Good Girls Keep Diaries; Bad Girls Don’t Have the Time

Tallulah Bankhead? Herb Stein? Anonymous?

diary08Dear Quote Investigator: You have previously examined a quotation attributed to the movie star Tallulah Bankhead. Perhaps you would be willing to look at another quip. Here are two versions:

1) Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don’t have time.
2) It’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.

Should Bankhead receive credit?

Quote Investigator: In August 1956 the widely-syndicated gossip columnist Earl Wilson printed an instance of the joke which he categorized as a “pearl”; however, Wilson provided no attribution. The ellipsis was in the original text: 1

EARL’S PEARLS . . . Good girls keep diaries; bad girls don’t have the time.

Shortly afterwards in November 1956 the quip was ascribed to Bankhead in a Canadian newspaper although the wording was slightly different: 2

Tallulah Bankhead says: “It’s good girls who keep diaries of what they do. Bad girls never have the time.”
—Daily Express Service

In the following years the joke was further disseminated with the linkage to Bankhead usually preserved. Eventually the columnist Earl Wilson reprinted the jest, and he too ascribed the remark to Bankhead.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Good Girls Keep Diaries; Bad Girls Don’t Have the Time


  1. 1956 August 22, Aberdeen American-News (Aberdeen Daily News), It Happened Last Night by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Aberdeen, South Dakota. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1956 November 21, The Calgary Herald, The Button Box (acknowledgement to Daily Express Service), Quote Page 6, Column 5, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Google News Archive)