Bette Davis? Leonora Corbett? Kenneth Tynan? Anonymous? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: I love the following catty quotation that was said by one Hollywood actor or actress about another performer who had allegedly slept her way to success:
She’s the original good time that’s been had by all.
Can you tell me who said this and who was the target of the gibe?
Quote Investigator: This wordplay joke is based on a comical modification of a traditional expression of enthusiasm: A good time was had by all. The jest is often attributed to the famous film star Bette Davis and sometimes to the influential English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.
But neither is credited in the earliest instance of this quip located by QI which was published in a 1946 book by the prominent gossip columnist Earl Wilson. The actress who delivered the barb appeared in multiple films in the 1930s and 1940s but is not well known today. The target of her ire was unidentified [EWLC]:
The tallish, beautiful actress, Leonora Corbett, can also claw with her painted lips. Seeing a reputedly loose woman waggling past, Miss Corbett remarked, “There goes the original good time that’s been had by all.” Of an actress whose ability was said by everybody to be less than negative, Miss Corbett said, “She has more talent to the square head than anybody I know.”
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.