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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]