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THE (UNINTENDED) WIT OF SAMUEL GOLDWYN

HOLLYWOOD MAGNATE Samuel Goldwyn had a marvelous way with the English language. More often than not, English placed second. I recently came across a great line attributed to him: “ ‘Too caustic?’ To hell with the cost. If it’s a good picture, we’ll make it.” This in turn prompted me to search out other Goldwynisms.

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Samuel Goldwyn, né Szmuel Gelbfisz, 1879–1974, Polish-born American film producer extraordinaire. Image from hollywoodsgoldenage.com.

This Polish-born film producer came to the U.S. in 1899, by way of Birmingham, England, where he changed his name to Samuel Goldfish, and then, in 1898, to Canada.

By 1916, he had changed his name to Goldwyn. Twice, he got involved with the fledgling movie industry’s production and distribution, first with one company that evolved into Paramount Pictures, then with another as the G in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Goldwyn resigned from each of these companies and, in 1924, he founded Samuel Goldwyn Productions, sans distribution arm. For the next 35 years, he was the most successful independent film producer in the U.S.

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Publicity placard for the film Hurricane, 1939.

In 1946, Goldwyn was given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1957, the same organization gave him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In 1971, Richard Nixon presented him with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Samuel Goldwyn died in 1974, age 94.

But not before he gave the world malaprops delighting one and all. Here’s a selection of things he said, or might not have said:

“Include me out.”

When asked where he got a Picasso painting, Goldwyn replied, “I don’t remember. In Paris. Somewhere over there on the Left Wing.”

“I don’t think anybody should write his autobiography until after he’s dead.”

Warned that a proposed film project, the book The Well of Loneliness, was about lesbians, Goldwyn said, “That’s all right, we’ll make them Hungarians.”

“I’m willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

Chiding a bridge partner for overbidding: “But didn’t you hear me keeping still?”

“In two words: im-possible,” though Charlie Chaplin also took credit for this one.

In fact, the Wikiquote entry for Samuel Goldwyn lists more misattributed ones than genuine Goldwynisms. It also cites a line from the Cole Porter song, Anything Goes: “When Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction/ Instruct Anna Sten in diction,/ then Anna shows, / Anything goes!”

Here are some possible non-Goldwynisms, good ones despite their dubious origin:

“We can get all the Indians we need at the reservoir.”

“I read part of it all the way through.”

“Anyone who would go to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.”

“… the next time I send a damn fool for something, I go myself.” This one has also been attributed to film director (and fellow English-mangler) Michael Curtiz. It was Curtiz who told detractors, “You think I know f–k nothing, but you’re wrong. I know f–k all.”

By comparison, today’s movie industry seems dull. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

5 comments on “THE (UNINTENDED) WIT OF SAMUEL GOLDWYN

  1. Skip Cusack
    September 19, 2016

    Dennis, thanks for the laugh. Just what I needed.

  2. sabresoftware
    September 19, 2016

    “This Polish-born film producer came to the U.S. in 1899 by way of Birmingham, England, where he changed his name to Samuel Goldfish, and then, in 1898, to Canada.” – The sequence has me somewhat confused, should it be 1898 then 1899, or was Birmingham prior to 1898? Minor quibble, but chronology just didn’t quite work for me.

    • simanaitissays
      September 20, 2016

      Sorry for contorted syntax: Born in Poland. Then Birmingham, with (first) name change. Then Canada (as stepping stone to U.S.) in ’98. Finally, in ’99, arrived in U.S. (via the other two).
      I’ve now inserted a comma after 1899.

      • sabresoftware
        September 20, 2016

        Amazing how one little punctuation mark can change/clarify the meaning of a sentence!

  3. simanaitissays
    September 20, 2016

    A favorite is “Let’s eat, mother.”

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2016 by in And Furthermore... and tagged , .
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