“There is so much more going on than people remember,” Joe Neumaier, film critic for radio station 710AM-WOR, exclusively told Closer Weekly of 1973’s iconic romance The Way We Were. Starring Barbra Streisand as stridently political Katie Morosky, and Robert Redford as politically ambivalent Hubbell Gardiner, the film centers on their love story from the 1930s to the ’50s.
“The storyline still resonates with the politically divisive world we’re in today,” TCM host Ben Mankiewicz said. The class-and-social-consciousness issues, combined with the stars’ chemistry, has made the film irresistible for 45 years. But what people remember best is the power of Katie and Hubbell’s bittersweet love, symbolized by her brushing his hair from his face — something Barbra came up with.
“I wanted to find some gesture that I could repeat at certain times of the film because later… it would have more meaning,” she recalled. It worked. “There is a sense of innocence to that love, and a sense of innocence to America at that time, that feels unforgettable,” Neumaier said. “It feels resonant in any era that you watch.”
While their pairing is now legendary, Barbra, 76, and Robert, 82, weren’t an instant match. “Barbra had a crush on him, even before we started,” director Sydney Pollack said, but Robert almost turned down the role of Hubbell. “I thought it was a good script, but he was, I felt, one-dimensional,” he said.
Barbra was disappointed. “I wanted him in that role so badly,” she recalled. Pollack and screenwriter Arthur Laurents contemplated Warren Beatty and Ken Howard instead, but Robert eventually agreed after a rewrite and a promise: “I didn’t want her to sing in the middle of the movie!”
Their chemistry was “organic,” he explained, although he’s conceded that Barbra had a crush on him during filming — something they never acted on because he was married. “I remember the fun we had,” he shared. Working with her, “ended up being one of the most enjoyable relationships I’ve ever had.” Added Barbra, “Every day was an exciting adventure.”
“The Way We Were” was the first — and biggest — of Barbra’s five No. 1 singles. Composed by Marvin Hamlisch, who won two Oscars for the film’s music, with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, the song has become a classic. But Barbra recalls making one suggestion for the opening line.
Originally, the line was “Daydreams light the corners of your mind,” and ‘memories’ came later,” Barbra said. “It just didn’t feel right.” Instead, she suggested the song open with “Memories light the corners of my mind,” and the writers agreed.
“I get so involved in songs that I sing,” Barbra admitted. Still, Hamlisch, on accepting the Oscar for the film’s score, joked, “What can I tell ya? I’d like to thank the makers of Maalox for making all this possible!”
The film was a huge moneymaker for Columbia Pictures, raking in $49 million, but even Robert was surprised by its success. “I just wasn’t prepared for the impact,” he admitted. It was so popular, there was even talk of turning it into a Broadway musical in 1997 for Kathie Lee Gifford (it never happened)!
Barbra, meanwhile, never gave up hoping for a sequel, which she wanted to release on the 25th anniversary. “It’s such a good story [told] through their daughter and her political activism at Berkeley in 1968,” she raved. “And a beautiful love story again.”
Sadly, Robert stuck to his policy of not doing sequels. But at least we have our memories and the original. “If viewers go back [and watch],” said Neumaier, “like the best love stories, you find memories that hold different meanings.”
For more on Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!