Leon Shamroy? Alfred Hitchcock? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: According to Hollywood legend a vain actor or actress was deeply concerned about being photographed in a flattering manner. The following words were exchanged with a famous director:
“You’re not photographing me with my best side to the camera.”
“But how can I when you’re sitting on it?”
Would you please explore this story?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI was published by the powerful syndicated gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in December 1943. Hopper did not name the director, the actress, or the movie. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
I loved the crack a top director made to a young girl who was complaining they were shooting the wrong side of her face. He stood it as long as he could, then said, “Miss, you’re sitting on your best side.”
In 1945 the syndicated Hollywood columnist Jimmie Fidler relayed an anecdote told by the comedian Hugh Herbert about an actress and an unhappy director: 2
He finally got her posed correctly for the wanted shot, but just as the cameras began to whir she suddenly switched from left profile to right. “Why did you do that?” roared the director. “Because I want my best side to be photographed,” she retorted haughtily. “Honey,” said the director sweetly, “you’re sitting on it!”
In 1950 the anecdote collector Bennett Cerf suggested that the punchline was delivered by the prominent cinematographer Leon Shamroy to an aging movie star. But in 1957 the popular columnist Walter Winchell stated that the remark was made by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock. Finally, in 1970 an interview with Hitchcock was published in which he stated that he spoke the line to Mary Anderson. In 1943 Hitchcock was directing “Lifeboat” which was released in 1944, and Anderson was one of the stars of the film. Detailed citations are given further below.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.