David Zelag Goodman, who shared an Oscar nomination for the script to “Lovers and Other Strangers” and also wrote “Monte Walsh,” “Straw Dogs” and “Logan’s Run” during a successful run in the 1970s, died Monday, Sept. 26, in Oakland of a brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy. He was 81.
Goodman’s work proved enduring: “Monte Walsh,” starring Lee Marvin, was remade in 2003 as a TNT telepic starring Tom Selleck; Rod Lurie’s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” was released two weeks ago; and a remake of “Logan’s Run,” to star Ryan Gosling, is in the works at Warner Bros.
Producer Zev Braun, who worked with Goodman for decades, described the screenwriter as “a man who understood human nature, and because he understood human nature, he understood drama.”
Goodman took an unusual course to a career in Hollywood.
Born in New York to immigrant Jewish parents who wanted him to be a rabbi, Goodman studied at a yeshiva. Eventually his interests turned to the secular world, however, and he earned a B.A. in English from Queens College in New York and then headed to Yale, where he studied drama.
Goodman had his antiwar play “High Named Today” produced Off Broadway in 1954, when he was 24. The New York Times’ Brooks Atkinson called him an “original” and “talented” writer.
Goodman’s first effort in showbiz was the script for the Hammer-produced adventure film “Stranglers of Bombay” (1959). Next he worked in television, penning eight episodes of “The Untouchables” and episodes of “Combat!” and a show called “Mr. Broadway.”
He returned to bigscreen work with the highly regarded 1970 comedy “Lovers and Others Strangers,” which he, Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna adapted from a play by Taylor and Bologna. The same year he co-penned the critically acclaimed Western “Monte Walsh.”
In 1971 came the violent, controversial “Straw Dogs,” which Goodman co-scripted with Peckinpah based on a novel. Star Dustin Hoffman would remain a friend of Goodman’s.
Goodman scripted the 1974 mystery thriller “Man on a Swing,” starring Cliff Robertson, and the 1975 remake of “Farewell, My Lovely,” starring Robert Mitchum.
He made an impression with his first attempt at science fiction, “Logan’s Run,” in 1976. (Goodman was brought onto the project after a number of other writers couldn’t make it work, and he ultimately earned sole credit for the script.)
Goodman’s strong decade continued with 1977’s “March or Die,” starring Gene Hackman and Catherine Deneuve, and the memorable thriller “Eyes of Laura Mars,” which he co-scripted with John Carpenter and others.
He then returned to television for a miniseries adaptation of Howard Fast’s “Freedom Road.”
Goodman scripted “Fighting Back” and “Man, Woman and Child” in the early 1980s.
Producer Braun said that in addition to his own work, Goodman “had the capacity to put his finger right on the problem in a script. And the best example was when Sherry Lansing brought him in to address problems in the script for ‘Fatal Attraction.’ Goodman said to Lansing of the Glenn Close character, ‘You can’t let her off the hook! You should kill her! Let’s drown her!'”
Goodman did not have any other movies produced for decades, but he and Braun co-penned “Cover,” the story of Russian spy Sasha Litvinenko’s poisoning, which is currently in pre-production.
Goodman is survived by his wife, Marjorie, to whom he was married for 61 years; a daughter, Kevis, a professor of English at UC Berkeley; and a sister.