Tag Archives: David Niven

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)

The Male Libido is Like Being Chained to a Madman

Socrates? Sophocles? Plato? Cephalus? Russell Brand? David Niven? Kingsley Amis? Apocryphal?

sophocles04Dear Quote Investigator: There is an ancient and provocative simile that helps to explicate the irrational actions of infatuated males:

The male libido is like being chained to a madman.
To have a penis is to be chained to a madman.

These words have been attributed to Socrates, Sophocles, and Plato, but I have never seen a solid citation. Perhaps this is not really a venerable observation. The comedian and actor Russell Brand mentioned the adage in his memoir “My Booky Wook” and credited Socrates. Would you please examine this remark?

Quote Investigator: QI hypothesizes that these expressions have evolved from remarks contained within one of the most famous works of Ancient Greece “The Republic” by Plato. The confusing multiple attributions stem from the indirect framing of the quotation.

In Book 1 of “The Republic” Socrates approached Cephalus and asked him about his experiences in the latter part of life. Cephalus responded by presenting some of his thoughts about aging and then relaying key remarks made by the prominent playwright Sophocles. Hence, the primary comments were made by Sophocles and were transmitted though Cephalus to Socrates and then were written by Plato.

Here is an excerpt from a translation of “The Republic” published in 1852. This passage did not mention chains; however, later translations used the word “bondage” with its connotations of enchainment, Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

…I may mention Sophocles the poet, who was once asked in my presence, ‘How do you feel about love, Sophocles? are you still capable of it?’ to which he replied, ‘Hush! if you please: to my great delight I have escaped from it, and feel as if I had escaped from a frantic and savage master.’ I thought then, as I do now, that he spoke wisely. For unquestionably old age brings us profound repose and freedom from this and other passions.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1852, The Republic of Plato, Translated into English by John Llewelyn Davies and David James Vaughan (Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge), Book 1, Quote Page 3 and 4, Macmillan and Company, Cambridge. (Google Books Full View) link

Venice: Streets Full of Water. Advise.

Robert Benchley? Mattie Barwick? David Niven?


Dear Quote Investigator: You might enjoy looking into this confusing question. I have been searching newspaper databases for a project involving the Venice canals. The following humorous note appeared in a newspaper called the Miami News on October 30, 1958 [MNGB]:

Word comes from European traveler, Mattie (Mrs. George) Barwick who is abroad with Mrs. William H. Walker, Jr.

Says she. “Just arrived in Venice. Find all streets flooded. Please advise.”

I recognized this as a restatement of a memorable joke telegram sent by Robert Benchley. Nowadays with the water problems in Venice the quip is less amusing.

I checked some quotation references to find out when Benchley came up with this clever comment. My puzzlement stems from the fact that Benchley is first credited with the joke in 1968, and this is ten years after the Miami News article. Benchley died in 1945. Do you think he is being given credit for something he never said?

Quote Investigator: A version of this message is attributed to Benchley in the Yale Book of Quotations [YBRB], the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations [ODRB], the Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations [PMRB] and many other references. The YBQ contains the best citation information, and it refers to the 1968 book “The Algonquin Wits” edited by Robert E. Drennan [AWRB]:

On a summer vacation trip Benchley arrived in Venice and immediately wired a friend:

“STREETS FLOODED. PLEASE ADVISE.”

QI has located a version of the anecdote and the telegram text under the title “Bulletin from Benchley” in the October 1958 issue of The Reader’s Digest, and this should help to resolve the riddle [RDRB]:

David Niven tells about the time he and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., planned a European itinerary for humorist Robert Benchley: “I made arrangements for him to visit some friends of mine in Venice. The day Benchley got there he sent us a cable which read:

STREETS FULL OF WATER. ADVISE.

—As told to Dean Jennings in The Saturday Evening Post

The Reader’s Digest was typically released before the date on its cover, and the issue of the Saturday Evening Post containing the words attributed to Benchley must have been available before that time. Hence the joke was widely disseminated before it appeared in the Miami News at the end of October in 1958.

Here are some additional select citations in chronological order.

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