Arts & Ent., BOOK REVIEW

Book Review: The Way They Were by Robert Hofler

The Way they Were – by Robert Hofler

You bought nine tickets.

That’s just the screenings you’ve had at the theater. Add at least a dozen viewings on TV, you used to own the VCR tape and you’ve got the DVD, and the total is pretty high. You’ve seen your favorite movie so many times that you know the dialogue word-for-word – but what don’t you know? Read “The Way They Were” by Robert Hofler, and find out.

In the beginning, the story was very different.

“The Way We Were” was a fairy tale with many improbabilities but when producer Ray Stark first saw the “treatment” of the story, he didn’t notice them. He saw ticket sales and in his mind’s eye, they were good.

For writer Arthur Laurents, the screenplay had elements of the life he’d lived, having seen his Hollywood career stalled by the House Un-American Activities Committee and their sweep of “commies” in the late 1940s. His character, Katie, an activist, was a perfect way to subtly thumb his nose at what had happened.

Barbra Streisand didn’t care about the film’s politics. Coming off the success of Funny Girl, she was a star – a sexy star with a great singing voice, perfect comic timing, and a quirky look that audiences loved. 

So who would be her leading man?

Streisand wanted Robert Redford. Director Sydney Pollack fought for Redford, and then Stark brought Ryan O’Neal’s name up. Redford, for his part, knew about Streisand’s reputation as a controlling perfectionist, and he didn’t want her to sing in the movie. Actor Ken Howard was then introduced to Streisand, Dennis Cole was asked to audition, and Warren Beatty’s name was mentioned. In the end, Redford was Hubbell but he wasn’t happy with the script so it was rewritten and redone and revised and edited some more.

Redford was often late to the set. Streisand reportedly sweated details. On-site filming was problematic, but it got done.  And in the end, “The Way We Were,” beloved by millions of fans, almost got scrapped anyway…

Totally, absolutely, one hundred percent, “The Way They Were” is a fan’s book. It’s for fans of the movie, of Streisand and Redford, and maybe tabloid readers. If none of that describes you, put it down and back away slowly. You will hate it.

For fans, though, this book is singin’ your song.

Author Robert Hofler has been in the orbit of this movie and its main players for decades, and the digging he did to find its details shows in the storytelling he does and the insider feel of it all. There’s even a bit of backstory – like Goldilocks, not too much, just enough. The best part is that there’s no wild sensationalism or snark inside this book; it’s the facts, authentic memories gathered from interviews and other reliable sources, and some very, very delicious fan-favorite bombshells.

If you’ve watched the movie more than once, or you’ll catch it again to see if the years have been kind, you’ll enjoy what you’ll read here. “The Way They Were.” That’s the ticket.

“The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen” by Robert Hofler

c.2023, Citadel Press

$28.00 304 pages