Sunday, November 13, 2016


          He wrote the screenplay for the most successful Western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He wrote the screenplay for the hardest-hitting political thriller, All the President's Men. He wrote the best fantasy comedy romance, The Princess Bride. He's one of the greatest novelists ever, and probably the most sought-after screenwriter.
          When Rob Reiner wanted to direct the film version of Stephen King's Misery, he turned to William Goldman. The result was Oscar-time.
          Goldman's sheer versatility staggers the imagination. He's the Jim Thorpe of the literary world. Everything he does generates success. Whether writing novels or screenplays--comedy, fantasy, Western, thriller, or any mix of the above--William Goldman is emphatically the man.
          One of his best works, Magic, merits particular attention. He adapted his 1976 novel into the film starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margaret. It's about Corky, a small-time magician living in New York City. Timid and high-strung, Corky's bottled emotions constantly threaten to explode. Then he takes up ventriloquism, and as all true ventriloquists learn, the doors of the world open wide.
          Fats, Corky's dummy, speaks for Corky. Fats says the things that Corky can't. Rude things. Bawdy comments. Things that schmuckos need to hear. As Butch Cassidy would say, Fats has vision and the world wears bifocals.
          Strangely, right when Corky is on the verge of making it big, just when he's about to get a television pilot episode, his manager, called The Postman because he always delivers (excellently played by Burgess Meredith), informs Corky that the network wants Corky to take a standard medical exam.
          All Corky has to do is say, "As you wish," and then he can follow the money. But he's afraid of what they'll find. So he goes into hiding. Not with Butch and Sundance and the rest of the Hole in the Wall Gang, nor even with Laurence Olivier somewhere deep in Marathon Man wondering if it's safe yet. Instead he gets a cabin by a lake with Ann-Margaret. Hubba hubba, schmuckos!
          Themes of outsiders seeking success, iconoclastic romantics looking for a way out, hunted criminals on the run, all steeped in dark, ironic humor that would make Mark Twain in equal parts jealous and proud, tie Goldman's work together.
          Papillon (1973), The Stepford Wives (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Chaplin (1992), Maverick (1994), Absolute Power (1997), and Hearts in Atlantis (2001) comprise a smattering of the films he's penned.
          For fascinating viewing, check out what William Goldman has to say about his experiences in "The Writer Speaks", freely available on YouTube.

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