Katie and Hubbell are students in the same college but with very different lives. She is a communist compromised against the civil war in Spain and the rise of Hitler in Europe, and has to work to pay her studies. He is more interested in sports a and sceptic about politics. However, Katie is impressed by his charm and she still is when they meet some years after.
Barbra Streisand ... Katie Morosky
Robert Redford ... Hubbell Gardner
Bradford Dillman ... J.J.
Lois Chiles ... Carol Ann
Patrick O'Neal ... George Bissinger
Viveca Lindfors ... Paula Reisner
Allyn Ann McLerie ... Rhea Edwards
Murray Hamilton ... Brooks Carpenter
Herb Edelman ... Bill Verso
Diana Ewing ... Vicki Bissinger
Sally Kirkland ... Pony Dunbar
Marcia Mae Jones ... Peggy Vanderbilt
Don Keefer ... Actor
George Gaynes ... El Morocco Captain
Eric Boles ... Army Corporal
Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford look wonderful in this great story of doomed love. Character development (or arc) is supposed to be one of the basic elements of a good screenplay; but the whole point of Sydney Pollack's 1973 movie is that neither Katie Moroski nor Hubbell Gardner changes. She remains the serious-minded Jewish left-wing activist, and he the easy-going, politically uncommitted WASP, they are when they first meet in college in 1937. Fascinated with each other precisely because they are such opposites, they have an affair, marry and have a baby; but their inability to compromise - or in his case to stop compromising - leads to break-up.
The main action spans the eventful decade from the Spanish Civil War and New Deal, through WWII, to the McCarthy era, by which time Katie and Hubbell have moved from New York to Hollywood, where he is a screenwriter. Though melodramatic and sketchy, the political dimension of the story should not be underestimated; this is one of the very rare American movies in which a communist is treated sympathetically. Presumably much of this side of the scenario stemmed from the personal experience of writer Arthur Laurents, who was the same age as his protagonists, and who had McCarthy-related problems.
Both stars are perfect for their roles; we can see what they see in each other; and we desperately want it to work for them, though we know it won't! Notable in support are Bradford Dillman, Lois Chiles, and James Woods. The theme song, emotionally delivered by Streisand as only she can, is beautiful, but the relevance of its nostalgic lyric to this clear-eyed movie is doubtful.
The theme of a golden boy falling for a girl from "another world", be it social class, the "wrong side of the tracks" or fill in your cliché here, is one that goes back to the silent film era. One of the most famous examples is Sydney Pollack's 1973 film "The Way We Were". Set from the 1930's through the 1950's, Barbra Streisand plays Katie, an outspoken member of the Communist party and campus activist who does not have anything handed to her; she works two and sometimes three jobs in order to pay for her living and college tuition. Hubble (Redford) is your typical aforementioned golden boy, a "big man on campus" who indulges in sports, debutantes and all-around good times. The two know each other from the diner Katie works at (he being the patron) and at one point before graduation, briefly bond over their shared passion for writing. Cut to a few years in the future and Katie encounters Hubble at a bar. Hubble is in the armed forces and Katie is characteristically working a couple of jobs while volunteering for various social causes. After a night of drunken sex (Hubble being the drunken one) they embark on an unlikely relationship that spans over a decade and includes a move to California (when Hubble becomes a screenwriter in Hollywood) and the conception of one child. They are happy, but realize that regardless of their desire, they can't completely cross social lines and certainly can't change one another, particularly Katie's ever-ferocious dedication to social causes; a fight that becomes exponentially heated during McCarthy's Red Scare. The two have to decide whether they can sustain enough raw emotion for one another to persevere over everything else that is stacked up against them.
There are several things about "The Way We Were" that require suspension of disbelief (the fact that despite never having had much contact with one another that after one night of drunken lust and an awkward "morning after" being enough to kick start a relationship the magnitude of theirs is the first thing that comes to mind) but the bottom line is that it really is a well-written, well-directed and well-acted film. The two principal characters are full and complex, regardless of whether we are talking about the socially conscience Katie or the socially acceptable Hubble. I suspect they somewhat were written with the intent of familiarity for the purpose of effectiveness, and if this is true, it worked on me. The era in which these two characters were set was a very interesting time in American history, and the characters' actions during these times created some compelling cinema, particularly when it touched on the Red Scare.
But who am I fooling? The main reason people watch this movie, whether for the first time or for the fiftieth is for the doomed romance, and Streisand and Redford deliver in spades. "The Way We Were" was written for Streisand, (something that cause Redford to turn down the part at first, because he knew the film was going to be hers) and her portrayal of Katie is excellent. There are so many perceptions of Streisand nowadays (some of them correct, to be sure) that it's easy to forget that she really does have some serious acting chops, and she exhibits them to full effect here. I also happened to learn that the soft filtered lens thing with her didn't just start with her later movies, for whatever reason she was filmed with that lens more often than not here, but that didn't do anything more than slightly distract me because I couldn't help but chuckle. Redford gives a typical solid performance as well, though his initial doubts about taking the role turned out to be valid; he is not the dynamic figure in the film. However, his character is a strong one and Redford does a good job.
I don't know if Pollack knew he was creating a screen classic when he directed "The Way We Were" but he did make a very good film. If you can make it past some major melodrama and some plot holes (what was the deal with their child?) watch this film, and just sit back and appreciate it for what it is – a chick flick that guys don't have to feel ashamed watching.
I can remember seeing THE WAY WE WERE when I was in high school and being surprised by how much I had enjoyed it. Romances were never really my thing, but I had always enjoyed the work of Robert Redford, so I decided to give it a try. I was floored by the power and beauty of film! My initial reactions to the film were, once again, how natural and charismatic Redford is as the classic example of the college golden boy, who feels slightly trapped. After the credits began to roll, I knew right then that I had seen something special, something that would pass the test of time. I assume others felt the same way, the film went on to become an international blockbuster and the top grosser of the year.
Years later, I watched THE WAY WE WERE again. Now older, I had a new perspective on the film, and to be completely honest, I enjoyed it even more! While I still think Redford is great in this film, I discovered that it is actually Barbra Streisand who gives the better performance. As the political activist Katie, Streisand has one her best roles since Fanny Brice in the original FUNNY GIRL and she provides a show-stopping performance. She displays both strength and vulnerability, she is at once both scorned and innocent. Her's is one of the best performances of the 70's.
The final verdict: THE WAY WE WERE stands the test of time as one of the best films of it's kind. Watch this film for the most moving finale in film history, for the knock out performance from Streisand, for the long-lasting chemistry between Redford and Streisand, and for one of the most famous and touching love stories of this century.
* James Woods' first film (although not the first to be released).
* Cameo: [Marvin Hamlisch]
* After preview reactions, director Sydney Pollack took out a sequence of several scenes from the movie's climactic turning point, most notably: (1) a highly emotional scene where Katie drives through UCLA and stops to watch a young woman hold a political speech, reminding Katie of herself 20 years ago (2) a dialog between Katie and Hubbell where he tells her that someone has informed on her. Having a "subversive" wife, it's clear that (unless she would inform, too) he will be fired.
* Warren Beatty was originally offered for the role of Hubbell
* The college scenes were shot at Union College in Schenectady, New York. The large rotunda-like building is the Nott Memorial at Union College. The restaurant scene where Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand meet outside was filmed at the old Medberry Hotel in Ballston Spa, New York.
* Peter Bogdanovich turned down the chance to direct. He later regretted his decision.
* The name of Hubbell's book was "A Country Made of Ice Cream".