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Farewell to a class act

Today the Rust salutes the life and career of William Goldman, the highly-decorated movie scriptwriter, who has died at the age of eight-seven.

See here for a link to a short appreciation piece by Andrew Pulver that appears today upon the website of  – THE GUARDIAN

My purpose today is neither to list all his credits nor offer my own assessment of where he stands in the pantheon of Hollywood greats, but simply to record that some thirty-odd years ago, when teetering upon the edge of pursuing some sort of career in the ‘writing’ business myself, I purchased and then read with both delight and enthusiasm Goldman’s excellent 1983 tome Adventures In The Screen Trade which purported to lift the lid on the inside world of movie script-writing as it then really was.

To be honest I do not know whether every word of it was true and backed by factual evidence – or whether instead it was a deliberately-exaggerated parody primarily designed to entertain and make money. Whichever of those it was, to this reader it came across as a convincing and fascinating ‘window’ upon the intricacies of a infinitely complex industry that I was obsessed with and, upon reaching the last page, felt I understood far better than previously.

Arguably, that’s high praise indeed – and in this case well-deserved.

Goldman’s prose was easy, straightforward and dripping with sharp insight and humour.

I should imagine that, if they were anywhere in the same ballpark as me,  most of his readers would have felt that the author was writing a personal essay to each of them – I know I did.

One Goldman theme that struck home to me – to the point that in those days I used to quote it to anyone who who listen – was his summing up of the testy subject of the weird and inexplicably-random, close but also extreme, relationship gap between success and failure not just in screenwriting but in every aspect of succesful film-making.

He wrote that, in all honesty, looking back over his career (and probably also that of every other scriptwriter who ever lived) – if every script of his that was eventually accepted and made into a movie had instead been rejected – and every script he’d ever written that had been rejected had instead been accepted reached the screen – he was convinced that he’d have pretty much ended up where he had done anyway.

It drove home to me with bells on that in Hollywood – and maybe in all walks of life – luck almost always plays a major part in the background to every hugely-successful personal story.

And, of course – and here’s the rub – that also great ideas can ‘bomb’ completely … yet rubbish ones conquer the world.







About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts