The Way We Were
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
CinematographyHarry Stradling Jr.
Edited byJohn F. Burnett
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 19, 1973 (1973-10-19)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 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 adapted the screenplay from his own 1972 novel of the same name, which was 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]


Katie Morosky and Hubbell Gardiner are two college students with immensely different lives in 1937. Katie is a staunch Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions, while Hubbell is a carefree WASP with no particular political bent. As their paths cross, Katie admires Hubbell's good looks and his excellent writing; Hubbell is charmed by Katie's steadfast commitment to social causes. His snobbish friends mock Katie and her passionate political stances. They briefly dance at the senior prom, then part ways.

The two meet again in New York City near the end of World War II: Katie juggles multiple jobs, and Hubbell is back from active duty as a naval officer in the South Pacific. The unlikely pair fall in love. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies, Katie is incensed when Hubbell's friends make disparaging jokes. She rejects Hubbell's indifference towards their insensitivity and dismissive political engagement. Hubbell is frustrated by Katie's bluntness and strong opinions; he ends their relationship, but they eventually reconcile.

Hubbell receives an offer to adapt his novel into a screenplay, but Katie is concerned his talent will be wasted in Hollywood. Despite her apprehensions, they move to Malibu where his studio contract offers an affluent lifestyle. As the Hollywood blacklist grows and McCarthyism encroaches on their lives, Katie's political activism resurfaces, potentially jeopardizing Hubbell's reputation and livelihood.

Katie and others publicly confront the government over personal privacy and free speech. Her involvement strains the marriage, and Hubbell becomes alienated over Katie's persistent political combativeness. Although Katie is now pregnant, Hubbell has an affair with his college ex. Katie realizes Hubbell is not the man she idealized and that he will always choose the easiest path. Hubbell is emotionally exhausted and unable to live up to Katie's expectations of him. After their daughter's birth, Katie and Hubbell divorce.

Years later, Katie and Hubbell meet by chance in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, where Katie is demonstrating to "Ban the Bomb". A taxi interrupts their reunion, but they ultimately part with a tender, bittersweet farewell.



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; filming instead took place at Union College in Schenectady, New York.[14] 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.[15]

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 apologized for his behavior. 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.[16]

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 was 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.[17]


See also: The Way We Were: Original Soundtrack Recording

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 was 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.[1] It was the fifth-high-grossing film 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."[19] 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] 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]

The film holds a rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews. The site’s critics 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 Ref.
Academy Awards Best Actress Barbra Streisand Nominated [26]
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 Best Actress in a Leading Role Barbra Streisand Nominated [27]
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Won[a] [28]
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [29]
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "The Way We Were"
Music by Marvin Hamlisch;
Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Grammy Awards Song of the Year "The Way We Were"
Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, and Marvin Hamlisch
Won [30]
Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special The Way We Were: Original Soundtrack Recording
Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, and Marvin Hamlisch
International Film Festival of India Best Actress Barbra Streisand Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 9th Place [31]
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 10th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen Arthur Laurents Nominated [32]

Pop culture

The 1979 comedy The Jerk includes Marie (Bernadette Peters) distressed over the demise of her relationship, sharing that she "just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the way we were." When asked the song title, she sobbingly confirms "The Way We Were."

In Gilda Radner's 1980 concert film Gilda Live, the 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 has evoked the film in three episode titles: "The Way We Was" (1991), "The Way We Weren't" (2004), and "The Wayz We Were" (2021).

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 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.

See also


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


  1. ^ a b "The Way We Were (1973)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  2. ^ Laurents, Arthur (1973). The Way We Were. Avon Books. ISBN 978-0-38-015289-6. Archived from the original on May 12, 2018 – via Goodreads.
  3. ^ Jacobs, Laura (August 9, 2013). "Cinema Aphrodiso". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on December 2, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  4. ^ "23 Reasons "The Way We Were" Featured The Best Romance Of All Time". BuzzFeed. October 19, 2014. Archived from the original on November 5, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  5. ^ "The 100 best romantic movies". Archived from the original on June 1, 2018. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  6. ^ "List of the Most Romantic Movies of all Time". Archived from the original on July 5, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  7. ^ "The 50 Best Romantic Movies". Archived from the original on February 6, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  8. ^ "Top 100 Best Romance Movies Of All Time". Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  9. ^ "Songs of the Century". CNN. March 7, 2001. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 254–257.
  11. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 258–263.
  12. ^ Laurents 2000, p. 266.
  13. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 267–274.
  14. ^ Grondahl, Paul (October 11, 2023). "50 years ago, Union College starred in Streisand-Redford hit The Way We Were". Times Union. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  15. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 277–279.
  16. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 280–281.
  17. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 283–285.
  18. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973". Variety. January 9, 1974. p. 19.
  19. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (October 17, 1973). "The Way We Were". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  20. ^ Siskel, Gene (October 31, 1973). "The Way We Were". Chicago Tribune. p. 9.
  21. ^ Laurents 2000, pp. 281–282.
  22. ^ "The Way We Were". Variety. December 31, 1972. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
  23. ^ "The Way We Were". Time Out London. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  24. ^ "The Way We Were". Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  25. ^ "The Way We Were (1973)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  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 September 16, 2016.
  28. ^ "Come eravamo (The Way We Were)". Archived from the original on June 11, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  29. ^ "The Way We Were – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  30. ^ "17th Annual GRAMMY Awards (1974)". Grammy Awards. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  31. ^ "1973 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  32. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.