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Josh Reviews William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade

March 27th, 2019
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I thoroughly enjoyed William Goldman’s 1982 memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade (click here for my review), and so as soon as I’d finished it I dove into Mr. Goldman’s 2000 follow-up: Which Lie Did I Tell?  More Adventures in the Screen Trade.

This sequel is every bit as entertaining and insightful as the first book!

As with the first book, Which Lie Did I Tell? is half a recounting of Mr. Goldman’s work as a screenwriter on a variety of film projects (some successful, some not) and half a how-to instructional manual for writing screenplays.  Both aspects of the book are fascinating, and Mr. Goldman has merged these two very different goals incredibly smoothly.

His writing is phenomenal.  The book reads as though Mr. Goldman were right there next to you, telling tales of his many years navigating the perilous waters of Hollywoodland.  There’s a casual naturalism to the prose that is compelling and that sucked me right in.  Even more importantly: throughout, Mr. Goldman is hilarious.  This book is so funny.  Mr. Goldman’s writing is frank and honest — which is why it’s so funny… and also why it’s occasionally heartbreaking!  There’s ugliness in the movie-business, and some of Mr. Goldman’s descriptions of the egos and political maneuvering behind the scenes of making movies is painful.  I was impressed throughout by what feels like a pull-no-punches approach by Mr. Goldman to show us the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The first section of the book is probably my favorite part, as Mr. Goldman tells us the stories of his work as a screenwriter in the eighties and nineties (picking up where Adventures in the Screen Trade left off).  In these chapters, we read about Mr. Goldman’s experiences involved with Memoirs of an Invisible Man, The Princess Bride, Misery, Maverick, and more.  I found these chapters to be endlessly fascinating, as we follow the behind-the-scenes stories of the making of those movies, and get Mr. Goldman’s perspectives on what worked and what didn’t, where those projects went right and where they went wrong.  As someone who loves movies in a serious way, I found this peek behind the curtain to be incredibly compelling and endlessly interesting.

In the second section of the book, Mr. Goldman presents a series of scenes from screenplays by other writers; scenes that Mr. Goldman loved and admired.  We read the full scene as it was written in the film’s screenplay, and then Mr. Goldman digs in with an analysis.  The scenes presented are from There’s Something About Mary, When Harry Met Sally, North by Northwest, The Seventh Seal, Chinatown, Fargo, and finally, Mr. Goldman’s own Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[continued]

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William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade!

December 3rd, 2018
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I was saddened by the recent passing of William Goldman.  Mr. Goldman was a talented author of many famous and great (many are one or the other, and many are both) novels and screenplays, including The Princess Bride (the novel and the screenplay), Marathon Man (the novel and the screenplay), the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, and so many more.

For a few years I’ve had sitting on the “to-read” pile on my bookshelf Mr. Goldman’s two memoirs/how-to books: 1982’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and 2000’s Which Lie Did I Tell?  More Adventures in the Screen Trade.  My Goldman’s passing kicked me in the tuchas to finally read them.

I just finished Adventures in the Screen Trade, and let me tell you: it is magnificent!  This is a must-read for anyone interested in behind-the-scenes stories of how movies get made, as well as the art of writing.

The book is a combination of two very different goals: spinning yarns about Mr. Goldman’s many wild experiences in Hollywood and providing instruction on how to write.  (Mr. Goldman’s focus is on how to write screenplays, but many of his points are applicable to writing of any kind.)  Both aspects of these books are wonderful and ridiculously enjoyable.

The book is divided into four sections.  The first section is a somewhat randomly-ordered description of many of the different types of players in Hollywood (directors, producers, studios, stars, agents, etc.), as well as Mr. Goldman’s ruminations on other aspects of the biz (meetings, etc.)   One might think that this would be of zero interest to someone not interested in pursuing a movie career — but one would be wrong!  Within the first thirty pages I was hooked.

Mr. Goldman’s writing style is conversational and fall-on-the-floor hilarious.  This is not a dry tome — the book truly feels like Mr. Goldman is right there chatting with you, with his chair back and his feet up, telling funny and horrifying stories of all the crazy Hollywood bullshit he’s experienced over the years.  And boy oh boy does he have some wild stories to tell.

The second section serves as something of a memoir of Mr. Goldman’s years as a screenwriter, including his experiences on All The President’s Men, Marathon Man, The Right Stuff, The Stepford Wives, and several other films that I hadn’t ever seen.  This section of the book is FASCINATING.  I think it’s my favorite part of the book (though it’s all good)!  Mr. Goldman is brutally honest, describing his experiences on movies that came out great (All The President’s Men) and those that, well, didn’t (The Stepford Wives).  This part of the … [continued]