David Zelag Goodman dies at 81; Oscar-nominated screenwriter

David Zelag Goodman, a screenwriter best known for such 1970s films as the controversial psychological

"Straw Dogs"

and "Lovers and Other Strangers," a comedy that earned him

an Oscar

nomination, has died. He was 81.

Goodman died Monday at an assisted-living facility in Oakland of progressive supranuclear palsy, a


disorder, said his daughter, Kevis Goodman.

"He was a man for all seasons," said his close friend Zev Braun, a film and television producer. "He went from biblical scholar [as a young man] to playwright to television and motion pictures and did some of the best of the '70s movies. That was when he was really on fire, so to speak."

During his movie-writing heyday in the 1970s, Goodman shared an Oscar nomination with

Joseph Bologna


Renee Taylor

for co-writing the screenplay for "Lovers and Other Strangers," a 1970

comedy based on Bologna and Taylor's play.

Goodman teamed with director

Sam Peckinpah

to co-write the screenplay for "Straw Dogs," the Peckinpah-directed 1971 film starring

Dustin Hoffman

as a mild-mannered American mathematician living with his


wife (Susan George) in an English country village, a location that proves to be less than tranquil for the couple.

The film, which generated controversy for its violence, was described by

Charles Champlin

, then The Times' film critic, as "an overpowering piece of storytelling, certain to remind every viewer of the wells of primal emotion lurking within himself, beneath the fragile veneer of civilized control."

Goodman's other film credits as a co-writer include "Monte Walsh," a 1970 western starring

Lee Marvin

and "Eyes of Laura Mars," a 1978 thriller starring

Faye Dunaway


He also wrote the screenplays

for "Farewell, My Lovely," a 1975 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel starring

Robert Mitchum

as Philip Marlowe; and "Logan's Run," the 1976 science-fiction film starring

Michael York


His writing career included a 1954 off-Broadway production of his antiwar


"High Named Today" and episodes of TV's

"The Untouchables,"

"Combat!" and "Mr. Broadway" in the 1960s.

Goodman also was a "go-to writer" for a number of producer friends who were having trouble with scripts. He could immediately pinpoint what was wrong, said Braun, whose work with Goodman included "Freedom Road," a 1979 miniseries with

Muhammad Ali


Kris Kristofferson


"It's his integrity as a writer that made him a good writer, not only his talent," Braun said. "He also had integrity as a person. Anybody who knew him would tell you that."

Born Jan. 15, 1930,


New York City

, Goodman earned a degree in English from


College and studied drama at

Yale University


During most of his career, he spent part of each year in Los Angeles while continuing to live in New York. In 1999, he and his wife, Marjorie, moved to Berkeley, where their daughter is an English professor at



In addition to his daughter and his wife of 61 years, Goodman is survived by his sister, Florence Pirofski.