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Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting, William Goldman, Warner, 1983, ISBN 0-446-51273-7, $17.50

I had wanted to read this book for years, ever since typing innumerable papers for University of Texas Radio-Television-Film students forced to read and report on it for some beginner class. It wasn’t their reports that interested me, but the fact that this text was considered the sine qua non of the university RTF world–the text that you needed to have read, because everyone else had. Goldman’s credentials were substantial, having written some quite substantial films both in critical and box-office terms, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men. He further endeared himself to me by his wonderful book and film, The Princess Bride. But I never read this book for years because I wanted to own a hardback version of it. Browsing this past year in the stacks at the Bellevue Half-Price Books, I chanced upon just that, and finally was able to fill a decade old longing.

Adventures in the Screen Trade is somewhat dated now, even though it is only 13 years old. The movie trade is moving and shifting at an incredible pace (although not as quite as fast as the Internet), and what is golden one year, can be video-fodder the next. Goldman’s expose of the in-and-out of movie-making, from the screenwriter’s perspective, is uncomfortably close to the old adage about sausage and politics–you don’t want to see either being made. Yet, like an automobile wreck on your way home from work, you find that you just can’t help from looking. Goldman does a good job of presenting the business straight-forward, if with a tinge of understandable bias for the writer, that underlines the power of stars and the blockbuster mentality. A sequel, updating this book and adding Goldman’s extra thirteen years of experience, would be welcome, I think.

[Finished November 1996]


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