We Do Not Want Now and We Never Shall Want the Human Voice with Our Films

D. W Griffith? Harry Warner? Apocryphal?

griff07Dear Quote Investigator: D. W. Griffith was the most innovative and important director during the early days of cinema. However, he was unable to foresee the momentous shift away from silent movies. Apparently, he stated that audiences would never wish to hear recorded human voices in films. Is that true?

Quote Investigator: Yes. In 1924 David Wark Griffith published an article titled “The Movies 100 Years from Now” in “Collier’s: The National Weekly”. He speculated about the future of the art form that he loved, but his vision was surprisingly circumscribed. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

We do not want now and we never shall want the human voice with our films. Music, as I see it within that hundred years, will be applied to the visualization of the human being’s imagination. And, as in your imagination those unseen voices are always perfect and sweet, or else magnificent and thrilling, you will find them registering upon the mind of the picture patron, in terms of lovely music, precisely what the author has intended to be registered there.

Griffith pointed to the flaws in human speech that would detract from his idealized conception of cinema:

There will never be speaking pictures. Why should there be when no voice can speak so beautifully as music? There are no dissonant r’s and twisted consonants and guttural slurs and nasal twangs in beautiful music.

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  1. 1924 May 3, Collier’s: The National Weekly, The Movies 100 Years from Now by David Wark Griffith, Start Page 7, Quote Page 7, P. F. Collier and Son Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Who the Hell Wants to Hear Actors Talk?

Harry Warner? Sam Warner? Jack L. Warner? D. W. Griffith? Apocryphal?

warners09Dear Quote Investigator: Four brothers: Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner founded Warner Bros. Pictures which became a powerful long-lived institution in Hollywood. Their extraordinary success did not arise from a pellucid view of the future. In fact, the development of motion pictures with sound impelled Harry Warner to make a statement that is often included in collections of bone-headed predictions:

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?

Can you find a solid citation for this remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match found by QI appeared in the 1965 autobiography of Jack L. Warner who recounted a contentious episode between his two brothers Harry and Sam. In the 1920s Bell Laboratories had developed a new system that enabled the coupling of film with high-quality synchronized sound, but Harry Warner was uninterested because previous technical attempts to combine sound with movies had resulted in commercial debacles.

In 1925 Sam convinced Harry to attend an ostensible meeting with Wall Street financiers, and when he arrived he was actually shown a demonstration of the prototype Vitaphone sound film system. Harry realized he had been deceived but agreed to evaluate the system which produced music of remarkable fidelity from speakers behind the movie screen on the left and right. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Now, that is something,” Harry said softly, as the lights came up. “Think of the hundreds of small theater guys who can’t afford an orchestra or any kind of an act. Or even a good piano player! What a gadget!”

“But don’t forget you can have actors talk too,” Sam broke in.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Harry asked testily. “The music—that’s the big plus about this.”

Harry was excited by the breakthrough because theater owners would be able to save money by forgoing live musical accompaniment. He did not perceive the primal importance of the expressive human voice to the future of film.

This anecdote from Jack was published decades after the event occurred. Also, Jack was not present; hence, the quotation must have been relayed to him from Sam, Harry, or another participant.

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  1. 1965, My First Hundred Years in Hollywood by Jack L. Warner with Dean Jennings, Quote Page 167 and 168, Random House, New York. (Verified on paper)

As a Cure for Worrying, Work Is Better Than Whisky

Thomas Edison? Ralph Waldo Emerson? Apocryphal?

edison11Dear Quote Investigator: Using alcohol to provide solace when experiencing apprehension is often unwise. The famous inventor and businessman Thomas Edison preferred hard work and reportedly said:

As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky

Oddly, the same saying has been attributed to the noteworthy thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson. Can you resolve this ambiguity?

Quote Investigator: The ascription to Thomas Edison is well-supported, but the linkage to Ralph Waldo Emerson is unsupported.

The March 1929 issue of “Hearst’s International Combined with Cosmopolitan” magazine published an interview with Thomas Edison that included his commentary about the difficulties and uncertainties he faced while building his business empire. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“For a good many years I worried about my pay-roll; didn’t always know how I was going to meet it. My trouble has been that I have always had too much ambition and tried to do things that were sometimes financially too big for me. If I had not had so much ambition and had not tried to do so many things I probably would have been happier, but less useful.

“But I have always found, when I was worrying, that the best thing to do was to put my mind upon something, work hard and forget what was troubling me. As a cure for worrying, work is better than whisky. Much better.

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  1. 1929 March, Hearst’s International Combined with Cosmopolitan, Edison: In an Unusual Talk with Allan L. Benson, Start Page 83, Quote Page 83, Column 2, International Magazine Company, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to the Interlibrary Loan system)

Wagner’s Music Is Really Much Better Than It Sounds

Mark Twain? Bill Nye? Ambrose Bierce? Punch Magazine?

orchestra09Dear Quote Investigator: Richard Wagner was prominent German composer who created the landmark four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). A comically incongruous remark about his efforts has been attributed to two famous American humorists Mark Twain and Bill Nye:

Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.

Do you know who crafted this jibe?

Quote Investigator: The earliest partial match known to QI appeared in August 1887. Several newspapers such as “The Wichita Daily Beacon” 1 of Wichita, Kansas and “The Jackson Citizen Patriot” 2 of Jackson, Michigan printed a column called “Bill Nye’s Information Bureau”. The Wichita paper acknowledged “The New York World” as the initial source. The column began with a letter from “Truth Seeker” who posed several questions for Nye including the following:

What is the peculiarity of classical music, and how can one distinguish it?

Nye responded with a version of the quip that targeted a class of music instead of an individual composer Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

The peculiar characteristic of classical music is that it is really so much better than it sounds.

In November 1889 “The Indianapolis News” of Indianapolis, Indiana pointed to an unnamed Philadelphia paper while crediting Nye with a version of the joke targeting Wagner: 3

Says a Philadelphia newspaper: “Bill Nye on his recent visit to this city to lecture called upon a well-known music lover, and while there was asked to write in an autograph album. He did so, and among other things wrote the following: ‘Wagner’s music, I have been informed, is really much better than it sounds.'”

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  1. 1887 August 4, The Wichita Daily Beacon, His Information Bureau: Bill Nye Takes a Man into His Confidence and Educates Him (From the New York World), Quote Page 2, Column 2, Wichita, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1887 August 11, The Jackson Citizen Patriot, Bill Nye’s Bureau: He Takes a Stranger in and Educates Him, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Jackson, Michigan. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1889 November 22, The Indianapolis News, “SCRAPS”, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)

You Yourself May Serve To Show It, That Every Fool Is Not a Poet

Jonathan Swift? Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Alexander Pope? Théophile de Viau? Matthew Prior? Pierre de Ronsard? Scévole de Sainte-Marthe? Anonymous?

pope08Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend a famous literary figure was accosted by a philistine who exclaimed that all poets were fools. The adroit spontaneous response provided a humorous comeuppance:

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may prove to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

These words have been credited to Jonathan Swift who wrote “Gulliver’s Travels”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote “Kubla Khan”, and Alexander Pope who write “The Dunciad”. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match in English known to QI appeared in the third volume of a collection called “Miscellanies” published in 1733. The preface was dated May 27, 1727 and signed by Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) and Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744). The following piece was labeled “Epigram from the French”: 1

SIR, I admit your gen’ral Rule
That every Poet is a Fool:
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every Fool is not a Poet.

Top modern references such as “The Yale Book of Quotations” 2 and the “Oxford Dictionary of Quotations” have credited Alexander Pope, 3 but these references also presented the label which suggested that Pope was translating a pre-existing French verse. Indeed, QI has located an earlier French citation as shown further below.

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  1. 1733, Miscellanies: the Last Volume, (Preface by Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope dated May 27, 1727), Epigram from the French, Quote Page 57, Printed for Benjamin Motte, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Alexander Pope, Quote Page 599, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 8th Edition, Editor Elizabeth Knowles, Entry: Alexander Pope 1688–1744, Oxford Reference Online, Print Publication Date: 2014, Oxford University Press. (Accessed November 21, 2016)

You Have Four Years To Be Irresponsible Here. Relax

Tom Petty? Apocryphal?

college11Dear Quote Investigator: There is a piece of controversial advice aimed at college students that I have long suspected was created by an undergraduate to sabotage his fellow students. It contains the suggestion:

You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs.

Usually the words are attributed to the famous rocker Tom Petty, but I do not think he attended college. Word you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Tom Petty wrote or said this advice. Perhaps at some point Petty or his representative will make a statement claiming or disclaiming the quotation. For now, this short article presents a snapshot of current research.

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a student-run newspaper called “The Observer” serving the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. In October 2003 student Emily Howald published an essay titled “Yeah, college!”, and she presented the quotation as an “excellent piece of advice”, but she did not provide an attribution: 1

If your faith is depleting or you’ve whiffed at having fun, look, as I do, to this excellent piece of advice. Think of it as the voice of reason, the voice of college.

I’ve learned one thing and that’s to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax; work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time but you’ll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday night with your friends when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink until sunrise. The work never ends but college does.

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  1. Website: The Observer, Article title: Yeah, college!, Article author: Emily Howald, Date on website: October 20, 2003, Website description: “The Observer is the student-run, daily print and online newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s”. (Accessed archive section of ndsmcobserver.com on June 26, 2011 and on November 20, 2016) link

Truth Passes Through Three Stages: First, It Is Ridiculed. Second, It Is Violently Opposed. Third, It Is Accepted As Self-Evident

Arthur Schopenhauer? Charles Lyell? Louis Agassiz? J. Marion Sims? Apocryphal?

schopenhauer08Dear Quote Investigator: True statements and ideas are often not recognized initially; instead, the process of acceptance is long and circuitous. One popular adage highlights three stages for the recognition of truth:

  1. Ridicule
  2. Violent opposition
  3. Acceptance as self-evident

The prominent German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is usually credited with an apothegm of this type, but I have been unable to find good supporting evidence. Is this ascription accurate?

Quote Investigator: QI and other researchers have been unable to find a matching adage in Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings. Yet, he did craft a different statement about truth that mentioned three stages. His humorous and melancholy remark appeared in the 1819 book “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung” (“The World as Will and Representation”). Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Der Wahrheit zu Theil ward, der nur ein kurzes Siegesfest beschieden ist, zwischen den beiden langen Zeiträumen, wo sie als paradox verdammt und als trivial geringgeschätzt wird.

Here is one possible translation into English: 2

To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial.

In the statement above, acceptance occurred during stage two instead of stage three. Also, the other two stages diverged from the adage under examination. Indeed, the earliest citation found by QI ascribing the popular adage to Schopenhauer appeared in 1913. Yet, the famous philosopher died in 1860; hence, the linkage was very weak.

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  1. 1819, Title: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung; 4 Bücher, nebst einem Anhange, der die Kritik der Kantischen Philosophie enthält, Author: Arthur Schopenhauer, Quote Page xvi, Publisher: Brockhaus, Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 2012, The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer, Translation from German to English by E. F. J. Payne, Volume 1 of 2, Section: Preface to the first edition, Quote Page xvii, Dover Publications, Inc., New York. (Translation originally published in 1958 by The Falcon’s Wing Press, Indian Hills, Colorado)(Google Books Preview; accessed Nov 18, 2016)

We Are All Broken. That’s How the Light Gets In

Ernest Hemingway? Leonard Cohen? Apocryphal?

crack07Dear Quote Investigator: It is impossible to avoid all pain and suffering during a lifetime, but I believe that our setbacks have a larger meaning and purpose. The famous author Ernest Hemingway reportedly said the following:

We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.

I would like to use this statement in an article, but I have never seen a good citation. Would you please help me?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Ernest Hemingway wrote or said this precise remark. Instead, QI conjectures that the statement was constructed via an evolutionary blending of a well-known quotation from Hemingway together with a lyric from the influential singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

In 1929 Hemingway published a novel set during World War I titled “A Farewell to Arms”, and he discussed the universality of human pain and resilience. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

In 1992 Leonard Cohen released the album “The Future” which included the song “Anthem” containing the following lines: 2

Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

The words of Hemingway and Cohen appear to have been merged to yield: “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” As shown further below, this quotation with an ascription to Hemingway entered circulation by 2013. Breakage typically causes cracks, and light symbolically represents spiritual strength and insight.

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  1. 1929, A Farewell to Arms, Chapter 34, Quote Page 267, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. (archive.org Internet Archive) link
  2. YouTube video, Title: Leonard Cohen – Anthem, Uploaded on Jan 2, 2012, Uploaded by: Differance1’s channel, (Video for the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen), (Quotation starts at 1 minute 19 seconds of 6 minutes 10 seconds). (Accessed on youtube.com on November 15, 2016) link

We Cannot Take All the Credit for Our Record Advancements in Certain Scientific Fields Alone. We Have Been Helped

Hermann Oberth? Apocryphal?

saucer07Dear Quote Investigator: Engineer Hermann Oberth was an extraordinary pioneer in the fields of rocketry and astronautics. Provocatively, he conjectured that Earth was being visited by spaceships from another solar system. I saw a fascinating quotation about the development of advanced technology that was attributed to him in a book about UFOs:

We cannot take all the credit for our record advancements in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped by the people of other worlds.

Is this an authentic remark from Oberth?

Quote Investigator: QI has not yet found any direct evidence supporting this ascription to Hermann Oberth in his writings or in an interview. A matching statement was attributed to him in the 1974 book “Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth?” by Robin Collyns. The words appeared as an epigraph to chapter twenty, but no justifying citation was given. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dr Hermann Oberth, internationally-known rocket pioneer and space authority, UFO lecturer, and head of the US CALTECH Laboratories until 1955, said:

‘We cannot take all the credit for our record advancements in certain scientific fields alone; we have been helped!’ When asked by whom, he replied: ‘The people of other worlds!’

The passage above was compressed to yield the quotation under investigation. Oberth died in 1989; hence, the words were attributed to him while he was will alive.

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  1. 1974, Did Spacemen Colonise the Earth? by Robin Collyns, Chapter 20: Scientific Proof of Extra-Terrestrial Life, Quote Page 236, Published by Pelham Books, London. (Verified with hardcopy)

I Thank All of You for Making This Night Necessary

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

yogisport09Dear Quote Investigator: An entertaining tale states that baseball great Yogi Berra was once honored at a ceremony extolling his athletic skills. He knew of his obligation to give a speech after the receipt of the accolades and gifts, and his prepared remarks included a statement thanking everyone for making the event possible. But he became tongue-tied and said a line similar to one of these:

  1. I thank all of you for making this night necessary.
  2. Thanks to all you fans who made this day necessary.
  3. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for making this day necessary.

Is this anecdote accurate? Do you know what Yogi actually said?

Quote Investigator: Substantive evidence supports the truth of this story. An article in the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” specified a date of June 6, 1947 for “Yogi Berra Night” honoring the Yankee baseball player in St. Louis. 1 Less than a week later on June 12, 1947 “The New York Times” printed a piece by the sports columnist Arthur Daley that included an instance of the quotation. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

The Yankee players still are discussing delightedly the speech of thanks the sheepish Yogi made in St. Louis, his home town, when the fans held a “Yogi Berra Night” for him. The embarrassed Yogi grabbed the microphone, shuffled uneasily for a moment and blurted, “I wanna thank everyone for making this night necessary.”

The ceremony occurred in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Later citations disagreed about the name of the event; some called it “Yogi Berra Night” and others called it “Yogi Berra Day”; however, as noted previously, contemporary newspapers in St. Louis revealed that the correct name was “Yogi Berra Night”.

The precise phrasing employed by Yogi has been difficult to ascertain because the statements in subsequent citations have varied. Nevertheless, based on the event name one may conclude that the correct quotation contained the phrase “night necessary” instead of “day necessary”.

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  1. 1947 May 25, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Yogi” Berra Night To Be Held June 6, Quote Page 5E, Column 2, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1947 June 12, New York Times, Short Shots in Sundry Directions by Arthur Daley, Quote Page 34, Column 7, New York. (ProQuest)