William Goldman (YGtCTO #96)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Written by William Goldman
Directed by George Roy Hill

I grew up in a household where westerns always held sway. I have entertained the thought that TCM and AMC were created especially for my father. Later in his life, I would get him on the phone and realize that attempting conversation was pointless. You could hear Audie Murphy or John Wayne in the background and you might as well call back later.

The thing about all those old westerns was that they were in black and white. I was a lot too young and a little too dim to catch many of the subtleties in all those John Ford classics (or even High Noon). I loved them because they were entertaining as all get out though.

William Goldman

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came along as something different, which is a strange statement nowadays. So much of it has become iconic that even the ending won’t ruffle anyone’s feathers anymore. Do we even notice that these were the bad guys anymore? I’m not sure that I even feel comfortable calling them anti-heroes. Bruce Dern in Posse was an anti-hero. Paul Newman and Robert Redford? Can they be anything but heroes?

Something about the movie always stayed in the back of mind, niggling away. Sure, you know it’s good, but have you ever noticed just how smooth it flows? Even the first time watch it, the whole thing feels pre-ordained, which demonstrates some pretty miraculous storytelling. Of course, William Goldman is the genius that ties Butch & Sundance to The Princess Bride.

The two films are a clinic
in how to create character from story and how to drive the narrative forward. Imagine my joy at discovering that Goldman had written about his experiences in Hollywood: Adventures in the Screen Trade. I read it and its sequel and probably learned more about plot and the writing life than from anyone this side of Harlan Ellison.

Adventures in the Screen Trade

That’s the important bit, right there- finding someone that will talk about life doing whatever it is that you want to do. I’ve written about creating art plenty, but envisioning yourself as an artist is a lot to ask of anyone. Like doctors and lawyers who learn their profession, but graduate without the faintest idea how to run an office, artists generally find themselves dropped into the morass of popular media with little explanation about how to make a living.

Plenty of people will sell you a book about how to drive traffic to your website or get another ten thousand views of your video, but most of their advice feels a lot like what people tell you after a bad break up: sincerely meant, but devoid of useful content. Memoirs of artists that you respect- digging into the nitty gritty- that’s pure gold.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 204 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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