Bo Goldman
Goldman in 1975
Robert Spencer Goldman

(1932-09-10)September 10, 1932
New York City, U.S.
DiedJuly 25, 2023(2023-07-25) (aged 90)
EducationPrinceton University
  • Screenwriter
  • playwright
Years active1958–2016
Mab Ashforth
(m. 1954; died 2017)

Bo Goldman (born Robert Spencer Goldman; September 10, 1932 – July 25, 2023) was an American screenwriter and playwright. He received numerous accolades including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Writers Guild of America Awards as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. He also received two BAFTA Award nominations.

Goldman received two Academy Awards for his screenplays of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Melvin and Howard (1980). He also wrote The Rose (1979), Shoot the Moon (1982), Scent of a Woman (1992), and Meet Joe Black (1998).

Early life and education

Robert Spencer Goldman was born in 1932 to a Jewish family in New York City.[1][2] He was the son of Lillian (Levy), a hat model, and Julian Goldman.[2] Goldman's father was a Broadway producer, and owned a chain of well known eastern department stores called The Goldman Stores, and as an early pioneer of "time payments", his business thrived, though the family would struggle amid the Great Depression.[2] The New York Times wrote that Goldman's upbringing was "strangely hand to mouth in a 12-room apartment on Park Avenue".[1]

Eleanor Roosevelt admired the work of Helen Parkhurst and was in the midst of expanding the population and resources of the Dalton School by promoting a merger between the Todhunter School for girls (founded by Winifred Todhunter). Julian Goldman became an early backer, and it was this school where Bo would begin his education. He followed this by skipping his last year at Dalton in favor of fast tracking through Phillips Exeter Academy, an experience that informed a script he would write years later, Scent of a Woman.[3]

Goldman attended Princeton University where he wrote, produced, composed lyrics, and was president of the famed Princeton Triangle Club, a proving ground for F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Stewart, and director Joshua Logan.[2] His 1953 production, Ham 'n Legs, was presented on The Ed Sullivan Show – the first Triangle production ever to appear on National Television. In his early years, he went by the nickname Bob; however, when writing for The Daily Princetonian, his first name was misprinted in one article as "Bo". He adopted it as his pen name and later legally changed his name.[2]

Military service

Upon graduation from Princeton, Goldman had a three-year stint in the U.S. Army stationed on Enewetak as personnel sergeant,[4] an atoll in the Marshall Islands of the central Pacific Ocean used for nuclear bomb testing.[2]


1959–1974: Broadway and television work

After leaving the service, Goldman found work on Broadway as the lyricist for First Impressions (1959), a musical based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.[2] Produced by composer Jule Styne, directed by Abe Burrows, and starring Hermione Gingold, Polly Bergen, and Farley Granger, the play received decent reviews but closed after a brief, 92-show run.[2] He would spend the next few years unsuccessfully trying to get his second show, Hurrah Boys Hurrah, produced.

Now married, and with four small children at home, he soon found a steady income working in the new world of live television at CBS.[5] Goldman was mentored by Fred Coe (the "D.W. Griffith of dramatic television") and became part of the twilight of The Golden Age, associate producing and script editing Coe's prestigious Playhouse 90's, Days of Wine and Roses directed by a young John Frankenheimer, The Plot To Kill Stalin starring Eli Wallach, and Horton Foote's Old Man. Goldman went on to himself produce and write for public television on the award-winning NET Playhouse. After working together at NET Burt Lancaster encouraged Goldman to try his hand at screenwriting, which resulted in an early version of Shoot the Moon. The script became Goldman's calling card, and he would soon be "known for some of the best screenplays of the 1970s and 80s".[6]

1975–1990: Prominence and acclaim

After reading Shoot the Moon, Miloš Forman asked Goldman to write the screenplay for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[2] The film won all five top Academy Awards including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Goldman. This was the first film to win the top five awards since Frank Capra's It Happened One Night in 1934.[7] For his work on the film Goldman also received the Writers Guild Award and the Golden Globe Award.[8][9]

Goldman next wrote The Rose (1979), which was nominated for four Academy Awards. This was followed by his original screenplay Melvin and Howard (1980) which garnered Goldman his second Oscar, second Writers Guild Award, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Screenplay of the Year.[2] Goldman's calling card, Shoot the Moon, was then filmed by Alan Parker and starred Diane Keaton and Albert Finney. The film received international acclaim and was embraced by some of America's most respected film critics: However, due to a previous agreement Warren Beatty had negotiated with MGM the studio was bound that no film could be released with Diane Keaton in the same year as Beatty's Reds.[10] Consequently, Shoot the Moon released with little or no fanfare the following February – long after the fourth quarter "awards season."[11] Nonetheless, Goldman's peers remembered and the following year he earned his third Writers Guild Award nomination.[9]

Shoot the Moon received international acclaim and was embraced by America's most respected film critics with Pauline Kael – The New Yorker writing "Shoot the Moon is perhaps the most revealing American movie of the era."[12] David Denby – New York Magazine added "The picture seems like a miracle. A beautiful achievement."[13] David Edelstein – The New York Post wrote "One of the best films of the decade."[14]

"The great Bo Goldman. He's the pre-eminent screenwriter – in my mind as good as it gets."[15]

Eric Roth, The New York Times, 1998.

Los Angeles – The Screen Writers Guild strike brings motion picture and television production very nearly to a halt. Several famous writers are shown here picketing at the 20th Century-Fox Studios; including Richard Brooks, Bo Goldman, Gore Vidal and Billy Wilder (1981)

For the next few years, Goldman contributed uncredited work to many scripts including Miloš Forman's Ragtime (1981) starring James Cagney and Donald O'Connor, The Flamingo Kid (1984) starring Matt Dillon, and Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990).[8]

1992–2016: Later work

Goldman followed this with Scent of a Woman (1992) receiving his second Golden Globe Award and third Academy Award nomination.[2] In the film Al Pacino plays Frank Slade, a blind, retired army colonel—a character Goldman said he based on someone he "knew from his days in the army."[5] After being nominated seven times for roles as varied as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and Frank Serpico in Sidney Lumet's Serpico, his portrayal of Frank Slade finally earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film was beloved by critics who along with Pacino's performance singled out Goldman's screenplay:

Janet Maslin – The New York Times wrote "Mr. Pacino roars through this story with show-stopping intensity. Bo Goldman's screenplay provides him with a string of indelible wisecracks. Mr. Pacino's contribution, in the sort of role for which Oscar nominations were made, is to remind viewers that a great American actor is too seldom on the screen."[16] Roger Ebert – Chicago Sun-Times declared, "The screenplay is by Bo Goldman (Melvin and Howard), who is more interested in the people than the plot. By the end of "Scent of a Woman," we have arrived at the usual conclusion of the coming-of-age movie, and the usual conclusion of the prep school movie. But rarely have we been taken there with so much intelligence and skill."[17] The film has an 88% score on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes. Next up was Harold Becker's City Hall (1996) again starring Al Pacino and also John Cusack. Pacino played the corrupt Mayor of New York City. The film is peppered with musical theatre references, an homage to Goldman's father and his own Broadway days.[2]

After this was Meet Joe Black (1998) starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.[2] Critics gave the film mixed reviews. Pitt and the director, Martin Brest, took the biggest thumping. The main complaint centered not on content, but pace. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Where Meet Joe Black runs into most of its trouble is that everything happens so terribly slowly. Martin Brest has felt the need to inflate the tale until it floats around like one of those ungainly balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Not helping the time go faster is the way star Brad Pitt has ended up playing Death. Ordinarily the most charismatic of actors, with an eye-candy smile and a winning ease, Pitt approaches this role largely on a leash, hanging around more like the protagonist of I Walked With a Zombie than a flesh-and-blood leading man."[18]

Goldman did a rewrite of The Perfect Storm in 2000. The film went on to earn $329,000,000.[19]


In a 1998 interview with The New York Times screenwriter Eric Roth said, "The great Bo Goldman. He's the pre-eminent screenwriter – in my mind as good as it gets. He has the most varied and intelligent credits, from Cuckoo's Nest to Shoot the Moon, the best divorce movie ever made, to Scent of a Woman, to the great satire Melvin and Howard. He rarely makes mistakes, and he manages to maintain a distinctive American voice. And he manages to stay timely."[15]

Roth once again expressed his admiration for Goldman in an October 2017 New York Magazine article titled "The 100 Best Screenwriters of All Time." Here Roth writes, "The man whose work made the biggest impression on me, because of his audacious originality, his understanding of social mores, his ironic sense of humor, and his outright anger at being human, and all with his soft spoken grace and eloquent simplicity is Bo Goldman. This degenerate horse player of a man lived his life like he lived his politics, never shying from a fight. His words were silk, never wasted or misplaced, and he would throw away what others would consider glorious and did it all without a moment’s fanfare.”[20]

Personal life and death

Goldman married Mabel "Mab" Ashforth in 1954 and they remained married until her death in 2017.[2] They spent their later years in Rockport, Maine, with their daughter, Serena, and son-in-law, filmmaker Todd Field.[2][21] In April 2023, Goldman moved to Helendale, California, to live with his son Justin, until his death three months later on July 25, 2023, at the age of 90.[2][22]



Year Film Credit Notes Ref
1962 The Paradine Case Screenplay by [23]
1972 When the Legends Die Soundtrack Wrote lyrics to "When You Speak to the Kids", "The Riderless
Wagon", and "Summer Storm"
1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Screenplay by Co-written with Lawrence Hauben [25]
1979 The Rose Screenplay by Originally written as Pearl in 1974
Co-written with Michael Cimino
1980 Melvin and Howard Written by [8]
1981 Ragtime Uncredited script revision [8]
1982 Shoot the Moon Written by [8]
1984 Swing Shift Uncredited script revision [8]
The Flamingo Kid [8]
1988 Little Nikita Screenplay by Co-written with John Hill [8]
1990 Dick Tracy Uncredited script revision [8]
1992 Scent of a Woman Screenplay by [25]
1996 City Hall Screenplay by Co-written with Ken Lipper, Paul Schrader, and Nicholas Pileggi [25]
1998 Meet Joe Black Screenplay by Co-written with Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, and Kevin Wade [25]
2000 The Perfect Storm Uncredited script revision [8]
2006 Goya's Ghosts [8]
2016 Rules Don't Apply Story by Story co-written with Warren Beatty [8]


Year TV Series Credit Notes Ref
1948 The Philco Television Playhouse Associate Producer [19]
1956–1959 Playhouse 90 Writer, Associate Producer [8]
1957 The Seven Lively Arts Producer [19]
1961 ABC Close-Up! Producer 1 Episode [citation needed]
1961–1962 Theatre '62 Writer 2 Episodes [8]
1963 NBC Children's Theatre Writer 1 Episode [citation needed]
1964 The Defenders Writer 1 Episode [19]
1974 Great Performances Producer 2 Episodes [19]

Unmade scripts

Year Project Description Ref
1975 The Legend of King Kong Unused King Kong remake script for Universal Pictures [8][26]
1978 A Chorus Line An adaptation of the musical to have been directed by Mike Nichols [27]
1979 Starting Over Unused early draft [8]
1980 Black Sands An original screenplay to have been directed by Bruno Barreto [28]
1982 Final Payments An adaptation of the novel to have starred Diane Keaton [29]
The Old Neighborhood An adaptation of the novel
Wrote with the intention of directing
1989 Monkeys An adaptation of the novel to have starred Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton
Wrote with the intention of directing
Time Steps Script for Penny Marshall, based on her mother [31][32]
1992 First Knight Script for the Zucker Brothers about the legend of King Arthur, Lancelot and Camelot [33]
1993 Untitled psychological thriller Described by Goldman as a "contemporary Third Man" about a CIA agent
Wrote with the intention of directing
1995 Wild Strawberries A remake of the 1957 film to have starred Gregory Peck
Wrote with the intention of directing
2003 The Colonel and Me Script for Barry Levinson about a young Jerry Weintraub's relationship with Col. Tom Parker [37]
2006 Rififi Script for a remake of the 1955 French film to have starred Al Pacino [38]
Sonny Script about the younger life of Howard Hughes [19]
Sons and Fathers Wrote with the intention of directing [citation needed]
Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye [citation needed]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominated work Result Ref
1975 Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Won [9]
1977 BAFTA Award Best Screenplay Nominated [9]
1975 Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay Won [9]
1976 Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay Won [9]
1980 Academy Award Best Original Screenplay Melvin and Howard Won [9]
1980 Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Won [9]
1980 Boston Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Won [39]
1980 National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Won [40]
1980 New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Won [9]
1983 Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Shoot the Moon Nominated [9]
1992 Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay Scent of a Woman Nominated [9]
1994 BAFTA Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated [9]
1993 Golden Globe Award Best Screenplay Won [9]
1993 Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated [9]
1998 Writers Guild of America Award Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement Received [9]


  1. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (February 25, 1993). "A Screenwriter Profits From His Years of Pain". The New York Times. p. C15. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Genzlinger, Neil (July 27, 2023). "Bo Goldman, 90, Who Adapted 'Cuckoo's Nest' for Film, Is Dead". The New York Times. p. A21. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  3. ^ Calder, Lendol (February 22, 1999). Financing the American Dream. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691058276.
  4. ^ Harris, Michael. The Atomic Times: My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground.
  5. ^ a b "Legendary Screenwriter Bo Goldman discusses his craft". Archived from the original on April 24, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (February 25, 1993). "A Screenwriter Profits From His Years of Pain". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Jessica, Nobleza (February 1, 2023). "10 Movies that Almost Won the "Big Five" at the Oscars". Collider. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Barnes, Mike (July 26, 2023). "Bo Goldman, Oscar-Winning Screenwriter on 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Melvin and Howard,' Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Bo Goldman | Movie and Film Awards". AllMovie. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  10. ^ Biskind, Peter (2010). Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743246583.
  11. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Kael, Pauline (January 18, 1982). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker.
  13. ^ Denby, David (January 1982). "Cinema Reviews". New York Magazine.
  14. ^ Edelstein, David (January 1982). "Shoot the Moon". New York Post.
  15. ^ a b Willens, Michele (September 13, 1998). "The New Season/Film: Looking Ahead; Awaiting Kubrick, Malick, 'Mail'". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 23, 1992). "A Lust For Life". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 23, 1992). "Scent of a Woman". Chicago Sun-Times.
  18. ^ Turan, Kenneth (November 13, 1998). "Dead Man Goes a-Courtin = Los Angeles Times".
  19. ^ a b c d e f Dagan, Carmel (July 26, 2023). "Bo Goldman, Oscar-Winning Writer of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' Script, Dies at 90". Variety. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  20. ^ "The 100 Best Screenwriters of All Time". New York Magazine. October 2, 2017. Archived from the original on January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  21. ^ Marc Maron (January 16, 2023). "Episode 1401 – Todd Field". (Podcast). Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  22. ^ Smith, Harrison. "Bo Goldman, screenwriter with a humanistic touch, dies at 90". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  23. ^ "The Paradine Case (1962)". BFI. Archived from the original on May 27, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  24. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  25. ^ a b c d e "Bo Goldman - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  26. ^ "THE LEGEND OF KING KONG 1975 ORIGINAL MOVIE SCRIPT SCREENPLAY BY BO GOLDMAN". WorthPoint. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  27. ^ Freedman, Samuel G. (November 11, 1984). "'CHORUS LINE' VS. HOLLYWOOD-A SAGA". The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  28. ^ Dawson, Nick (2009). Being Hal Ashby: The Life of a Hollywood Rebel. University Press of Kentucky. p. 225-226. ISBN 978-0813139197.
  29. ^ a b Hinson, Hal (July 11, 1982). "Cry of the Screenwriter". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  30. ^ "Kevin Klein and Diane Keaton will star..." Los Angeles Times. November 26, 1989. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  31. ^ "TIME STEPS FIRST DRAFT SCRIPT DECEMBER 15, 1989, UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY BY BO GOLDMAN!". WorthPoint. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  32. ^ "TIME STEPS FIRST DRAFT SCRIPT JULY 16, 1990, UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY BY BO GOLDMAN!". WorthPoint. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  33. ^ Frook, John Evan (October 7, 1992). "Col, Zucker may journey into 'Knight'". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2023.
  34. ^ Weintraub, Bernard (March 4, 1993). "CREATIVE TENSION". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  35. ^ "FORD TO STAR IN 'SABRINA' AFTER TAKING YEAR OFF". Orlando Sentinel. February 10, 1995. Retrieved September 3, 2023.
  36. ^ "Bo Goldman, screenwriter who won Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Melvin and Howard – obituary". The Telegraph. August 8, 2023. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  37. ^ Fleming, Michael (May 20, 2003). "WB, Levinson will salute 'The Colonel'". Variety. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  38. ^ "Ron Bass Adapting True Believer; Bo Goldman Penning Rififi". MovieWeb. March 31, 2006. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  39. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1980s". Boston Society of Film Critics. July 27, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2023.
  40. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2023.