Way We Were, The (1973)

Arthur Laurents, who adapted his novel for the film, disliked Sydney Pollack's film because it was too much of a schmaltzy star vehicle, servicing its two two stars, Robert Redford and Stareisand, then at the peak of their popularity.

 

Redford plays Hubbell Gardiner, the handsome, nearly perfect WASP and Streisand Katie Morosky, the Jewish “ugly duckling-swan” in this retro romantic melodrama, spanning two decades, from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Conforming to mainstream Hollywood's norm that the real politics should be kept in the background, sort of a context, the film unfolds as an “opposite attracts” story, with lavish production values, glamorous close-ups of two fascinating faces, and melodic tune.

 

An aspiring writer, Hubbell is a fun-loving student who's not particularly politically active.  In contrast, Katie is a radical Jewish student who joins every political organization and cause.  Initially, Katie is the butt of jokes at the college, subjected to all kinds of barbs from Hubbell's chums.

 

The couple meets briefly at a dance and is immediately attracted to each other. Then WWII begins, finding Katie on the radio talking politics, and Hubbell drafted into the armed forces.  They meet again but he is drunk that she takes him back to her apartment where he passes out in her bed. 

 

By now a published author, Hubbell can't decide what to do with the relationship, and peer pressure against it doesn't help.  Even so, after a separation and reconciliation, they get married and move to L.A., where Hubbell embarks on a writer's career, while Katie goes off to Washington to fight against McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Arguments ensue over Redford selling out and not utilizing well his talent for projects that matter.

 

Bradford Dillman, a buddy of Hubbell's, plays J.J. (just the name!), the smooth tinsel town producer-operator, who demands revisions in the script in the name of commercial appeal.  Katie is distraught, but being pregnant, she suggests that they wait until after their child is born and then part amicably.

 

In the last scene, they meet again in New York's Central Park.  Hubbell has now sold out completely, writing for the “debased” TV industry, while Katie has remarried but is still politically engaged.  Katie walks away handing out “Ban the Bomb” leaflets, while Hubbell has the last word, “You never give up, do you?”

 

Both Redford and Streisand play stereotypical roles, he as the self-centered, materialistic, politically uninvolved man and she as a feisty radical femme. But the movie is enjoyable as a star vehicle, and Marvin Hamlisch's title song conveys the sentimental, romantic mood, which made the picture all the more popular.

 

This was one of the bets years in Redford's career, in which he also appears in “The Sting,” opposite Paul Newman, for which he received his first and only Best Actor nomination.  Co-star Streisand was nominated for Best Actress for “The Way We Were,” a movie that won Marvin Hamlisch the Original Dramatic Score Oscar as well as the Best Song Award.