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William Goldman Biography

Nationality: American. Born: Chicago, Illinois, 1931; brother of the writer James Goldman. Education: Highland Park High School; Oberlin College, Ohio, 1948-52, B.A. in English 1952; Columbia University, New York, 1954-56, M.A. in English 1956. Military Service: Served in the United States Army, 1952-54: Corporal. Awards: Oscar, for screenplay, 1970, 1977.



The Temple of Gold. New York, Knopf, 1957.

Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow. New York, Doubleday, 1958.

Soldier in the Rain. New York, Atheneum, and London, Eyre andSpottiswoode, 1960.

Boys and Girls Together. New York, Atheneum, 1964; London, Joseph, 1965.

No Way To Treat a Lady (as Harry Longbaugh). New York, Fawcett, and London, Muller, 1964; as William Goldman, New York, Harcourt Brace, and London, Coronet, 1968.

The Thing of It Is…. New York, Harcourt Brace, and London, Joseph, 1967.

Father's Day. New York, Harcourt Brace, and London, Joseph, 1971.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure: The "Good Parts" Version, Abridged. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1973; London, Macmillan, 1975.

Marathon Man. New York, Delacorte Press, 1974; London, Macmillan, 1975.

Magic. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Macmillan, 1976.

Tinsel. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Macmillan, 1979.

Control. New York, Delacorte Press, and London, Hodder andStoughton, 1982.

The Color of Light. New York, Warner, and London, Granada, 1984.

The Silent Gondoliers (as S. Morgenstern). New York, Ballantine, 1984.

Heat. New York, Warner, 1985; as Edged Weapons, London, Granada, 1985.

Brothers. New York, Warner, and London, Grafton, 1986.

Uncollected Short Stories

"Something Blue," in Rogue (New York), 1958.

"Da Vinci," in New World Writing 17. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1960.

"Till the Right Girls Come Along," in Transatlantic Review 8(London), Winter 1961.

"The Ice Cream Eat," in Stories from the Transatlantic Review, edited by Joseph F. McCrindle. New York, Holt Rinehart, 1970.


Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, with James Goldman (produced New York, 1961). New York, Dramatists Play Service, 1962.

A Family Affair, with James Goldman, music by John Kander (produced New York, 1962).

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (screenplay). New York, Bantam, and London, Corgi, 1969.

The Great Waldo Pepper (screenplay). New York, Dell, 1975.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man, with Robert Collector and DanaBodner, 1992.

William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays. New York, ApplauseBooks, 1995.

William Goldman: Five Screenplays. New York, Applause, 1996.

The Ghost and the Darkness: The Book of the Film. New York, Applause, 1996.

Absolute Power: The Screenplay. New York, Applause, 1997.


Masquerade, with Michael Relph, 1964; Harare (The Moving Target), 1966; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969; The Hot Rock (How to Steal a Diamond in Four Uneasy Lessons), 1972; The Stepford Wives, 1974; The Great Waldo Pepper, 1975; All the President's Men, 1976; Marathon Man, 1976; A Bridge Too Far, 1977; Magic, 1978; The Princess Bride, 1987; Heat, 1987; Misery, 1990; The Chamber, Universal, 1997.; Absolute Power, Columbia Pictures, 1997; The General's Daughter. Paramount Pictures, 1999.

Television Films: Mr. Horn, 1979.


The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway. New York, HarcourtBrace, 1969; revised edition, New York, Limelight, 1984.

Wigger (for children). New York, Harcourt Brace, 1974.

The Story of "A Bridge Too Far." New York, Dell, 1977.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting. New York, Warner, 1983; London, Macdonald, 1984.

Wait Till Next Year: The Story of a Season When What Should've Happened Didn't and What Could've Gone Wrong Did, with Mike Lupica. New York, Bantam, 1988.

Hype and Glory. New York, Villard, and London, Macdonald, 1990.

The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? and Other Essays. NewYork, New York, Applause Books, 1999.

Which Lie Did I Tell?, or, More Adventures in the Screen Trade. NewYork, Pantheon Books, 2000.


Critical Studies:

William Goldman by Richard Andersen, Boston, Twayne, 1979.

* * *

William Goldman is a successful novelist, film scenarist, playwright, critic, and children's book author who focuses much of his attention on the illusions by which men and women live. These illusions often make existence more miserable than it need be and provide a core from which all of Goldman's protagonists seek to escape. Ironically, what they escape to is more often than not other illusions, which, because of the artificial distinctions society attaches to them, rarely satisfy their human needs.

When Raymond Trevitt's desperate attempts to protect the ideals of his childhood from adult realities in The Temple of Gold inadvertently cause the deaths of his closest friends, he leaves his home, but discovers only frustration and intolerance elsewhere. In Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow, Chad Kimberly is driven by his ambitious illusions into believing he is a new Messiah, whose schizophrenic demands frighten the novel's protagonist, Peter Bell, into a life of escapist day-dreaming. Ambition is not the only illusion that drives the characters of Boys and Girls Together to New York; most of them are escaping from the unbearable circumstances of their home lives. Nevertheless, their hopes for self-improvement are dashed by unsuccessful love affairs, domineering parents, professional failures, embarrassing social exposures, and suicide. In Soldier in the Rain, Eustis Clay and Maxwell Slaughter cannot free themselves from the military-economic complex of which they are so much a part.

The great American illusions about success are the central concerns of The Thing of It Is … and Father's Day, in which the talented, rich, but quirky Amos McCracken spends a tremendous amount of money trying to save his marriage and then his relationship with his daughter. In the end, his guilt-ridden personal failures lead him to create fantasies that enable him to fulfill the images he has of himself but that also pose a serious threat to the safety and well-being of others.

Unlike Amos McCracken or Kit Gil of No Way to Treat a Lady, Westley and Buttercup of The Princess Bride, Babe Levy of Marathon Man, and Corky Withers of Magic cannot retreat to a fabulous land to try to make themselves whole; they already live in fabulous land, where they are constantly assaulted by its empirical and psychological facts. Forced to encounter a vast confusion of fact and fiction, to deal with pain and death, and to seek power against forces that are difficult to pinpoint and consequently understand, the protagonists of these three novels must stay rooted in social systems that attempt to deny their vitality while creating illusions that life is what it should be.

Combining the everyday reality of Goldman's early novels with the fabulous reality of his later works, Tinsel tells the story of three women who desperately try to escape from the boredom of their daily lives to the fame and fortune of movie stardom, which, like all illusions, eludes them. As he did in Marathon Man and Magic, Goldman divides this into many chapters, so short and so different from any other in terms of setting and action that they flash by the reader like scenes in a movie. Because of their length, Goldman can keep simultaneously occurring stories running vividly in the reader's imagination without making any significant connections between them. When the individual stories eventually come together, Goldman continues flashing different scenes containing markedly different actions at such a pace that reading Goldman's story about the film industry becomes as close to a cinematic experience as literature can provide.

With The Color of Light Goldman returned to the themes of innocence and loss that concerned him in his early novels, only this time around he discusses them as subjects for writing. Unfortunately, this serious book, like some of his early serious novels, wasn't as well received as it should have been, and Goldman returned to the fabulist landscape of Marathon Man and Magic in Control and Heat. But he passed through fantasyland on the way just as he did in 1973 with The Princess Bride. The Silent Gondoliers tells us why the gondoliers in Venice no longer sing. Even they have lost their innocence in a world from which there is no escape.

Perhaps because of his popularity or the reputation he has established in Hollywood (many of his novels have been adapted to the screen), many critics have misunderstood or underrated Goldman's works. Perhaps these critics have been confused by Goldman's use of multiple modes—novel of manners, confessional journal, psychological novel, social satire, romantic parody, black humor novel, detective story, spy novel, radical protest novel, soap opera, absurdist novel, and more—within a wide frame of genres. Whatever the reason, Goldman is an extraordinarily talented and prolific writer whose incorporation of cinematic techniques with conventional narrative forms mark a significant contribution to the novel tradition. His success in the screen trade has perhaps influenced a move away from fiction, with a growing number of successful screenplays, along with memoirs of his work in Hollywood, to his credit.

—Richard Andersen

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