The legacy of William Goldman would have been assured had he only written screenplays. After all, Goldman, who died Friday at 87, wrote the scripts to many critical and commercial favorites, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “All the President’s Men,” “The Princess Bride,” “Misery” and “Marathon Man.” Few names in the opening credits were a safer guarantee of wit, intelligence, and entertainment.
But Goldman wrote more than screenplays. Aside from his engaging short stories and novels (including the source materials for “Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man”), he wrote several noteworthy volumes of commentary about the entertainment industry, offering an insider’s view that cleared the smoke and smashed the mirrors. And he carried that refreshing candor into his interviews and profiles, carving out a reputation as one of the few heavyweights who dared to demystify the business. Here is some of the best work by and about this brilliant writer, along with snippets of some of his most memorable dialogue.
In His Own Words
‘The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway’
Flush with the cash from “Butch Cassidy,” his first original screenplay sale, Goldman set out to write the definitive account of the inner workings of the Great White Way, deconstructing the successes and failures of the 1967-1968 theater season. The stage director and drama critic Harold Clurman reviewed the book for the Times, calling it “a hatchet job on Broadway,” adding that Goldman “is rude about Clive Barnes and most of the other daily theater critics, is irreverent of Mike Nichols and derisive of a gaggle of other Broadway big shots generally treated with cordiality.”
‘Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting’
This 1983 essay collection is one of the essential books about movies, a wickedly witty, take-no-prisoners peek behind the curtain of showmanship and bravado, revealing a world in which, as he wrote, “nobody knows anything.” He continued: “Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess — and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin wrote, “Nevertheless, Mr. Goldman knows a thing or two about how the movie business operates, and he reveals plenty of it here.”