Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Way We Were

TCM ran a bunch of romances back on Valentine's Day. This gave me the chance to record a movie I hadn't done a post on before, The Way We Were. Recently, I watched it to do a post on here.

Barbra Streisand plays Katie Morosky, who at the start of the movie is working as an assistant on a radio show in 1944, during World War II. Katie openly uses her position to edit the scripts to make characters and people who don't hold her political views look like jerks. To be fair, there was a lot of propaganda during the war, but Katie turns it up to 11.

Katie and her boss go to a club for dinner that evening, and at the bar, she sees one Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), looking resplendent in his naval officer's uniform. This being a young Robert Redford, it's unsurprising that Katie should get the hots for him, although in reality, she already had the hots for the guy since Katie and Hubbell had a past together, back in college in 1937, and Katie starts thinking about that....

Katie was just as politically active and naïve in college, supporting the Soviets' backing of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War as if this were somehow nobler than the Francoists getting backing from Germany and Italy. (The movie conveniently omits the time between the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact and Germany's invasion of the USSR during which America's communists did a complete 180.) Katie and Hubbell were in the same graduating class at college, and in a creative writing course together. The professor singles out Hubbell's work, whch pisses Katie off. But Hubbell admires Katie's gumption if not her political views, while Katie feels something more physical toward Hubbell.

Back in the present day of 1944, Hubbell gets drunk and needs a place to flop for the night, so Katie puts him up, leading to more meetings and a torrid love affair. After the war, this is going to take both of them to Los Angeles, since they're both writers. They continue their affair, to the point that they get married and Hubbell gets Katie pregnant.

But then comes the House Un-American Activities Committee. Lots of Hollywood folks started receiving subpoenas, while ten of them refuse to testify before the committee. Those ten of course would become the first Hollywood blackistees, and Katie as a committed Communist herself goes to Washington to support them, something which could be very dangerous both to her career and her husband's. Hubbell is more sanguine, figuring that everything will blow over in a few years, and what purpose will all of this have served. It would be enough to break up their relationship, but as it turns out Hubbell has been having an affair anyway.

If you want a poignant romance, you could do a lot worse than to watch The Way We Were. It's filled with fine performances, a memorable theme song, and a story that works reasonably well. However, I have to admit that at times I had difficulty finding any sympathy for Katie. After all, she was deliberately using her job to screw over other people politically, and in other ways she consistently comes across as selfish.

I also had some dislike of the triumphalism of Hollywood's communists somehow being the victims. I've argued on several occasions before that the government shouldn't have been involved in things like this, but most people seem to be fine with the government shafting other people as long as it's not shafting them. Budd Schulberg, when he named names, said something to the effect that the Communists were in favor of free speech as long as it was speech they approved of, and that attitude is even stronger in today's society with cancel culture.

Still, I understand that most people are going to overlook such flaws and enjoy this manipulative romance.

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