‘Not Beautiful in the Right Way’: Star Image, Politics and Romance in The Way We Were (1973)
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In the early 1970s, the controversial anti-communist Hollywood witch-hunts of the 1940s and 1950s finally received their first overt treatment in the popular romantic melodrama The Way We Were (Pollack, 1973). Starring Barbra Streisand (Katie Morosky) and Robert Redford (Hubbel Gardiner), the film is about an unlikely romance between a fiery Jewish radical and a handsome and privileged Wasp, and the conflict between careers, personal relationships and political principles in blacklist era Hollywood. By downplaying the political story, however, it was not the frank, revealing and long overdue story of political paranoia and destroyed careers that many critics had hoped for. The film was a major hit, nonetheless, owing to two major factors. One factor was the presence of two of America’s most popular movie stars and their compelling on-screen chemistry. The other was the film’s shrewd accommodation of contemporary concerns, namely, the social wars of the 1960s and the explosion in identity politics in the 1970s. These concerns were expressed in the film’s story, themes and, crucially, through the conflicting cultural meanings of Streisand’s and Redford’s star personae.