 476324471
  • Segal, Erich (1977), Oliver's Story, Granada, ISBN 978-0-246-11007-7
  • Segal, Erich (1980), Man, Woman and Child, Granada, ISBN 978-0-246-11364-1
  • Segal, Erich (1983), Oxford readings in Greek tragedy, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-872110-9, OCLC 489881338
  • Millar, Fergus; Erich Segal (1984). Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-814858-5.
  • Segal, Erich (1985), The Class, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-593-01004-4
  • Segal, Erich (1988), Doctors, Toronto, ISBN 978-0-553-05294-7
  • Segal, Erich (1992), Acts of Faith, OCLC 472522180
  • Segal, Erich (1995), Prizes, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-593-03837-6
  • Segal, Erich (1996), Four comedies : the braggart soldier, the brothers Menaechmus, the haunted house, the pot of gold, World's classics, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-283108-8, OCLC 57136525
  • Segal, Erich (1997), Only love, G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-14341-0
  • Segal, Erich (2001), The death of comedy, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-00643-0, OCLC 464104819
  • Segal, Erich (2001), Oxford readings in Menander, Plautus, and Terence, Oxford Univ. Press, ISBN 978-0-19-872193-2, OCLC 248042166
  • Pelzer, Linda C. (1997), Erich Segal: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-29930-7

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tanne, Lindsay P. (June 1, 2008). "Erich W. Segal, Screenwriter". The Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original on June 9, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2009.
  2. ^ "Erich Segal dies at 72; author of 'Love Story' - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. January 20, 2010.
  3. ^ "Obituaries: Erich Segal (1937–2010)". Wolfson College Record, 2010 Archived June 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, pages 29–32.
  4. ^ "The Death of Comedy — Erich Segal". Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Amdur, Neil (April 5, 1971). "'Love Story' may end love affair with Boston Marathon". The Miami News. New York Times News Service. pp. 4B. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Tanne, Lindsay P. "Erich W. Segal, Screenwriter," The Harvard Crimson (Harvard University), Sunday, June 1, 2008.
  7. ^ a b Burfoot, Amby (January 20, 2010). "Love Story Author Erich Segal Loved To Run". Runner's World. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  8. ^ Stracher, Cameron. "Running Without a Narrative," The New York Times, Friday, October 30, 2009.
  9. ^ "Olympic Memories: Munich's Marathon Imposter, Frank Shorter, and the 'Running Boom' of the 1970s," Colorsport, Thursday, May 3, 2012. Archived July 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "ABC Coverage 1972 Olympic Marathon". YouTube. JohnsAbroad2009. August 20, 2016. Event occurs at 0m 3s. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  11. ^ "ABC Coverage 1972 Olympic Marathon". YouTube. JohnsAbroad2009. August 20, 2016. Event occurs at 0m 45s. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  12. ^ "ABC Coverage 1972 Olympic Marathon". YouTube. JohnsAbroad2009. August 20, 2016. Event occurs at 1m 0s. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  13. ^ poll
  14. ^ Chris Smyth and Mary Bowers (January 20, 2010). "Erich Segal, the academic who wrote Love Story, dies at 72". The Times. London.
  15. ^ Pauli, Michelle (January 19, 2010). "Love Story author Erich Segal dies aged 72: Erich Segal, author of the hugely successful story of love and bereavement, has died". The Observer. London.
  16. ^ Selva, Meera (January 19, 2010). "'Love Story' author Erich Segal dies aged 72". Associated Press. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2010.

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