Chains Do Not Hold a Marriage Together. It Is Thread, Hundreds of Tiny Threads which Sew People Together Through the Years

Simone Signoret? Apocryphal?

simone09Dear Quote Investigator: I am trying to find a citation for a statement attributed to the wonderful French movie actress Simone Signoret. Here is a paraphrase from my memory: marriages are not held together by chains; they are held together by hundreds of threads. Are you familiar with this saying? Would you please help me to find its origin?

Quote Investigator: In 1978 Simone Signoret was interviewed by David Lewin in the pages of the UK newspaper the “Daily Mail”. She was asked about her husband, the actor Yves Montand, who had co-starred with the Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in “Let’s Make Love” back in 1960. Gossip mongers suggested that Montand and Monroe may have taken the title of the movie literally, and Lewin inquired about what held Signoret’s marriage together. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

‘Chains do not hold a marriage together,’ she replied. ‘It is thread, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That is what makes a marriage last—more than passion or even sex.’
‘But those threads should never become chains.’

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1986 a curious variant was included in the reference work “The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations’. The word “chains” was changed to “pains” and the altered expression was credited to Signoret: 2

Pains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That’s what makes a marriage last — more than passion or even sex. Simone Signoret

In 1987 the same variant quotation appeared in the “Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations” which was the successor to “The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations”. 3

In 1988 the quotation appeared in “The Palm Beach Post” in Florida. The statement was slightly altered; the first instance of the word “thread” was changed to “threads”: 4

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”
—Simone Signoret

In 1997 “Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes” listed an instance of the saying with “chains” ascribed to Signoret: 5

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.
—SIMONE SlGNORET

In conclusion, substantive evidence indicates that Simone Signoret did make this remark in 1978. QI suggests using the first version printed in the “Daily Mail”.

Image Notes: Cropped image of Simone Signoret from a scanned movie poster available via Wikimedia Commons. The Japanese poster was for the film “Casque d’or” from Eiga no Tomo (November 1952). The image is in the public domain according to the copyright law of Japan. Picture of broken chain from ClkerFreeVectorImages at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Laura Taggart whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Taggart provided a version of the quotation that matched the instance in 1988. Special thanks to Jeffrey Graf of Indiana University for accessing the scans of the “Daily Mail”. Thanks to Matt Maguire who pointed out that the movie “Let’s Make Love” was released in 1960 which was many years before the 1978 interview.)

Notes:

  1. 1978 July 4, Daily Mail, Simone Signoret Talking to David Lewin, Quote Page 7, Column 3, United Kingdom. (Daily Mail Archive: Gale NewsVault)
  2. 1986, The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations, Revised and Enlarged, Edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, Topic: Marriage, Quote Page 222, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, Toronto. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1987, Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations: Revised and Enlarged, Edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, Topic: Marriage, Quote Page 222, Barnes & Noble Books, Division of Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)
  4. 1988 February 23, The Palm Beach Post, Quote (filler item), Quote Page 2D, Column 1, West Palm Beach, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1997, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes: Wit and Wisdom for All Occasions, Topic: PEOPLE TOGETHER, Quote Page 51, Published by Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified on paper)