George S. Kaufman? Dick Cavett? Howard Dietz? Leonard Lyons? Howard Teichmann? Anonymous?
Question for Quote Investigator: A prominent theater producer was unhappy with the tryout performance of a show that he was funding. A stagehand did not recognize the producer which led to the following dialog:
“Are you with the show?”
“No, I’m against it!”
A variant joke employed similar wordplay. A well-regarded writer was called upon to improve a script. He attempted to enter the theater to see a rehearsal, but the doorman did not recognize him:
“Excuse me, sir; are you with the show?”
“Well, let’s just say I’m not against it.”
Would you please explore the provenance of this word play?
Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a short item published in the “The Kansas City Star” newspaper of Missouri in 1906. The dialog participants were both anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1906 May 13, The Kansas City Star, Some People of the Stage, Quote Page 9, Column 1, Kansas City, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)
It was at the stage door at Wallack’s, New York, one night recently during the brief “run” of the since defunct “District Leader.” Among those awaiting the exit of members of the company were several theatrical friends. Two of them met for the first time in months. Said one: “Are you with the show?”
Growled the other, who doubtless had sat it out on a pass: “No; I’m against it!”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a wonderful anecdote about a meeting between the famous movie studio chief Samuel Goldwyn and the renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw. Goldwyn flew to England to convince Shaw to write material for him to use in films. Goldwyn emphasized the high quality and the artistic merit of the movies he hoped to produce, but Shaw was more interested in the extent of the compensation. Shaw responded with a classic line that humorously reversed the formulaic expectations present when an artist meets a moneyman. Could you research the veracity of this tale and determine the precise statement made by Shaw?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI was printed on May 1, 1921 in the Baltimore American newspaper of Baltimore, Maryland. The famous remark of Shaw was relayed from London via a special cable message according to the dateline:1921 May 1, Baltimore American, Shaw Refuses to Write for Movies, (Special Cable to the New York Herald and the Baltimore American), Dateline: London, Section 2, Quote Page 1, Column 2, Baltimore, … Continue reading
Mr. Goldwyn is a ready talker and G.B.S. being Irish, was a little behind him at times. After going over the entire film situation in a discussion lasting several hours, Mr. Shaw closed the interview as follows:
“Well, Mr. Goldwyn, there is not much use in going on. There is this difference between you and me: You are only interested in art and I am only interested in money.”
The passage above was reprinted in other newspapers during the following days and weeks, e.g., The Springfield Sunday Journal of Springfield, Illinois,1921 May 15, The Springfield Sunday Journal (Daily Illinois State Journal), I Seek Coin, You Art, Shaw to Goldwyn, (Special Dispatch from London), Quote Page 4, Column 5, Springfield, Illinois. … Continue reading and The State of Columbia, South Carolina. 1921 May 29, The State, Section: Part II, Art and Profiteer: G. B. Shaw Eager in Chase of Almighty Pound, Quote Page 26, Column 8, Columbia, South Carolina. (GenealogyBank)
In 1922 Shaw recounted the episode with Goldwyn during an address before an organization of wordsmiths and composers. His speech provided additional background that helped to explicate his remark. He repeated the quotation but used a different phrasing. In 1926 Shaw described the meeting again, and this time he used a third phrasing for the quotation. In 1937 a biography of Goldwyn contended that the statement was actually composed by a publicity man named Howard Dietz who was employed by the movie mogul. The details for these cites are given further below.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
1921 May 1, Baltimore American, Shaw Refuses to Write for Movies, (Special Cable to the New York Herald and the Baltimore American), Dateline: London, Section 2, Quote Page 1, Column 2, Baltimore, Maryland. (GenealogyBank)
1921 May 15, The Springfield Sunday Journal (Daily Illinois State Journal), I Seek Coin, You Art, Shaw to Goldwyn, (Special Dispatch from London), Quote Page 4, Column 5, Springfield, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)