Quote Origin: I Am a Fugitive From a Daisy Chain Gang

Dorothy Parker? Tiffany Thayer? Apocryphal?

Group of daisies forming a heart shape from Pixabay

Question for Quote Investigator: The popular 1932 movie “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” was about an innocent man who was sent to prison and escaped from a chain gang. A humorist wrote a scathing review of an erotic book which suggested that the shoddy novel should have been called “I Am a Fugitive from a Daisy Chain Gang”. Would you please help me to determine who coined this comical expression?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1933 the prominent wit Dorothy Parker published a review of Tiffany Thayer’s book “An American Girl” in “The New Yorker” magazine. Parker lambasted Thayer’s depiction of carnality:1

He is beyond question a writer of power; and his power lies in his ability to make sex so thoroughly, graphically, and aggressively unattractive that one is fairly shaken to ponder how little one has been missing.

Tiffany Thayer was an eccentric figure who penned erotica, fantasy, and science fiction. He helped found the Fortean Society in New York City. Parker presented an alternative title for the book she reviewed. Boldface added to excerpt by QI:

Only in the friendliest spirit is it suggested that for later editions he might care to change his present rather pastel title to the possibly more provocative “I Am a Fugitive from a Daisy Chain Gang.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Dorothy Parker died in 1967. A collection of her columns from “The New Yorker” was published in 1970 under the title “Constant Reader” which was her pen name in the magazine. The collection included the review of “An American Girl”; hence, the quip achieved further distribution.2

In 1986 the biography “The Late Mrs. Dorothy Parker” by Leslie Frewin included the following passage:3

Reviewing Tiffany Thayer, who attained wide notoriety and record sales for his sex novels, including his “very own” version of The Three Musketeers, Mrs. Parker wasn’t impressed with his An American Girl . . .

. . . he might care to change his present rather pastel title to the possibly more provocative I Am a Fugitive from a Daisy Chain Gang.”

In conclusion, Dorothy Parker deserves credit for this wordplay. She included the phrase in a 1933 book review published in “The New Yorker”. She was mocking the author Tiffany Thayer.

Image Notes: Picture of a group of daisies forming a heart shape. Image from congerdesign at Pixabay. The image has been cropped and resized.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to the anonymous person whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. The inquirer believed that Dorothy Parker had used the expression but was uncertain of the precise citation.

  1. 1933 March 18, The New Yorker, Reading and Writing: Not Even Funny by Constant Reader (Dorothy Parker), (Review of “An American Girl” by Tiffany Thayer), Start Page 64, Quote Page 64, Column 2, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans) ↩︎
  2. 1970, Constant Reader by Dorothy Parker, Chapter: Not Even Funny, Date: March 18, 1933, Start Page 150, Quote Page 151, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩︎
  3. 1986, The Late Mrs. Dorothy Parker by Leslie Frewin, Chapter 19: “Constant Reader”, Quote Page 121, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩︎