The way it was for Arthur Laurents

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now, this looks interesting: Arthur Laurents, A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood. I looked him up after recently rewatching The Way We Were. He wrote the screenplay. Funny how life experience changes how you see a story. I was so angry at Hubbell the first time for not sticking with it. This time I see the impasse more, but it’s complicated. The feminists would say his terms were too high. He was only interested when she did all the work (after he was suggestive to her), silenced herself, straightened her hair for a better spectacle, and passed her convictions off as comedy material. While his lack of convictions was wimpy, there’s something to say for not being obnoxious. I can’t find the quote of his that says something to the effect of, “it’s not necessary to fight so hard, just give it a few years and everyone will be doing what you’re wasting your energy trying so hard to get done now.”

Here’s some interesting background into Laurents’ inspiration from Turner Classic Movies.

“Laurents began thinking about his old college years at Cornell during the 1930s. His senior year in 1937 was, according to his 2000 memoir Original Story By, “the year of campus peace strikes to end the Spanish Civil War and witch hunts to find undergraduate Reds.” He remembered in particular a girl he had gone to school with named Fanny Price who had been a “fiery campus radical” and wondered what had become of her. Price, he said, was “a colorful beginning for the character of my heroine but little more than a beginning. What did she want beyond the overthrow of capitalism?”

Laurents also drew from his intense desire to be a writer during college to help shape the character of Katie Morosky vis-a-vis his old classmate Fanny Price. “Characters rather than plot drive the better stories,” he said. “For the movie story I was developing, Fanny’s passion to be a writer added a new dimension to her character. The rejection of her essay, contrasting sharply with her belligerence at the Peace Strike, followed by the scene where she’s told she is a writer–all that was good, the story was slowly taking shape. Except it really wasn’t. And couldn’t because I couldn’t believe Fanny was a writer. Passion, conviction, desire? Yes; brimming over; she had them all. Talent? No; not for one minute could I believe she had any. No reason, just instinct but I knew I was right. But recognizing what she lacked gave me something better, something basic to her character: resilience. The English instructor could destroy her only temporarily; she would never go under or give up. That rang true and that would shape her story. In the end, Fanny was indestructible, a phoenix, and her name wasn’t Fanny it was Katie.”

I was fascinated by the whole page.

The Amazon description on the Memoir under “read more” at the top is pretty interesting too.