50 years of The Way We Were

Anyone who loves a good love movie certainly has The Way We Were among their top 10 favorites. There was even a beautiful and memorable episode of Sex and The City in which Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) compares her story with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) with the movie. She would be Kate and he would be Hubbell. “Your girl is adorable,” she says, quoting Barbra Streisand’s final line from the film. “I don’t understand,” says Big, unaware that he’s also using the same Robert Redford quote. In the series, Carrie ends the conversation with “You never understood”, but, in the original, they embrace without saying a word, moving away and each one going their own way. The credits roll and the song – The Way We Were – translates what they thought:

May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply to choose to forget

So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were

You can already tell that I’m part of the (huge) group of fans of this little classic that in November 2023 turns 50, right? And I’m not alone. Not only was The Way We Were included in the American Film Institute’s “100 Greatest Movie Love Stories” list, alongside Casablanca and An Affair to Remember, but it is also ranked sixth position, ahead of Doctor Zhivago. Not bad company!

The film, which was a vehicle created especially for Barbra, spawned documentaries and even a behind-the-scenes book, The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen. epic battles and bruised egos brought a classic Hollywood love story to the screen, written by journalist Robert Hofler, who reveals the dramas, arguments, and problems of a film that was hardly expected to be successful, let alone have the repercussions it still has. today. The unlikely love story between a working-class Jewish radical, Kate Morosky (Barbra Streisand), and American golden boy Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). When together, the two understand each other and awaken the best in each other, but in society, they are put to the test and unable to be together. At the bottom are the political and social issues that defined the United States from World War II to the times of McCarthyism.

In 1973, Barbra was already a star and Oscar winner but recognized for her comic and musical vein and The Way We Were was a “traditional” drama and needed a star to match. The first name considered was that of Ryan O’Neal, who wanted to return to work with Barbra (they made What’s Up Doc together the previous year), but director Sydney Pollack wanted – and got – his name. friend, Robert Redford. Redford was already one of the most respected stars in Hollywood, politically engaged and gorgeous, but he was very afraid of working with an actress with a reputation for being difficult and who he feared would go out singing on the open scene. But he accepted the challenge (today he says he had the best experience working with Barbra).

The Way We Were is an adaptation of the book written by Arthur Laurents, who was respected and known for his screenplays as distinguished as West Side Story and Rope and which was based on his own experience of the terrible years of Hollywood blacklist, where artists who were liberal were branded as “communists” and could even be arrested for it. Arthur, who had Oscars and fame, had screenplay jobs rejected because a leftist newspaper praised one of his plays. Knowing the plight of others who experienced even worse persecution, he wanted us to expose the hypocrisy of Hollywood at the time.

Arthur Laurents was a lifelong friend of Barbra Streisand, having given her one of her biggest Broadway breaks even before she was famous. As later confirmed, Katie was indeed inspired and written for her, but Katie and Hubbell’s love story had another source. According to the book, as a Jew and gay, Arthur also relived his own romantic difficulties, most notably a romance with Tom Hatcher, an aspiring actor whose initially uncomplicated romance did not withstand the screenwriter’s political engagement. Arthur later understands that he idealized Tom sort as a Prince Charming, handsome and perfect, but that was nothing more than his passionate vision, not quite reality, as Katie concludes at the end of the film.

Ironically, as the song’s lyrics say, what stands out about the recordings today are “the good memories” of the film, but at the time, Barbra and Redford’s personal styles – as well as their conflicting characters – collaborated to growing tensions in the film set. Sydney Pollack also had a headache with Barbra, who fought over several scenes that ended up being cut from the final version, something that she had the support of Arthur Laurents and producer, Ray Stark. “The way the movie is today, without the two [cut] scenes, it looks like they [Katie and Hubbell] broke up because he slept with another girl,” the actress complained in an interview a few years ago, lamenting that the decision of the characters moving away because politics and society prevented them from continuing to love each other had more dramatic force. Can I say something? See the cut scenes I added at the end of the post, Barbra Streisand has a point.

Shallow or not, the public didn’t care. The chemistry between the two and a love story without big gestures, but with many sacrifices, was immediately approved. In the year of its release, it made 50 million dollars at the box office. The film’s theme song deservedly won an Oscar. The classic we celebrate today was born and which, of course, is always worth celebrating.

See cut scenes that would change an already good movie for the better!


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