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The Way We Were

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Way We Were
The Way We Were.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed bySydney Pollack
Screenplay byArthur Laurents
Based onThe Way We Were
1972 novel
by Arthur Laurents
Produced byRay Stark
StarringBarbra Streisand
Robert Redford
Bradford Dillman
Viveca Lindfors
Herb Edelman
Murray Hamilton
Patrick O'Neal
Lois Chiles
CinematographyHarry Stradling Jr.
Edited byJohn F. Burnett
Margaret Booth (supervising)
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 19, 1973 (1973-10-19)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$50 million[1]

The Way We Were is a 1973 American romantic drama film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. Arthur Laurents wrote both the novel and screenplay based on his college days at Cornell University and his experiences with the House Un-American Activities Committee.[2]

A box-office success, the film was nominated for several awards and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for the theme song "The Way We Were". It ranked at number six on AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions survey of the top 100 greatest love stories in American cinema. The Way We Were is considered one of the great romantic films.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

The soundtrack album became a gold record and hit the Top 20 on the Billboard 200, while the title song became a gold single, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and selling more than two million copies. Billboard named "The Way We Were" as the number 1 pop hit of 1974. In 1998, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and finished at number eight on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Songs list of top tunes in American cinema in 2004. It also was included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.[9]


Told partly in flashback, it is the story of Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). Their differences are immense; she is a stridently vocal Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions, and he is a carefree White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with no particular political bent. While attending the same college, she is drawn to him because of his boyish good looks and his natural writing skill, which she finds captivating, although he does not work very hard at it. He is intrigued by her conviction and her determination to persuade others to take up social causes. Their attraction is evident, but neither of them acts upon it, and they lose touch after graduation.

The two meet again towards the end of World War II while Katie is working at a radio station, and Hubbell, having served as a naval officer in the South Pacific, is trying to return to civilian life. They fall in love despite the differences in their backgrounds and temperaments. Soon, however, Katie is incensed by the cynical jokes that Hubbell's friends make at the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is unable to understand his indifference towards their insensitivity and shallow dismissal of political engagement. At the same time, his serenity is disturbed by her lack of social graces and her polarising postures. Hubbell breaks it off with Katie, but soon agrees to work things out, at least for a time.

When Hubbell is offered the opportunity to adapt his novel into a screenplay, Katie believes he is wasting his talent and encourages him to pursue writing as a serious challenge instead. Despite her growing frustration, they move to California where, without much effort, he becomes a successful screenwriter, and the couple enjoy an affluent lifestyle. As the Hollywood blacklist grows and McCarthyism begins to encroach on their lives, Katie's political activism resurfaces, jeopardising Hubbell's position and reputation.

Alienated by Katie's persistent abrasiveness, and although she is pregnant, Hubbell has a liaison with Carol Ann, his college girlfriend and the divorcee of J.J., his best friend. After the birth of their child, however, Katie and Hubbell decide to part, as she finally understands he is not the man she idealised when falling in love with him, and he always will choose the easiest way out, whether it is cheating in his relationship or writing predictable stories for sitcoms. Hubbell, though, is exhausted, unable to live on the pedestal Katie erected for him and face her disappointment in his decision to compromise his potential.

Katie and Hubbell meet by chance some years after their break-up in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Hubbell is with a stylishly beautiful woman and, apparently content, is now writing for an unnamed television show that is broadcast live. Katie, now married, invites Hubbell to come for a drink with his lady friend, but he turns down the invitation. Hubbell enquires about their daughter Rachel, and if Katie's new husband is a good father to her. He shows no intention of meeting her, implying that he has not been a part of Rachel's life in the past, nor does he plan to be in her life in the future, to which Katie seems resigned, but content.

Katie has remained faithful to who she is; flyers in hand, she is agitating now for "Ban the bomb", the new political cause. Their past is behind them, and all the two share now (besides their daughter) is missing what they once had together, the memory of the way they were.



In 1937, while an undergraduate at Cornell, Arthur Laurents was introduced to political activism by a student who became the model for Katie Morosky, a member of the Young Communist League and an outspoken opponent of Francisco Franco and his effort to take control of Spain via the Spanish Civil War. The fiery campus radical organized rallies and a peace strike, and the memory of her fervour remained with Laurents long after the two lost touch.

Laurents decided to develop a story with a similar character at its centre, but was unsure what other elements to add. He recalled a creative writing instructor named Robert E. Short, who felt he had a good ear for dialogue and had encouraged him to write plays. His first instinct was to create a crisis between his leading lady and her college professor, but he decided her passion needed to be politics, not writing. What evolved was a male character who had a way with words, but no strong inclination to apply himself to a career using them.[10]

Because of his own background, Laurents felt it was important for his heroine to be Jewish and share his outrage at injustice. He also thought it was time a mainstream Hollywood film had a Jewish heroine, and because Barbra Streisand was the industry's most notable Jewish star, he wrote the role of Katie Morosky for her. Laurents had known Streisand for some time, having cast her in his 1962 Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Hubbell Gardiner, initially a secondary character, was drawn from several people Laurents knew. The first name was borrowed from urbane television producer Hubbell Robinson, who had hired Laurents to write an episode of ABC Stage 67. The looks and personality came from two primary sources - writer Peter Viertel and a man Laurents referred to only as "Tony Blue Eyes", an acquaintance who inspired the scene where the creative writing instructor reads Hubbell's short story to his class.[11]

Laurents wrote a lengthy treatment for Ray Stark, who read it on a transcontinental flight and called the screenwriter the moment he arrived in Los Angeles to greenlight the project. Laurents had been impressed with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and suggested Sydney Pollack to direct. Streisand was impressed that he had studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan and seconded the choice. Stark was less enthusiastic, but agreed because Pollack assured him he could deliver Robert Redford for the role of Hubbell, which Laurents had written with Ryan O'Neal in mind. O'Neal's affair with Streisand was at its end, and Stark wanted to avoid conflicts between the leads.[12]

Laurents ultimately regretted recommending Pollack. The director demanded the role of Hubbell be made equal to that of Katie, and throughout filming, for unexplained reasons, he kept Laurents away from Redford. What was intended to be the final draft of the screenplay was written by Laurents and Pollack at Stark's condominium in Sun Valley, Idaho. Laurents, dismayed to discover very little of his work remained when it was completed, left the project. Over time, 11 writers, including Dalton Trumbo, Alvin Sargent, Paddy Chayefsky, and Herb Gardner, contributed to the script. The end result was a garbled story filled with holes that neither Streisand nor Redford liked. Laurents was asked to return and did so only after demanding and receiving an exorbitant amount of money.[13]

Because the film's start date was delayed while it underwent numerous rewrites, Cornell was lost as a shooting location[citation needed] , as was Williams College, where the novel "The Graduate" had been written 10 years earlier. Union College in Schenectady, New York, was used, instead. Other locations included the village of Ballston Spa in upstate New York; Central Park; the beach in Malibu, California; and Union Station in Los Angeles, the latter for a scene Laurents felt was absurd and fought to have deleted, without success.[14]

Laurents was horrified when he saw the first rough cut of the film. He thought it had a few good scenes, and some good moments in bad scenes, but overall, he thought it was a badly photographed, jumbled mess lacking coherence. Both stars appeared to be playing themselves more often than their characters, and Streisand often used a grand accent that Laurents felt hurt her performance. Pollack admitted the film was not good, accepted full responsibility for its problems, and apologised for his behaviour. The following day, he retreated to the editing room to improve it as much as possible. Laurents felt the changes made it better, but never as good as it could have been.[15]

A decade after the film was released, Redford, having made peace with Laurents, contacted him to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a new project, and eventually the two settled on a sequel to The Way We Were. In it, Hubbell and his daughter, a radical like Katie, would meet, but be unaware of their relationship, and complications would ensue. Both agreed they did not want Pollack to be part of the equation. Laurents sent Redford the completed script, but aside from receiving a brief note acknowledging the actor had received it and looked forward to reading it, he never heard from him again. In 1982, Pollack approached Laurents about a sequel Stark had proposed, but nothing transpired following their initial discussion. In 1996, Streisand came across the sequel Laurents had written, and decided she wanted to produce and direct it, as well as co-star with Redford, but did not want to work with Stark. Laurents thought the script was not as good as he remembered it being, and agreed to rewrite it once Stark agreed to sell the rights to the characters and their story to Streisand. Again, nothing happened. The following year, Stark asked Laurents if he were interested in adapting the original film for a stage musical starring Kathie Lee Gifford. Laurents declined, and any new projects related to the film have been in limbo.[16]


The musical score for The Way We Were was composed by Marvin Hamlisch. A soundtrack album was released in January 1974 to much success. At the time of its initial release, the album peaked at number 20 on the Billboard 200. On October 19, 1993, it was re-released on CD by Sony. It includes Streisand's rendition of "The Way We Were", which at the time of the film's release was a commercial success and her first number-one single in the United States. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1973 and charted for 23 weeks, eventually selling over a million copies and remaining number one for three non-consecutive weeks in February 1974. On the Adult Contemporary chart, it was Streisand's second top hit, following "People" a decade earlier. It was the title track of a Streisand album that reached number one.


In North America, the film was a massive commercial success, grossing $49,919,870.[17] It ranked fifth among high-grossing films of the year, earning an estimated $10 million in North American rentals in 1973,[18] and a total of $22,457,000 in its theatrical run.

Critical response

The Way We Were was featured on the Top Ten Films of 1973 by the National Board of Review. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and called it "essentially just a love story, and not sturdy enough to carry the burden of both radical politics and a bittersweet ending." He added "It's easy to forgive the movie a lot because of Streisand. She's fantastic. She's the brightest, quickest female in movies today, inhabiting her characters with a fierce energy and yet able to be touchingly vulnerable...The Redford character perhaps in reaction to the inevitable Streisand performance, is passive and without edges. The primary purpose of the character is to provide someone into whose life Streisand can enter and then leave. That's sort of thankless, but Redford handles it well." Ebert further added "Instead, inexplicably, the movie suddenly and implausibly has them fall out of love--and they split up without resolving anything, particularly the plot."[19] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that "with Streisand as the film's intellectual mouthpiece—and listen, as a singer, God bless her—there is no way that the film's ideas are going to come off as anything but patronizing and tinged with comedy."[20]

In her review, Pauline Kael noted, "the decisive change in the characters' lives which the story hinges on takes place suddenly and hardly makes sense." She was not the only critic to question the gap in the plot. Of the scene in the hospital shortly after Katie gives birth and they part indefinitely, Molly Haskell wrote, "She seems to know all about it, but it came as a complete shock to me."[21] The sloppy editing was exposed in other ways, as well. In his review, critic John Simon wrote: "Some things, I suppose, never change, like the necktie Redford wears in two scenes that take place many years apart."[citation needed]

Variety called it "a distended, talky, redundant, and moody melodrama" and adds, "but Robert Redford has too little to work with in the script," and "The overemphasis on Streisand makes the film just another one of those Streisand vehicles where no other elements ever get a chance."[22] Time Out London observed "[W]ith the script glossing whole areas of confrontation (from the Communist '30s to the McCarthy witch-hunts), it often passes into the haze of a nostalgic fashion parade. Although Streisand's liberated Jewish lady is implausible, and emphasises the period setting as just so much dressing, Redford's Fitzgerald-type an intriguing trailer for his later Great Gatsby. It's a performance that brings more weight to the film than it deserves, often hinting at depths that are finally skated over."[23]

Conversely, TV Guide awarded the film three out of four stars, calling it "an engrossing, if occasionally ludicrous, hit tearjerker" and "a great campy romance."[24]

As of March 2022, the film holds a rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 32 reviews. The consensus states: "The Way We Were isn't politically confrontational enough for its story of ideological opposites falling in love to feel authentic, but Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford's beaming star power gives this melodrama romantic lift."[25]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[26] Best Actress Barbra Streisand Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Stephen B. Grimes;
Set Decoration: William Kiernan
Best Cinematography Harry Stradling Jr. Nominated
Best Costume Design Dorothy Jeakins and Moss Mabry Nominated
Best Original Dramatic Score Marvin Hamlisch Won
Best Song "The Way We Were"
Music by Marvin Hamlisch;
Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Feature Film Standards on TV Won
British Academy Film Awards[27] Best Actress in a Leading Role Barbra Streisand Nominated
David di Donatello Awards[28] Best Foreign Actress Won[a]
Golden Globe Awards[29] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "The Way We Were"
Music by Marvin Hamlisch;
Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Grammy Awards[30] Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special The Way We Were: Original Soundtrack Recording Won
International Film Festival of India Best Actress Barbra Streisand Won
National Board of Review Awards[31] Top Ten Films 9th Place
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 10th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards[32] Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen Arthur Laurents Nominated

In popular culture

In Gilda Radner's concert film Gilda Live, her character Lisa Loopner performs "The Way We Were" on the piano. Loopner says of the film "It's about a Jewish woman with a big nose and her blond boyfriend who move to Hollywood, and it's during the blacklist and it puts a strain on their relationship."

The Simpsons had three episodes, one called "The Way We Was" (first aired in 1991), "The Way We Weren't" (first aired in 2004), and "The Wayz We Were" (first aired in 2021), although their plots are unrelated to the film.

In season one of Gilmore Girls, Lorelei attempts to guess Dean's darkest secret is that he secretly wanted Robert Redford to dump his wife and children for Barbra Streisand. Dean admits that he has not seen "The Way We Were". In another episode of Gilmore Girls, Lorelei tells Sookie that she is reminded of The Way We Were because she hid from Luke the fact that she had lunch with Christopher. In season five of Gilmore Girls, Lorelei calls Luke after they have broken up and tells him that she was thinking about The Way We Were and reminded him of how Katie called Hubbell after they had broken up and asked him to come sit with her because he was her best friend and she needed her best friend.

On the show Friends, Rachel Green lists The Way We Were as the most romantic movie of all time.

In That '70s Show, Kitty Forman says that The Way We Were was a nice film after Eric explains a scene in Star Wars.

In Sex and the City, Carrie uses The Way We Were as an analogy for her relationship with Big. The girls proceed to sing the film's theme song, and later, when Carrie bumps into Big outside his engagement party, she quotes a line from the film.

In the movie The Jerk, Marie (Bernadette Peters) is sobbing over the demise of her relationship while a drunk Navin Johnson (Steve Martin) is writing checks for $1.09. He is badgering her and asks why she is crying and why she is wearing an old dress from one of their very first meetings. She responds "Because I just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the way we were." "What was it?" he asks. She sobs in reply, "The Way We Were."

See also


  1. ^ Tied with Tatum O'Neal for Paper Moon.


  1. ^ "The Way We Were (1973)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  2. ^ The Way We Were Archived 2018-05-12 at the Wayback Machine, Good Reads.
  3. ^ "The 25 All-Time Greatest Movies About Love". Archived from the original on 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  4. ^ "23 Reasons "The Way We Were" Featured The Best Romance Of All Time". Archived from the original on 2015-11-05. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  5. ^ "The 100 best romantic movies". Archived from the original on 2018-06-01. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  6. ^ "List of the Most Romantic Movies of all Time". Archived from the original on 2016-07-05. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  7. ^ "The 50 Best Romantic Movies". Archived from the original on 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  8. ^ "Top 100 Best Romance Movies Of All Time". Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  9. ^ "Songs of the Century". CNN. 7 March 2001. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  10. ^ Laurents, Arthur, Original Story By. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. ISBN 0-375-40055-9, pp. 254-57
  11. ^ Laurents, pp. 258-63
  12. ^ Laurents, p. 266
  13. ^ Laurents, pp. 267-74
  14. ^ Laurents, pp. 277-79
  15. ^ Laurents, pp. 280-81
  16. ^ Laurents, pp. 283-85
  17. ^ "The Way We Were (1973)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  18. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  19. ^ Roger Ebert (17 October 1973). "The Way We Were". Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  20. ^ Siskel, Gene (October 31, 1973). "The Way We Were". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 9.
  21. ^ Laurents, pp. 281-82
  22. ^ Variety Staff (31 December 1972). "The Way We Were". Variety. Archived from the original on 7 November 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  23. ^ "The Way We Were". Time Out London. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  24. ^ "The Way We Were". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-12-25. Retrieved 2020-02-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "The 46th Academy Awards (1974) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2011.
  27. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1975". BAFTA. 1975. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  28. ^ "Come eravamo (The Way We Were)". Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  29. ^ "The Way We Were – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  30. ^ "1974 Grammy Award Winners". Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  31. ^ "1973 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  32. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.

External links

This page was last edited on 24 May 2022, at 01:17
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