William Goldman, 1931–2018
The screenwriter who had all the best lines
Born in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Ill., Goldman became infatuated with show business, watching “countless films at the venerable Alcyon Theater,” said The New York Times. He received the worst grade in his creative writing class at Oberlin College and failed to get a story published in the school’s literary magazine despite being fiction editor. After getting a master’s degree in English from Columbia University, Goldman feared that “I would end up my life as a copywriter in an ad agency in Chicago,” so he wrote his first novel, The Temple of Gold, in 10 days and got it published in 1957. He wrote his scripts with similar speed.
His hits included 1975’s The Stepford Wives, 1977’s A Bridge Too Far, and 1990’s Misery. He earned another Oscar for 1976’s All the President’s Men, based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s account of breaking the Watergate scandal. The much-quoted advice from Deep Throat, their prized government source, “Follow the money,” was never part of the true story, said The Washington Post—it was Goldman’s invention. He was fondest of The Princess Bride—his novel, published in 1973, and the movie he wrote, released 14 years later with Rob Reiner directing. It brought more unforgettable catchphrases: “As you wish,” “Inconceivable!” Goldman’s 1983 memoir spurred “legions of would-be writers” to attempt a screenplay, said The Guardian, despite his impassioned discouragement. “If you only write screenplays,” said the avowed novelist, “it is ultimately denigrating to the soul. You may get lucky and get rich, but you sure won’t get happy.” ■