Ali was born in 1939 to a Jewish mother Frances, and father Richard McGraw. Her grandparents were emigrants from Budapest. McGraw’s mother chose not to disclose her ancestry to her husband, or adhere to Jewish traditions. “I think Daddy was bigoted” McGraw once was quoted. Her parents were rather avant-garde commercial artists
She began her acting career in commercials and achieved a breakout role in Goodbye Columbus in 1969 but real stardom came when she starred opposite Ryan O’ Neal in the movie Love Story, one of the highest grossing films in US history. After a five year break from acting, in 1978 she appeared in Convoy with Chris Kristofferson and then in Players in 1979.
A lifetime animal activist Ali is also a US Ambassador for the animal welfare charity, Animals Asia. She has been married three times, to Robin Hoen then to Robert Evans and then married Steve McQueen who she starred with in The Getaway. They were married for five years.