Airing on TCM September 30 at 11 PM EST
“The Way We Were” is a compelling romance movie because it’s the rare film that doesn’t end with either tragedy or fairytale-esque happiness. From start to finish, the story of this couple with opposing viewpoints is a real as it gets.
The film spans decades and begins just before the start of World War II. Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand is a very vocal anti-war activist who is shunned by most of her college classmates, except Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). Hubbell, unlike Katie, doesn’t have any particular political views, but he is a very good writer. They meet again after the war, and fall in love despite their differences. But their romance flounders during the McCarthy era, as the Jewish Katie’s political activism threatens Hubbell’s career as a Hollywood screenwriter.
Writer Arthur Laurents’ characters are rich and complex. Katie is drawn to Hubbell because he is one of the few people who pay attention to her, and because she sees potential in him to be a great writer. Hubbell is attracted to Katie’s determination, a trait he doesn’t have, but finds it hard to live up to her expectations. The performances, particularly by Streisand, are wonderful.
Unfortunately, “The Way We Were” went through one too many cuts and rewrites, and suffers a bit as a result. Occasionally, it feels like there are holes in the plot over which the characters’ relationship goes right from one extreme to the other. Even director Sydney Pollack agreed that the film’s first rough cut was terrible, and while Laurents saw improvements in the final cut, the movie was never what he—who based the characters and story on his own college experiences—envisioned it would be.
The most memorable aspect of “The Way We Were” actually its title song, which was composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics sung by Streisand. The beautiful song, which plays over the film’s final scene to great effect, was a huge hit, and became Streisand’s first number one song in the U.S.
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