Gentlemen, You May Include Me Out

Samuel Goldwyn? Herbert Fields? June Provines? Sheilah Graham? Alva Johnston? Apocryphal?

include07Dear Quote Investigator: Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn was famous for his creative and idiosyncratic use of the English language. Hollywood legend asserts that Goldwyn participated in a complex, protracted, and tense corporate negotiation in the 1930s. But he was unhappy with the final deal, and he expressed disenchantment with these classic words:

Gentlemen, you may include me out.

Would you please explore this statement?

Quote Investigator: When Samuel Goldwyn was profiled in LIFE magazine in 1959 he adamantly denied that he used the expression: “Include me out”. Instead, Goldwyn contended that he uttered the prosaic “Gentlemen, I’m withdrawing from the association.” Yet, the colorful remark has been ascribed to him since the 1930s.

The earliest evidence located by QI did not link the phrase to Goldwyn. The words appeared in a newspaper serialization of a 1933 movie titled “Let’s Fall In Love”. Herbert Fields crafted the story and the screenplay of the romantic musical though it was not clear who penned the serialization which was published in February 1934. 1

In the following passage, two characters on a movie set were conversing: Rose Forsell was a temperamental star, and Max was a film producer. Forsell believed that she had been insulted, and she was threatening to return to Sweden while Max was attempting to mollify her. The word “Sweden” was spelled “Sveden” to depict Forsell’s accent. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Forsell was in a towering rage “Ah! So now he insults me! So now I go back home—to Sveden!”

Max walked up to her. “Wait a minute, Forsell. Don’t mind what Ken says. I didn’t say it. Include me out of it.”

Forsell ignored Max. “And what’s more, I take the first boat back and I don’t never come back.” She turned on her heel and started away.

By 1935 the phrase had moved from the realm of fiction to non-fiction. A popular “Chicago Tribune” columnist named June Provines recounted an incident with unnamed participants immersed in a business parley. The specified location was the “Hotel Sherman” which was probably a reference to the landmark Sherman House Hotel of Chicago: 3

It was a small business meeting at the Hotel Sherman. The men had met to sign an agreement, according to Henrietta Singer, who reports the incident. The proposition was written and read to them and all of them agreed except one. He walked away, ostensibly thinking it over. The rest looked at him inquiringly, awaiting his answer. After a long pause he gave it, “Include me out,” he said.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1936 the influential syndicated Hollywood gossip columnist Sheilah Graham attributed the expression to an unnamed “film executive”: 4 5

“Include me out of this,” said a prominent film executive, stamping out of a recent story conference.

In April 1937 Sheilah Graham mentioned the expression again; this time she altered the phrasing slightly and attributed the words to “our pet producer”: 6

Our pet producer recently committed another word-tangle. “You can include me out,” he told his associates.

In May 1937 the mass-circulation periodical “The Saturday Evening Post” published as its cover story the first installment of a serialization of a biography titled “The Great Goldwyn” by Alva Johnston. According to Johnston the remark was spoken by Samuel Goldwyn when he quit an association of movie producers: 7 8

He can often put things more forcefully in his own medium of expression than they could possibly be said in the king’s English. An ordinary man, on deciding to quit the Hays organization, might have turned to his fellow producers and said, “Gentlemen, I prefer to stand aloof,” or “Gentlemen, I have decided to go my own way.” Sam said, “Gentlemen, include me out.”

In 1944 the industrious quotation collector Bennett Cerf published the compilation “Try and Stop Me” which included the following instance ascribed to Goldwyn: 9

Mr. Goldwyn’s most famous dicta undoubtedly are his “Gentlemen, kindly include me out,” and the matchless “In two words I tell you my opinion of that picture: im-possible.”

In 1947 Louis Untermeyer published “A Treasury of Laughter” which included the following entertaining anecdote about Goldwyn that combined two comical remarks: 10

It took place at a long conference of directors, producers, and bigwigs. They were all trying to induce Goldwyn to join them in a project which he disliked. Finally he turned to them and said, “Gentlemen, the best I can give you is a definite maybe.” Then, a few minutes later, he said, “I’ve reconsidered my decision. Gentlemen, you may include me out.”

In 1959 “LIFE” magazine published a profile of Samuel Goldwyn at 76. The reporter printed Goldwyn’s emphatic comment that he had never spoken the saying under investigation. Yet, the final sentence in the excerpt below suggested that Goldwyn was not angry and considered situation humorous: 11

“I wish I was smart enough to say some of the things they said I said,” he growls. “None of them are true. They’re all made up by a bunch of comedians and pinned on me. Take that time years ago when I had the fight with the Producers’ Association. I got up and said, ‘Gentlemen, I’m withdrawing from the association.’

By the time I got back to the studio, it was all over town I’d said, ‘Include me out.’ It’s ridiculous. It’s a lie.” Mr. Goldwyn hid something, perhaps a smile, behind his napkin.

In 1969 Norman Zierold published a volume about the men who controlled the major film studios during Hollywood’s golden era. Zierold’s “The Moguls” presented the following version of the Goldwyn anecdote: 12

Certainly the most famous of all Goldwynisms is the classic “You can include me out.” This was uttered before members of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, the so-called Hays Office, as they were discussing their labor troubles shortly before the notorious Bioff scandal shook Hollywood. Goldwyn disagreed with the prevailing viewpoint and gave his notice of withdrawal.

Many tales about Goldwyn’s remarks were known to Hollywood luminaires, but they were often greeted with skepticism. For example, the star David Niven included a chapter about Goldwyn in his memoir “Bring On the Empty Horses”. He included a set of Goldwynisms, but his tone suggested disbelief: 13

It was long a habit among the jealous and the snide in the Hollywood jungle to ridicule Goldwyn and try by the all too easy manufacture of Goldwynisms to diminish his stature. “Include me out,” “I’ll tell you in two words—im-possible,” “A verbal contract is not worth the paper it’s written on,” “We can always get more Indians off the reservoir,” and “We’ve all passed a lot of water since those days” have become part of the Goldwyn legend, but who can claim to have been present when these pearls of wisdom were dropped?

In conclusion, QI suggests two plausible scenarios. In the first scenario, Samuel Goldwyn employed the phrase “include me out” at a meeting of motion picture producers in 1933 or earlier. The phrase was disseminated within Hollywood, and it was incorporated into the 1934 movie serialization. The expression was also given to gossip columnists who placed it in newspapers whence it became widely known. Biographer Alva Johnston firmly attached the remark to Goldwyn in 1937.

In the second scenario, the comical remark was constructed by a Hollywood quipster, and it was placed in the 1934 movie serialization. Publicists and/or humorists attributed the remark to Goldwyn and gave it to columnists who dutifully disseminated it. Initially, the remark was anonymous, but Alva Johnston overtly assigned the words to Goldwyn. Perhaps future researchers will be able to refine these scenarios or reveal something unexpected.

Image Notes: Screenshot from a trailer for “The Hurricane”, a movie directed by John Ford and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. The trailer and image are in the public domain; obtained via Wikimedia Commons. Image with check mark next to “No” from geralt on Pixabay.

(Great thanks to BBC Radio personality and top quotation expert Nigel Rees who insightfully discussed this phrase in the October 2014 issue of “The ‘Quote Unquote’ Newsletter”. QI was inspired to finally create an entry on this topic based on research performed previously. Thanks to Sam Young who noted that David Niven had mentioned the saying attributed to Goldwyn.)

Update History: On October 1, 2015 the 1975 citation was added.

Notes:

  1. Website: IMDB – Internet Movie Database, Movie title: Let’s Fall in Love (1933), Website description: Searchable database of more than 100 million data items about movies and TV, (Accessed imdb.com on October 12, 2014) link
  2. 1934 February 19, Tyrone Daily Herald, Film: Let’s Fall In Love with Edmund Lowe, Ann Southern, and Miriam Jordan, Serialization by arrangement with Columbia Pictures, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Tyrone, Pennsylvania (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1935 March 27, Chicago Tribune, Front Views and Profiles by June Provines, Quote Page 13, Column 4, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  4. 1936 April 22, The Hartford Courant, Studio Bids $75,000 For Broadway Hit: RKO Couldn’t See ‘On Your Toes’ ‘When Originally Offered It for $10,000 by Sheilah Graham, Quote Page 8, Column 1, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)
  5. 1936 May 2, The Winnipeg Evening Tribune (The Winnipeg Tribune), In Hollywood Today by Sheilah Graham, Quote Page 6, Column 6, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1937 April 27, The Hartford Courant, Hepburn May Bury Hatchet With Press: Star Ponders Ending Long Period of Dislike With Party for Members of Fourth Estate by Sheilah Graham, Quote Page 9, Column 1, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)
  7. 1937 May 8, Saturday Evening Post, Volume 209, Number 45, The Great Goldwyn by Alva Johnston, Start Page 5, Quote Page 6, Column 1, The Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Academic Search Premier EBSCO)
  8. 1937, The Great Goldwyn by Alva Johnston, Quote Page 16, Random House, New York. (Verified on paper in 1978 Arno Press, New York Times reprint edition)
  9. 1944, Try and Stop Me by Bennett Cerf, Quote Page 45, Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)
  10. 1946, A Treasury of Laughter, Selected and Edited by Louis Untermeyer, Section: Joe Miller’s Grandchildren, Page 253, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)
  11. 1959 February 16, LIFE, The One-Man Gang Is in Action Again: At 76 Sam Goldwyn conquers crisis after crisis to produce ‘Porgy and Bess’ by Loudon Wainwright (LIFE, Staff writer), Start Page 103, Quote Page 116, Published by Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  12. 1969, The Moguls by Norman Zierold, Quote Page 120, Coward-McCann, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
  13. 1975, Bring On the Empty Horses by David Niven, Chapter 7: Goldwyn, Quote Page 139, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)