Or for gay readers, it might be the moment that a book turns sour when the author makes his prejudices known. He's not particularly fond of womenhe has little to say of noted theatrical females except that a few of them "really need to lose some weight." He loathes intellectuals, and goes out of his way to present some pretentious twaddle that he passes off as dialogue from a lauded play with snob appeal, invites his readers to sneer at it, and then reveals that he wrote it himselfas if to prove that any ol' regular Joe could be a playwright. In a chapter ostensibly about the classic play, Loot, he notes in the space of a single sentence that Loot opened on Broadway and that it was authored by Joe Orton, then proceeds to write a couple of dozen unrelated pages about corruption in the box office in which Loot is never again mentioned. Perhaps at the time of the book's publication it might've been argued that Goldman was fairly progressive in his stance. He does, after all, refer to gays as a "persecuted minority group." But then he'll turn around and administer a backhanded rebuke, like making the grandiloquent generalization, "If homosexuals have an enemy, it is age." No, Mr. Goldman.
This is probably the best book on the machinations behind the scenes on Broadway ever written. A wonderful book for those who love the theater, whether as participants or audience.
Goldman's account of the 1967-68 Broadway season is thorough, opinionated, often hilarious, and brutally honest.
One might think that this has a limited shelf-life and a limited appeal, yet it speaks to larger issues that define the late-1960's cultural moment and have ramifications to today. For example, Neil Simon's transformation from joke-man to sensitive dramatic playwright (in the 1980's) and (in his final point in the book) that for Broadway to remain viable it must "fracture its audience," the shows must stop trying to appeal to everyone and be willing to target narrower audience demographics. And in his very specific account of, say, the closing night of Judy Garland's Palace Theatre concerts, or his description of an altercation in the lobby of an off-Broadway theatre, or his conversation with Tennessee Williams before the premiere of his latest play, I got the general, big-picture, overall view of the period before gay rights and when "a woman's place is in the home" was regarded as fact. In one of the more jaw-dropping-in-its-cluelessness passages, Goldman wonders why African-Americans (he uses the word Negro) don't see Broadway theatre, and then almost immediately notes that there were only two black actors in straight plays that season... I'm not excusing the racial and sexual politics in the text, but I am fascinated by, and grateful for, the detailed specific insight into this moment of theatre history and American culture at large.
This is a long (400 pages plus) set of essays about the 1967-68 Broadway season, covering everything from miscast actors to television critics to wonderful shows (that go nowhere) to the economics of New York theatre (complete with a market research study Goldman commissioned). The chapters on theatre economics (including ticket scalping, advance sales, and the crooked nature of producers) get a bit dry, but still show a passion for a better product. A definite read if you're a theatre fan.
There is much that is good and much that is interesting in The Season, but way too much of the book is about things William Goldman hated. Each chapter discusses one aspect of the Broadway theater and its influence on that season's plays.
William Goldman had published five novels and had three plays produced on Broadway before he began to write screenplays.