Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

by William Goldman


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No one knows the writer's Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood's inner sanctums...on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and other films...into the plush offices of Hollywood producers...into the working lives of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman, and Hoffman...and into his own professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays. You get a firsthand look at why and how films get made and what elements make a good screenplay. Says columnist Liz Smith, "You'll be fascinated.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446391177
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/28/1989
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 114,049
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

August 12, 1931

Place of Birth:

Chicago, Illinois


B.A., Oberlin College, 1952; M.A., Columbia University, 1956

Read an Excerpt

Author's Note

This book was begun at the greatest time of panic and despair in modern Hollywood history—late January of '82. Future film scholars may well term it "the Heaven's Gate era." And certainly that movie received more media coverage than any other contemporary disaster.But only a few enlightened bookkeepers will know for sure if it lost more than, say, Raise the Titanic! or Honky Tonk Freeway.

During the holiday season of '81-'82, sixteen films were released by the major studios. Of those, only one—On Golden Pond—was a runaway success. And ten of the sixteen each lost more than ten million dollars. One major studio executive told me recently, "Of course the failures are upsetting. But there have always been failures. What's got us so immobilized now is that whatever it is that we're making, we're missing the audience by a wider margin than ever before. We don't know what they want. All we do know is that they don't want what we're giving them."

Perhaps the key word above is immobilized. By the end of February, only ten films will have begun production. At the same time a year ago, twenty-five had started shooting.

Again, this is the worst period within memory. By the time this book sees print, it may well be the best period within memory. The point being this: Movies are a gold-rush business.

Anyone interested in what follows had best commit that fact to memory....

What follows, generically speaking, is a book about Hollywood. It may not come as a total shock to you if I say this is not the first attempt to mine that subject.

All I can provide that is different is my point of attack: I have been, for close to twenty years now, a screenwriter. I have seen a lot, learned more than a little—most of it, alas, too late.

In terms of authority, screenwriters rank somewhere between the man who guards the studio gate and the man who runs the studio (this week). And there is a whole world to which we are not privy. And I thought it may be helpful to know at least something about just what is taking place Out There. With that in mind, I've interviewed a number of people who work the other side of the street: studio executives, producers, directors, and stars. By the time we're done, it's my hope that you'll understand a good deal more about why you see what you see on the screen.

Because of my Hollywood work, I have seen films on three continents and in at least twice that many foreign countries.

But for me, still, always, it is the Alcyon....

Certainly not a great movie theatre. Probably not even a very good one. But the Alcyon stands alone in memory because it stood alone on Central, even then an aging monopoly; if you wanted to go to the movies in Highland Park, Illinois, in the 1930's, it was the Alcyon—or it was no movie at all.

And the thought of no movie at all was just too painful.

Even when I was six and seven and eight, I was hooked. I suppose I still am, but the stuff I see today often vanishes, while the Alcyon remains.

Captain January. 1936. Shirley Temple. I was five and she was eight. My first time sitting there in the dark, I remember her curls so plainly. And could her dimples have been as large as they seemed? If the answer is no, don't tell me.

Tarzan Finds a Son. Late thirties and memorable because I went to see it twice on consecutive matinees. I don't think I liked it as much as I wanted to escape some visiting relatives, but the fact remains: I was the first kid on the block who had ever done such a lunatic thing. In this Star Wars era, nothing unusual. But the news swept the Elm Place Grammar School playground during Monday recess. "Twice? How could you do it twice when you knew who won?" I didn't have an answer. And I didn't like Tarzan Finds a Son as much the second time.

But I sure did like sitting there.

Not true of Invitation to Happiness, my first evening flick. I was eight and already a sports fan and, during an earlier matinee preview, Invitation to Happiness flashed on—

—a prizefight movie.

Fifteen or twenty seconds of solid slam-bang action were shown. I had to see it. It was only playing for two nights in the middle of the week and I understood the importance of school the next day. But I knew I had to go. Problem: I couldn't go alone. I launched a campaign of such ferocity that my parents gave in. Grudgingly, we trooped off to Invitation to Happiness—

—and it wasn't a prizefight movie, it was a kissing movie.

All they did was kiss, the hero and the lady. Those precious fifteen seconds of slam-bang action were there, all right, but that was the sum total of prizefighting. I never dreamed a preview would snooker you that way.

The kisses went on and on. I began to groan. Then I started counting. Eleven kisses. Now a quick buss on the nose, but that counted. Twelve. On and on they went, and by now I was counting out loud.

There were twenty-three kisses in Invitation to Happiness and I hated every one.

But I didn't hate the movies. Not then, not now. Too many memories involved. Movies help mark out our lives. Do you remember who you were when you first saw Citizen Kane? I do. Or Casablanca or Singin' in the Rain? If you give it a moment's thought, I'll bet you can come up with an answer.

I've been a fan for forty-six of my fifty-one years. Before I ever dreamed of entering the business, movies were an essential part of my life.

And whatever theatre I walk into today, part of me, a large part of me, is still going to the Alcyon....

© 1983 by William Goldman "

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Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
hazelk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I bought this book second-hand this year. It was me (? I) that was at fault with this book not the author. I hadn't realised it was written twenty-six years ago and also that I'm not an aspiring screen-writer so not looking for tips. If I'm honest I was probably wanting a little more insider gossip. Tut, tut.
krypto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've noticed that screenwriter William Goldman almost always gets a mention in the tv guide when one of his films is shown. I suspect most reviewers have an interest in screenwriting and cinema, and have therefore read this behind-the-scenes look at the workings of Hollywood. If they're anything like me, they came away enlightened, entertained and slightly shocked. He wrote 'Butch Cassidy', 'The Princess Bride' and 'All the Presidents' Men', and has the gravitas and connections that you don't doubt for a minute he's telling the truth as he explains the political chicanery that that surrounds directors, stars, agents and producers. There's a fondness beneath it all, however, and you get the impression that he firmly believes it's all worth it in the end, that film is so wonderful a thing. There's a good amount of writing advice, too. Along with its sequel 'Which lie did I tell?', it's a revealing glimpse of a world most of us will (thankfully) never have to navigate.
whiteberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING!" - It's a lot more profound than it looks at first. Which you find out when you actually start to work in the entertainment industry.
jdiament on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book, especially if you are interested in a career in the film industry, and most especially if that career is in screenwriting. Goldman offers numerous anecdotes from his career in film as well as the insight he has gleaned from it. His writing is simple but oftentimes wise.
Cauterize on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Always heard how this was "the book" to read about screenwriting and the hollywood insider machinations of getting a movie made. Goldman lets loose with anecdotes and gossip secrets and provides funny and indepth analysis of what he thinks makes a good or bad screenplay. Also, describes the real jobs of the director, editor, producer, etc. However, this book is pretty dated now (it was published in 1989) and it makes awkward reading at times. It was pretty weird how he thinks Burt Reynolds is such a big star in the calibre (and supposed longevity!) as Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Paul Newman - but I guess at that time he was? I guess I am too young (27) as I don't remember a time where Burt Reynolds wasn't a joke.
slealos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade is the book that made me decide I wanted to be a screenwriter. He talks matter-of-factly about the ups and downs of being a screenwriter and, despite the various horror stories, made me want to do this job above all else. I credit Goldman with my career choice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goldclan hunting grounds.