Launching butter pats across the Union, enjoying sex in the Widener stacks and screaming across the Yard the night before exams begin are all time-honored Harvard traditions.
But watching the 1970 movie "Love Story," a film that epitomizes the "Harvard experience," has become just as much a part of student lore in recent years.
Penned by Erich Segal '58 and later expanded into a novel, "Love Story" chronicles the tragic romance between straight-laced Harvard hockey player Oliver Barrett IV, played by Ryan O'Neal, and bohemian, bookish Radcliffe undergraduate Jenny Cavilleri, played by Ali McGraw.
Today, the Crimson Key Society sponsors semiannual screenings of "Love Story" accompanied by commentary rivaled only by that associated with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" as a welcome for first-years and a farewell for seniors.
While "Love Story" audience participation does not include black leather attire and "Time Warp" pelvic thrusts, the Crimson Key's ribald remarks about McGraw's hair style and O'Neal's vacuous mannerisms have also hardened into student institutions.
When the movie was being filmed, however, students took it all quite seriously.
Of the more than 100 Harvard students who participated as extras during the filming, most recall their participation fondly but also remember the tedious hours that went into the making of the film.
"We cheered for the same damn play over and over...it was like watching Sisyphus do his labors," Dennis F. Gillespie '70 told The Crimson in December 1970.
The current director of health services at Dartmouth College, John H. Turco '70, was the extra who scored the winning goal during the hockey scene. Although he describes his experience with the movie as exciting, he says the filming had its tedious moments as well.
"For the amount of time that ended up in the film, there was an enormous amount of filming," he says.
Though O'Neal was a good athlete, his ice skating skills were virtually nonexistent--a fact Turco remembers vividly, because the scenes featuring Barrett as a hockey star had to be shot and re-shot.
Turco says the hockey fight scene between O'Neal and an opponent had to be filmed repeatedly because O'Neal could not stay standing long enough to skate toward the other player. A shot of the two actors nose-to-nose, rather than a dramatic approach, had to suffice for the final cut.
Because of the dedication of Harvard students to the project, Segal ensured that the world premiere of the film took place in Harvard's Watson Hockey Rink, the predecessor to the Bright Hockey Center.
At a later farewell dinner for the hockey players, Segal says, "I brought some clippings from the film and showed it to the drunken seniors."