William Goldman, novelist, playwright, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy And Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men , plus The Princess Bride, has left the room. He was 87-years-old as his final credits rolled, surrounded by his family and friends after suffering several years of ill health.
In his iconic memoir, Adventures In The Screen Trade (1983), he famously summed up showbiz in his opening sentence:
“Nobody knows anything”.
Goldman began writing when he took a creative-writing class at Oberlin College. As one of the editors of Oberlin’s literary magazine, he would submit short stories to the magazine anonymously; he recalled that the other editors, upon reading his submissions, remarked: “We can’t possibly publish this shit.”
He did not intend to become a screenwriter. His main interests were poetry, short stories, and novels (he published 16 novels and seven volumes of memoirs). Yet, I remember the screenplays when I think about Goldman, including:
The Hot Rock (1972)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)
Marathon Man (1976), based on his own novel
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Magic (1978), based on his novel
Heat (1986) based on his novel
The Princess Bride (1987), based on his novel
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992)
He wrote over 60 screenplays, often going uncredited, many unproduced.
His brother, James Goldman, who died in 1998, was also playwright and screenwriter. He wrote the book for the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies (1971) and the screenplay based on his play for The Lion In Winter (1968). They shared an apartment in New York City with their gay friend, composer John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago). All three would go on to win Oscars.
He gave us many quotable lines, such as Laurence Olivier as a Nazi dentist memorably menacing Dustin Hoffman with: “Is it safe” in Marathon Man, and Jason Robards as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee demanding:
“Now hold it, hold it. We’re about to accuse Haldeman, who only happens to be the second most important man in this country, of conducting a criminal conspiracy from inside the White House. It would be nice if we were right.”
My favorite, of course, is The Princess Bride which features his most oft-quoted line, spoken by Mandy Patinkin‘s character.
“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”