The Way We Were: From Williams to Union


By Dorothy Hazan

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Sydney Pollack’s film, The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. The 1973 movie has a reputation for being one of the greatest love stories every told, but what makes it truly special is that the opening scenes were filmed right here at Union.

Written by Arthur Laurents, The Way We Were is a story of opposites coming together in the 1930s as Katie Morosky (Streisand) falls for Hubbell Gardiner (Redford). Morosky is a serious, politically radical college student, while Gardiner is the “big man on campus,” who dreams of moving out to Hollywood and writing for the pictures.

The two interact a good deal during their college years but really connect much later during the politically tumultuous time from World War II into the ensuing Cold War. By that time, Gardiner has written his first novel and joined the Navy, while Morosky continues her political activism at the grassroots level. For some time, they continue an “on again, off again” relationship until Morosky finally gives up her political aspirations and marries Gardiner, and the two move out to Hollywood together.

On the west coast, Gardiner eagerly pursues his writing career, and the newlyweds seem to be sailing smoothly. But when the American government begins its communist witch-hunt in the height of the Cold War, Morosky’s political activism creates major problems for the relationship.

In addition to its status as one of America’s greatest tales of unlikely love, The Way We Were earned a prestigious reputation for its audacity in addressing how the reign of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the infamous “black list” affected Hollywood. The film’s romance, its portrayal of the Red Scare and its music earned it nominations for six Academy Awards, two of which it won (Best Original Song and Best Original Score).

However, more important than the romance and historical significance of the film are the scenes that take place during Morosky’s and Gardiner’s early college years. If you pay close attention, you may catch some pretty wonderful images of Nott Memorial, since those scenes were filmed right here on Union’s campus.

Originally, the cast and crew were supposed to film the early college scenes at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. However, on the way there, Pollack got one glimpse of the Nott’s 16-sided dome and made the entire caravan of cameramen and actors turn around and pull into 807 Union Street.

Of course, that’s not true. In reality, production delays resulted in a scheduling conflict at Williams, and the location was moved. They did cast coeds and college-age locals as extras for $15 per day, so it is entirely possible that a few Union students played a small but essential role in the film.


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