Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"As You Wish," by Cary Elwes, and Our Love Affair with 'The Princess Bride'

Greetings, to all of my friends and relations out there in Internet Land!

Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite books and movies, using the opportunity afforded me by reading a book by one of the main characters discussing the filming.

My exceedingly brief review of the book 'As You Wish' ONLY is posted on Amazon; this blog post is mostly about my family's love for the source material. If you DO check out my review of Elwes' book, give me a 'helpful' link if you find that possible.

I was handed this book by my firstborn son, IMMEDIATELY before I was drafted to another reading/reviewing commitment (DRAGON!) that consumed all of my time. It required a GREAT deal of discipline to set this aside, until other work was done.

In 1988, living in a rented house with a pregnant wife and a five year old son,  dollars for entertainment were hard to come by. I don't even know if cable existed in the little country community of Coal Mountain where we lived, but if it did, we couldn't afford it. Every entertainment dollar had to be spent very wisely.

And, we discovered "Princess Bride."

We all fell in love with the movie immediately;  my son and I fell hardest. We fell SO hard that we scratched up the money to rent the VHS tape as well as rental money for a player, because we couldn't afford a VCR in those days. I really couldn't tell how many times we watched it. Eventually, we were able to afford a VCR, and when (oh, delight, happiness!) 'The Princess Bride' was broadcast on TV, we made a grainy, skipping, dragging copy (lousy color, skipped scenes) and watched that until the tape eventually died. And finally, as our family persevered, we bought our own copy, first on VHS, later on DVD, and I'm gonna guess there are all KINDS of formats such as BluRay located wherever movies are scattered in our homes.

Recently, my son rejected a movie subscription service because they didn't have the rights to 'The Princess Bride.' The fact that he owns multiple copies of the film on DVD is irrelevant. A professional service would know that only an ignorant fool would accept a service without PB; my son is not an ignorant fool, so he could obviously not accept the service in front of him.

For the past 35 years, we have been greeting each other with such phrases as "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to DIE!" Our good-byes were often 'Have fun storming the castle!" Food was compared to a MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich. And to this day, I often respond to my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, by saying 'As you wish."
As an aside: when I was courting my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, there were two movies and one one book that I told her she needed to absorb if she was to understand the values of my family, and the way I fit into it. The book was 'Starship Troopers,' and I had to read that to her, because her reading tastes were elsewhere; the movies were 'The Big Leibowski,' because I am quite a bit like the character John Goodman plays, 'Walter,' and 'The Princess Bride,' because we all tend to live in Florin, a little bit, when we aren't sailing the seas as Dread Pirate Roberts.

But, flashing back to 1988: Being the sort of person who is convinced that movies from books can NEVER be as good as the original, I IMMEDIATELY set out to the library to get a copy of the book. ALAS! All I could find was Goldman's version, NOT the original work by the immortal S. Morgenstern! I looked in the libraries of two large counties, as well as the resources of a major research university; the Morgenstern could not be found. I held off as long as I could; perhaps a year or more; then I grudgingly surrendered, and accepted the bowdlerized version that hack Goldman had put out.

And I was transported once again. This time, it wasn't only the giants, and the sword fights, the torture, and the kissing that captivated me.

Instead, I began to care deeply about the little boy Billy, who couldn't find the game on the radio, over and over again, and was thus discovered to be running a fever due to an inflamed appendix. I was entranced at the story of his teacher, who had to keep coming up with new authors for him to read as he burst from his infatuation with sports to a true love affair with books. I was on tenterhooks as he related how he put on hold a beautiful young girl who was clearly signalling her availability, while he negotiated cross-country with a wife, an agent, an operator, and an irascible book dealer to obtain a copy of the book for his 10 year old son.

I felt deep compassion for the boy, at Goldman's insistence that he MUST enjoy the book, during a homecoming meal in which he berates the boy for eating too much; and simultaneously, I felt Goldman's frustration, bordering on a feeling of betrayal, when he learns that his son has NOT been able to enjoy, or even READ the book his father had loved so much as a boy.

And I was SHOCKED, SHOCKED, when I discovered that S Morgenstern's Classic Tale was so full of boring, irrelevant details that it would NEVER be popular. I wondered at the long-delayed discovery of the wisdom of the barber, who had simply bypassed those passages, so he could make the magic appear for his son. And then, later on,  I shared with the young Goldman the feeling of liberation when he realized, for the very first time, that LIFE ISN'T FAIR!

That's all back-story which is only hinted in the movie, and it's lovely, and is a good enough reason that owning the book as well as the movie is a good investment.

I actually had to do some research on Goldman to discover that NONE of the personal stuff in the book is true. Yes, the stories about his screen-writing problems could have existed, but he was not married to the brilliant doctor, and he had no obese son. I was rather pleased at that, as I really HAD felt bad for the boy when Goldman was giving him a hard time over the amount of mashed potatoes he was putting on his plate.

Even after reading the book a few times, I never got my act together enough to send a letter to the publisher, requesting the Reunion Scene between Westley and Buttercup.  Goldman mentions it as being available upon request, and urges readers to demand it from his cheap, penny-pinching publisher. HOWEVER, when the 25th anniversary edition was published, the internet was in place, and while not able to generate the enthusiasm to find an envelope and a stamp (it's a non-trivial activity), I WAS able to write an email, asking for the Reunion Scene; and, eventually, I received a reply including the chapter "Buttercup's Baby," as well as some dithering about legal issues, Stephan King, etc.

It was interesting, but hardly compelling; and the only reason I would want any more of the story would be so I could see how it all came out happily-ever-after at the end, because being sucked into a whirlpool leaves very few good outcomes.

Elwes' book is NOT an extension of the story; it's just the behind-the-scenes of the filming. Definitely worthwhile for fans.

But for me? I'm gonna watch the movie again.

Peace be on your household.

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