It turns out to be astonishingly difficult to do research on S. Morgenstern. Despite the fact that he has two books translated into English, and goodness knows how many in his native Florinese, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. He doesn’t have any pictures of himself under Google Image Search. He doesn’t even have an IMDb page, and one of his novels was made into one of the greatest fantasy movies of all time! Why, you might almost come to the conclusion that he’s fake!
I have cracked the code. It turns out that the reason you can’t find any information about S. Morgenstern is that he uses a pen name. Since 1956, Morgenstern has been publishing novels and screenplays in the US under the name “William Goldman.” Why, he’s even published works of memoir pretending the Goldman personality is real! The invented figure went to Oberlin and Columbia, served in the US Army as a clerk in the Pentagon, had a father who killed himself while the son was in high school. He’s so fleshed out as to have a wife and daughters and even a brother who wrote such classic plays as The Lion in Winter and screenplays such as Robin and Marian.
Morgenstern has been writing for the screen since the early ’60s. He seems to be retired now—well, he must be an extremely old man, since the fictional Goldman read The Princess Bride, or had it read to him, as a child and is now supposedly 86. But his films include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives (the original, not the remake), Misery, and of course The Princess Bride.
And All the President’s Men, which was apparently such an unpleasant experience that the Goldman character has said that he’d write all the same screenplays if he had to do it over again except All the President’s Men. Robert Redford has apparently broken secrecy to claim that Goldman did not write the screenplay, but other people willing to follow the game have researched and insisted that he did. Presumably this is both an effort to ensure that Morgenstern is not revealed and to make sure he gets the credit he deserves for creating the tightly written script—and the famous “follow the money” line, which does not appear in anything actually written by Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein.
Several times, Morgenstern adapted novels he himself had written into screenplays, including Marathon Man and Heat. I don’t know why he credited himself for writing The Princess Bride and The Silent Gondoliers, both of which I have read and indeed own. I suppose it’s to add another layer of fantasy onto the stories, by having “Goldman” discover the works and speak fondly of them. It also helps to reinforce the idea that “William Goldman” is a real person. But of course we all know that can’t be true.
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