Category Archives: Alva Johnston

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.

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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)

“It’s too caustic.” “To hell with the cost.”

Who Said It? Samuel Goldwyn? Robert Benchley? Gracie Allen? Alva Johnston? Anonymous?

foxes07Who or What Was Caustic? The Little Foxes? Jim Tully? An Unnamed Actor? Mr. Rosenblatt? An Unnamed Script? An Unnamed Writer? Sidney Howard? Moss Hart?

Dear Quote Investigator: An entertaining legend about the powerful movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn has been amusing people for decades. “The Little Foxes” was a major Broadway hit in 1939 and Goldwyn was considering purchasing the rights to create a film based on the story. He asked his top advisor to see the play and report to him. Here is what the aide supposedly told Goldwyn together with his reply:

“Sam, it’s a great drama, but it might be a little too caustic.”
“I don’t care what it costs, I want it.”

This is my favorite anecdote about Goldwyn, and it is supported by the fact that he did buy the rights and made a classic movie starring Bette Davis. Could you research this quotation?

Quote Investigator:Thanks for sending in this fun story. Unfortunately, there is a problem with the timeline that makes this tale unlikely. In January 1930 the widely-syndicated columnist Walter Winchell reported a version of the joke based on the misconstrual of the word “caustic” that was being disseminated by the popular humorist and actor Robert Benchley. Thus, the core joke was in circulation about nine years before the premiere of “The Little Foxes”.

The tale centered on two movie magnates who began their careers in the garment business. This biographical detail matched Samuel Goldwyn who was a glove salesman before moving to Hollywood. The maladroit line was spoken by one of the magnates. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

They were in conference trying to save a new picture that lacked, what critics usually call, “a wallop.”
“If we could only get someone to fix it up,” said one.
“Why don’t you get Jim Tully?” suggested an executive.
“Jim Tully is too caustic!”
“Oh,” thundered one of the magnates, “the hell with the cost, get him!”

The writer Robert Benchley constructed many humorous stories, and it was possible that he simply invented this anecdote to entertain friends. Alternatively, he may have been present at a meeting when the line was spoken. Special thanks to ace researcher Bill Mullins who located the citation given above.

Here are some additional citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1930 January 9, The Scranton Republican, On Broadway by Walter Winchell, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)