The Way We Were
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Robert Redford made the transition from rising star to international sex symbol when he teamed with his most memorable leading lady, Barbra Streisand, for the 1973 romantic drama The Way We Were. So strong an impact did the film make that almost 30 years later, fans and interviewers continue to ask them when they will be joining forces for another film. And although the re-teaming has yet to happen, it's interesting to note that their first get together barely made it to the screen either.
Playwright Arthur Laurents (West Side Story, Gypsy) had been asked to write a dramatic film script for Barbra Streisand by producer Ray Stark, who had helped make her a star with both the stage and screen versions of Funny Girl (1968). Struck by Streisand's fiery nature and political interests, Laurents started a story inspired by a campus radical he had known in the '30s, giving her an unlikely crush on her exact opposite, a blond writer from a privileged background. To this he added his own memories of campus political protests and life in Hollywood during the anti-Communist Witch Hunts to forge the romance of Katie Morosky and Hubbell Gardner. Stark loved the treatment, and Laurents turned his original 125-page narrative into a novel that reached publication before the film's release.
Originally Stark and Streisand were interested in casting her co-star from What's Up, Doc? (1972), Ryan O'Neal, in the male lead. The stars had started a romance during filming, but by casting time the relationship had cooled, and so had their chemistry. Then Stark and Streisand decided that Redford was the perfect choice for leading man; his blond, blue-eyed coolness would provide the perfect contrast to her. But Redford didn't care for the first draft screenplay and turned them down, complaining that the male character was undeveloped compared to the female lead. Fortunately, their first choice for director, Sydney Pollack, had worked with Redford and was instrumental in promising him the re-writes that would make the role more acceptable. When Laurents' final draft didn't please him, they fired the original writer and went through 11 others, including Francis Ford Coppola and Dalton Trumbo, trying to come up with the right balance.
By this point, shooting had begun. Locations for the college scenes had been set for Williams College in Massachusetts, but the delays caused by getting Redford to sign and going through re-writes had pushed production too late for the school to accommodate, so they had to move to Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., instead. By this point, the screenplay was a mess, filled with holes left by the many different writers, so Stark and Pollack begged Laurents to return, at a much higher fee. Streisand had been fighting all along to restore some of his cut material. With his help, they tried to get even more back in, though they didn't always succeed. Adding to the on-set problems was a big difference between the two stars' approaches to acting. Although they respected each other a great deal, Streisand liked to discuss her work in copious detail before shooting, while Redford felt that discussions robbed his work of freshness. Pollack had to bring their different methods together, often by spending hours on the phone with Streisand each night to discuss the next day's shooting.
Despite all the problems, however, previews indicated that The Way We Were was going to be a winner. For all his initial misgivings, Redford's performance registered very strongly with viewers. Afraid that he was stealing the picture, Streisand reconsidered an earlier decision not to sing in the film (she wanted to be appreciated solely as a dramatic actress) and agreed to record the title song for use in the soundtrack. The song helped make the film an even bigger success, bringing Streisand her first number one hit and first gold record. It also made Marvin Hamlisch the first composer to win all three Oscars®: for music in a single year. He won for Best Song and Best Original Score for The Way We Were and Best Adapted Score for Redford's other big 1973 hit, The Sting.
With the movie's strong showing at the box office and continuing popularity, fans have long demanded a sequel from the two stars. Laurents actually wrote one set in the late '60s at Redford's urging. His story would have had Katie and Hubbell brought back together by their daughter's involvement in the anti-war movement, with a major sequence involving them in the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. At one point, Streisand was even planning to produce and direct the picture herself, but nothing has ever come of it. A few years back, Stark approached Laurents with another proposal for using the material -- as a stage musical to star Kathie Lee Gifford. That this never came to pass may bring fans of the original at least some consolation.
Producer: Ray Stark
Director: Sydney Pollack
Screenplay: Arthur Laurents
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Art Direction: Stephen B. Grimes, William Kiernan
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Principal Cast: Barbra Streisand (Katie Morosky), Robert Redford (Hubbell Gardner), Bradford Dillman (J.J.), Lois Chiles (Carol Ann), Patrick O'Neal (George Bissinger), Viveca Lindfors (Paula), Allyn Ann McLerie (Rhea Edwards), Herb Edelman (Bill Verso), Sally Kirkland (Pony Dunbar), James Woods (Frankie McVeigh).
C-119m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Frank Miller