The 1973 film ‘The Way We Were,’ starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, was apparently inspired by the real-life gay love story of screenwriter Arthur Laurents.
TheWrap theater critic Robert Hofler recalled how it came to be, starting with how Streisand “fell in love” with the story after reading a chunk of it.
“Arthur remembers it being a 125 pages. I remember reading a 50-page treatment. I fell in love with it!,” the ‘Funny Girl’ actress expressed.
In fact, she wanted it to be her “next movie,” and for it to be titled ‘The Way We Were.’ For more context, the romance-drama film’s synopsis reads:
“Opposites attract when, during their college days, Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand), a politically active Jew, meets Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), a feckless WASP. Years later, in the wake of World War II, they meet again and, despite their obvious differences, marry. Hubbell wants to be a screenwriter, so the two move to California despite Katie’s objections. They prosper there, but as the Hollywood blacklist looms, Katie’s activism threatens her husband’s reputation.”
Now going into how the 1973 movie was inspired by its screenwriter’s real-life gay romance, theater critic Hofler noted how Katie tells Hubbell,
“I’m not attractive in the right way, am I? I don’t have the right style for you, do I?”
Apparently, Laurents knew this subject quite well, as he had “many male lovers” who were gorgeous Gentiles. Tom Hatcher, for instance, was an incredibly handsome out-of-work actor. Fellow writer Gore Vidal recommended the playwright to meet the actor, and the two of them eventually became a couple.
Portrait artist Don Bachardy described Hatcher and Laurents’ relationship expressing,
“There was an electrical current between them. They weren’t just two men together. Something was going on, very high energy.”
With a 12-year age difference, Hofler noted that Laurents was the one who “provided the money, as well as the career opportunities” for Hatcher, who never fulfilled his dream of becoming a movie star.
With Laurents’ help, the actor got two Broadway roles, however, they posed problems for Hatcher. Ashley Feinstein, the playwright’s longtime assistant, recalled:
“Arthur did everything he could to help him, but Tom wasn’t much of an actor. I think he was happier when he gave it up.”
Hatcher eventually ended his relationship with Laurents not long after his Broadway show Invitation to a March closed. He then returned to Los Angeles, where he landed a small role in ‘The Twilight Zone.’
Meanwhile, Laurents, who was deeply in love, didn’t wait long and followed Hatcher to bring him home. The screenwriter made him the manager of Arthur Laurents Enterprises, and Hatcher eventually found his career as a renovator of houses, which put into good use his degree in architecture from Oklahoma University.
The story of Katie and Hubbell in ‘The Way We Were’ was inspired by Hatcher and Laurents’ relationship, and Zvi Howard Rosenman further described it stating,
“The Jew is the dynamic one, and when you fall in love with a vapid shegetz, it’s because he’s the one you want to be, the beautiful one. That’s what attracts some Jews to Gentiles, the vapidity. There’s no drama.”
Furthermore, Feinstein shared:
“Robert Redford is more like Tom, and Arthur is more like Barbra, Tom being Gentile and Arthur being Jewish.”
He also recalled that while working on ‘The Way We Were,’ Laurents told him,
“I’m writing something for Barbra, but it is really a lot of me from my college days.”