08/12/02
William Goldman & The Princess Bride
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

The Chicago Tribune once called William Goldman "Just about the biggest, the best, the most successful writer in movies today" and though his name may not be a household word, Goldman's enormously popular screenplays include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, The Great Waldo Pepper, A Bridge Too Far, and his remarkable fractured fairy-tale, The Princess Bride.
For one who has achieved so much in a visual medium, it is interesting to note critic Botham stone's remark that "[Goldman] very rarely thinks in visual terms, preferring to work with plot and character..." This insight is valuable when one considers Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At a time when stylish westerns like The Good the Bad and the Ugly relied almost entirely on scenery and silent grimaces to tell a story, Goldman's Butch and Sundance let dialog and character development lead the way.

Sundance Kid was hailed as "... a breakthrough film, not just for Goldman, but for screenwriters in general." Stone explains, "his screenplays and books have a quality of humanity that sets them apart from formula bestsellers and... calculated 'blockbusters'." Goldman then, seems to stand in the way of the idea that light entertainment is not the place for important themes. Stone remarks that one theme that runs throughout Goldman's work is that "friendship is the only comfort in an absurd universe in which individual lives are ultimately meaningless." Here we are reminded of the friendship between Butch and Sundance, or the dependence the three heroes of the Princess Bride have for one another.

The recipient of two Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Goldman has been described as "one of only a handful of earthlings who can write screenplays and novels and excel at both." The Princess Bride is a good example-his oddly captivating novel from 1976 became his equally unique, often hilarious, film from 1987. The Princess Bride, both the book and film, are now considered classics, equally appealing in both media to adults as well as children. It is after all, inconceivable to ever forget Miracle Max and his friendly wish that the heroes "Have fun stormin' the castle."

The owner of a comfortable home in Hollywood, some fellow writers have found it odd that William Goldman leaves home every day and goes to an office to write. Goldman explains, "It is essential that I maintain a sense that what I'm doing is as important as what an insurance man or business man is doing. That's why I have an office."

And what does he do when the whistle blows and the workday is done? Goldman notes, "The sooner I'm done, the sooner I can go to the movies." Works consulted:

"Goldman, William W." Something About the Author, Volume 106. P. 148.

Goldman, William. Adventures in the Screen Trade, Warner Books, 1983.

Copyright 2002, Kevin Shortsleeve

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Monday, 28-Oct-2002 21:04:10 EST


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