'Who are those guys?' The artistry of William Goldman

Gene Seymour is a film critic who has written about music, movies and culture for The New York Times, Newsday, Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)When we watch movies, we're tempted to take what they say in one ear and out the other because we're there to look more than listen.

Screenwriters know this, and, as with anybody compelled to hold up their end of a conversation, they seek ways to attract attention. Their names alone aren't going to do it, so they find attention and, at times, immortality through a line or two that sticks in an audience's collective memory bank.
Consider, for instance: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!" from "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964). The line is credited to Terry Southern, who won literary notoriety for such satiric novels as "The Magic Christian" and "Candy," but whose "War Room" joke, I bet, is remembered by many more people.