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Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking: Out of Goldwyn’s Mouth Sprang Gems

By Tom Morrow

Samuel Goldwyn was born Aug. 17, 1879, a Jewish Polish-American film producer. He was most well-known for being the founding contributor and executive of several motion picture studios in Hollywood. His awards include the 1973 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1947, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1958.

Goldwyn was born in Warsaw, Kingdom of Poland, Russian Empire, to a Hasidic, Polish Jewish family. At an early age, Goldwyn left Warsaw on foot and penniless. He made his way to Birmingham, United Kingdom.

In 1898, he emigrated to the United States and found work in upstate Gloversville, New York, in the bustling garment business. Soon his innate marketing skills made him a very successful salesman at the Elite Glove Company. After four years, as vice-president of sales, he moved back to New York City.

Samuel Goldwyn was known for malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called Goldwynisms, a humorous statement being frequently quoted. For example, he was reported to have said, “I don’t think anybody should write his autobiography until after he’s dead.” and another gem, “Include me out.”

Upon being told that a book he had purchased for filming, The Well of Loneliness, couldn’t be produced because it was about lesbians, to which he replied: “That’s all right, we’ll make them Hungarians.” The same story was told about the 1934 rights to The Children’s Hour with the response “That’s okay; we’ll turn them into Armenians.”

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

In 1946, the year he was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Goldwyn’s drama, The Best Years of Our Lives, starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In the 1950s Samuel Goldwyn turned to making a number of musicals including the 1952 hit Hans Christian Andersen with Danny Kaye, and the 1955 hit Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine, which was based on the equally successful Broadway musical. This was the only independent film that Goldwyn ever released through MGM..

On March 27, 1971, Goldwyn was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.

Some of Goldwyn’s utterances that will live on: “I would be sticking my head in a moose.” “I read part of it all the way through.” “I’ll write you a blanket check.” “He treats me like the dirt under my feet.” “The publicity of this picture is sweeping the country like wildflowers.” “Our comedies are not to be laughed at.” “Let’s bring it up to date with some snapping nineteenth-century dialogue.” “I’ve been laid up with intentional flu.” “You’ve got to  take the bull between the teeth.”

Also: “I want make a picture about the Russian secret police – the GOP.” “I have a monumental idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.” “The trouble with these directors is they’re always biting the hand that lays the golden egg.” When told a picture under consideration was one with a message, Goldwyn reportedly replied: “If I want to send a message I’ll do it with a telegram!”

Goldwyn died at his home in Los Angeles in 1974. In the 1980s, Samuel Goldwyn Studio was sold to Warner Bros. There is a theater named after him in Beverly Hills and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1631 Vine Street for his contributions to motion pictures on Feb. 8, 1960.

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