I Never Liked the Men I Loved, and Never Loved the Men I Liked

Fanny Brice? Fannie Hurst? Norman Katkov? Ray Stark? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Falling in love with someone occurs because of unconstrained desires and emotions. The decision is not based on clearsighted logic and rationality. In retrospect, an infatuation might seem foolish or destructive. An unhappy humorist once commented on this behavior. Here are two versions:

  • I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.
  • I never liked the man I loved, and never loved the man I liked.

These statements illustrate antimetabole, the elegant repetition of clauses containing transposed words. Would you please tell me who deserves credit for this saying?

Quote Investigator: Fanny Brice was a popular comedienne, singer, and actress who died in 1951. In 1953 journalist and scriptwriter Norman Katkov published a biography titled “The Fabulous Fanny”. Brice’s three marriages ended in divorce. Her second husband was a gambler who served time in prison. The following excerpt presented her thoughts on love. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“When you’re young,” she continued, “you make pictures in your head, you have ideas. You pick the type guy you want. But if I went to a party, and there was one no-good bastard in the room, I’d go for him right away. It’s so funny: for my friends I must have admiration and I must respect them. In fact, I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.”

The book was based on many hours of recordings made by Brice in 1951 for a future memoir. This plan was derailed by the comedienne’s death in 1953, and Katkov was commissioned to create an authorized biography. 2 The accuracy of this quotation depends on the veracity of Katkov. Several later instances of this quotation can be traced back to this book.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In February 1953 a book reviewer in “The Gazette” of Montreal, Canada found the quotation memorable enough to reprint it: 3

People are talking about the wit of the Fanny Brice biography, “The Fabulous Fanny,” written by Norman Katkov, particularly of the famous Brice statement, “I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.” The fabulous Fanny started life as a Brooklyn waif and ended it with an 18-room Hollywood home with a swimming pool. Hers was the typical Horatio Alger success story.

In March 1953 a book reviewer in “The Daily Times” of Davenport, Iowa also reprinted statements from the book, but there were some slight modifications. The word “bum” appeared instead of a stronger word, and the first instance of “men” was changed to “man”: 4

“If I ever went to a party, and there was one no-good bum in the room, I’d go for him right away,” Fanny once said. “I never liked the man I loved, and never loved the men I liked.”

The man she loved was Jules (Nicky) Arnstein, handsome gambler and confidence man . . .

The musical “Funny Girl” was based on the life of Fanny Brice. Producer Ray Stark worked on the theatrical and film versions of this work. In 1968 he wrote a piece in “The New York Times” about Brice which included a discussion of the star’s marriage to showman Billy Rose and gambler Nicky Arnstein. Stark presented a version of the quotation using “man” twice instead of “men”: 5

Of that companionable marriage and her first tempestuous one to Nicky Arnstein, she used to say, “I never liked the man I loved, and I never loved the man I liked.”

In 1992 “The New York Public Library Book of Twentieth-Century American Quotations” contained an entry for the quotation with a citation pointing to the biography: 6

I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.
FANNY BRICE, in Norman Katkov, The Fabulous Fanny, 1953

In 1999 the collection “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You” compiled and edited by Mardy Grothe presented many wonderful examples of antimetabole including the version of the quotation credited to Brice in the biography. 7

QI received an email newsletter dated October 18, 2020 which implausibly credited the saying to Fannie Hurst. QI conjectures that the attribution was the result of a confusion between Fannie Hurst and Fanny Brice.

In conclusion, QI believes that Fanny Brice should receive credit for the statement in the 1953 biography by Norman Katkov. During the ensuing years variant statements have entered circulation. The word “men” appears twice in the 1953 quotation. Sometimes one instance of “men” is changed to “man”, and sometimes both instances are changed to “man”.

Image Notes: Public domain photographic portrait of Fanny Brice from the Bain Collection available from the U.S. Library of Congress. The image has been cropped and resized.

(QI saw this quotation in an email newsletter and was surprised to see it was credited to Fannie Hurst and not to Fanny Brice. This led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1953, The Fabulous Fanny: The Story of Fanny Brice by Norman Katkov, Chapter 7: Nick Arnstein, Quote Page 89, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1968 September 15, The New York Times, ‘Come On, Let’s Stop a Minute To See Snooks’ by Ray Stark, Quote Page D15, New York. (ProQuest)
  3. 1953 February 23, The Gazette, Facts and Fancies by Harriet Hill, Quote Page 11, Column 1, Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1953 March 7, The Daily Times, Fanny: An ‘Open Book’ in Print by SJB, (Book review of Norman Katkov’s “The Fabulous Fanny”), Quote Page 7, Column 3, Davenport, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1968 September 15, The New York Times, ‘Come On, Let’s Stop a Minute To See Snooks’ by Ray Stark, Quote Page D15, Column D15, New York. (ProQuest)
  6. 1992, The New York Public Library Book of Twentieth-Century American Quotations, Edited by Stephen Donadio, Joan Smith, Susan Mesner and Rebecca Davison, Topic: Love, Quote Page 263, Warner Books Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
  7. 1999, Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You by Mardy Grothe, Chapter 6: Chiasmus on Stage and Screen, Quote Page 39, Viking Penguin, New York. (Verified with scans)