‘The Way We Were’ adds a new chapter to its bittersweet romantic legacy

It’s one of the most romantic films ever made . . . even if the romance turns bittersweet. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Way We Were,  and what better way to celebrate all things Katie and Hubbell than with a marvelous book about the film, its stars, their chemistry and its long-lived appeal that with a gossipy book: Robert Hofler’s The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen ($28, Citadel ).

We spent a few minutes with the author and asked him a few questions about the book and the way they were . . . and remain.

How easy (or difficult) was it to get to Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford? What question(s) did she/he refuse to answer?
My interviews with Streisand and Redford were conducted via email. They answered my questions. When I had done more research on the book, I went back to both of them with more questions and they graciously provided answers.

Many people who worked on the movie have passed away. Who else were you able to speak to?
Fortunately, I was able to speak to [director] Sydney Pollack and [writer] Arthur Laurents about the film when they were still with us. Those interviews are referred to in my book’s epilogue. Regarding those principals who are still alive, I was very fortunate in speaking to everyone I wanted to.

Although people want to talk about Streisand and Redford, I found my interviews with assistant director Hawk Koch, second assistant director Michael Britton, script consultant Judith Rascoe, and, above all, editor John F. Burnett very significant and insightful. Former friends and associates of Arthur Laurents, like Ashley Feinstein and Zvi Howard Rosenman, were also essential.

Legacy has it that the film is being reconstructed . . .
To my knowledge the film is not being reconstructed. I know that Streisand wants to add two scenes that were cut after the first preview in San Francisco. I doubt she is going to be successful in that quest.

What did you learn after your research on the film that you did not know?
I did not know that Streisand wanted to add those scenes for a rerelease. Also, I learned that it is very unlikely that  Arthur Laurents was ever blacklisted. He might have been “graylisted.” In 1955, he was staying at the Chateau Marmont on the dime of MGM working on a film musical with Jerome Robbins. My book explores many issues that Laurents misrepresented in his memoir Original Story By.

There happens to be another book on the exact same subject…
I have not read the other book on The Way We Were and I have no comment to make on it.