Lilian Braithwaite? James Agate? Walter Winchell? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: A prominent drama critic in London once told a top actress that she was the second most beautiful woman in the United Kingdom. The critic expected her to ask for the identity of the most beautiful woman, but she wittily replied that she would treasure the compliment because it was coming from the second best drama critic. Would you please explore the provenance of this repartee?
Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Daily Telegraph” of London in March 1932. The two figures in the anecdote were English theatre critic James Agate and English actress Lilian Braithwaite: 1932 March 2, The Daily Telegraph, London Day by Day: Second Best by Peterborough, Quote Page 12, Column 5, London, England. (Newspapers_com)
“A little while ago,” said Mr. Agate, “I was fortunate enough to find myself alone with Miss Braithwaite. I hastened to avail myself of this rare opportunity.
“‘My dear lady,’ I said, ‘May I tell you something I have wanted to tell you for years: that you are the second most beautiful woman in the United Kingdom?’
“I naturally expected that Miss Braithwaite would ask who, in my opinion, was the woman who came before her. And I had prepared myself with a name to which it would have been interesting to see Miss Braithwaite’s reaction.
“But she asked no such question. She merely looked at me with her charming smile and said, ‘Thank you. I shall always cherish that, as coming from the second-best dramatic critic.’”
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Public domain portrait of Lillian Braithwaite by Charles Sims circa 1902.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Paul Craven who tweeted about this repartee which led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Craven gave a hat tip to Robbie MacNab. Thanks also to Andrew Denny who participated in the tweet thread.
|↑1||1932 March 2, The Daily Telegraph, London Day by Day: Second Best by Peterborough, Quote Page 12, Column 5, London, England. (Newspapers_com)|