William Goldman, 1931-2018

November 16, 2018 | Book Buzz

Comments (0)

And that's when she put her book down. And looked at me. And said it: "Life isn't fair, Bill. we tell our children that it is, but it's a terrible thing to do. It's not only a lie, it's a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it's never going to be.”
William Goldman - The Princess Bride

William Goldman, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and memoirist was born on August 12, 1931 in Highland Park, Illinois. His father Maurice was a successful businessman until his alcoholism derailed his career. He committed suicide when William was in high school. Goldman attended Oberlin College and planned for a career as a writer but told The Guardian that he "had shown no signs of talent as a young man." In fact, he received the lowest grade in his creative writing class and could not get any of his stories published in the school's literary magazine despite being the fiction editor of the publication.

He began working on his first novel, The Temple of Gold (reference only), as soon as he finished graduate school at Columbia University. It was published in 1957 and was quickly followed by two other novels.

His fourth novel No Way to Treat a Lady (reference only) caught the attention of actor Cliff Robertson who hired Goldman to write the screenplay for his next movie, Charley, adapted from the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Although Goldman was fired "probably because it was a terrible screenplay"; he had more success with his next attempt, an adaptation of a Ross Macdonald novel filmed as Harper.

He wrote the screenplays for over 20 films and acted as a consultant or script doctor for numerous others. He received two Academy Awards --Best Original Screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Best Adapted Screenplay for All the President's Men. Goldman later said that his one career regret was the latter film where he clashed with producer/star Robert Redford. 

In 1973, Goldman wrote a fantasy/romance novel called The Princess Bride. Presented as an abridged version of an older work by S. Morgenstern but it is in fact entirely a creation of Goldman's based on stories he told his young daughters. In 1987, it was made into a beloved film. Goldman described the popularity of his work saying "I've gotten more responses on The Princess Bride than on everything else I've done put together—all kinds of strange outpouring letters. Something in The Princess Bride affects people."

 William Goldman died on November 16, 2018 from colon cancer and pneumonia. He was 87.

Find additional works by William Goldman in the library catalogue.

Photo credit: Peters, Hans / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons