The 1980s are the decade of the screenwriter. Everybody, it seems, is writing a screenplay. We all have a story to tell, a film to write. As a matter of fact, the two most popular courses on college campuses today are business and film; the "great American novel" has been replaced by the "great American screenplay."
"The time has arrived," says Frank Capra in his foreword to "Best American Screenplays," "for great screenplays to be read, admired and considered as literature."
It's true. We've waited a long time to get our hands on a collection of noteworthy screenplays. Edited by Sam Thomas, "Best American Screenplays" is a collection of 12 Academy Award-winning screenplays, including "All Quiet on the Western Front," by George Abbot, Maxwell Anderson and Dell Andrews; "Casablanca," by Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch; "Rebel Without a Cause," by Stewart Stern; "Bonnie and Clyde," by David Newman and Robert Benton; "The Graduate," by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, based on the book by Charles Webb; "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," by William Goldman, and several more.
Basically, it is a good selection. One can quibble with the choices, of course; I mean, why illustrate the American family with "Sounder," by Lonne Elder III, instead of "Ordinary People," by Alvin Sargent, from the novel by Judith Guest? Or, why completely ignore the private detective genre, like "Chinatown," by Robert Towne, or exclude "The Godfather," by Francis Ford Coppola, from the novel by Mario Puzo?