If you don’t have anything nice to say . . .

A few years ago, at a local book fair, I picked up a book called If you don’t have anything nice to say . . . come sit next to me. What a find! Compiled by Coral Amende, this 1994 book is fairly bursting at the binding with catty comments, snarky sayings, and acerbic asides. Reading through the sections by and about classic movie stars is like being a fly on the wall at a ritzy Hollywood cocktail party, full of juicy gossip and back stabbing o’ plenty!

Here are some of my favorites:

Groucho Marx on Chico Marx:

“Now there sits a man with an open mind. You can feel the draft from here.”

She could curse like a poet.

She could curse like a poet.

William Wellman on Carole Lombard:

“She was the only woman I’ve ever known who could say four-letter words and make it come out poetry.”

Herman Mankiewicz on Louis B. Mayer:

“He had the memory of an elephant and the hide of an elephant. The only difference is that elephants are vegetarians and Mayer’s diet was his fellow man.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor on George Sanders:

“We were both in love with him…I fell out of love with him, but he didn’t.”

Joan Crawford on Norma Shearer:

“I love to play bitches and she certainly helped me in the part.”

Wallace Beery on Gloria Swanson:

“Damned if she didn’t keep on getting married! I got her into an awful bad habit.”

Joseph Cotten on Orson Welles:

“I know little about Orson’s childhood and seriously doubt if he ever was a child.”

Kirk Douglas? Difficult?

Kirk Douglas? Difficult?

Burt Lancaster on Kirk Douglas:

“Kirk would be the first to tell you he’s a difficult man. I would be the second.”

Ernst Lubitsch on Greta Garbo:

“Gary Cooper and Greta Garbo are the same person. After all, have you ever seen them in a movie together?”

Robert Mitchum on Greer Garson:

“I gave up being serious about making pictures years ago, around the time I made a film with Greer Garson and she took 125 takes to say ‘No.’”

Howard Hughes on Clark Gable:

“Clark Gable’s ears make him look like a taxicab with both doors open.”

And how was YOUR day?


~ by shadowsandsatin on November 18, 2013.

7 Responses to “If you don’t have anything nice to say . . .”

  1. Movie Morlocks had a great post, and many comments, on insults : http://moviemorlocks.com/2011/08/11/they-said-what-classic-insults-from-classic-actors/
    Then there is a great page of Noel Coward comments: http://www.musicals101.com/noelquot.htm

    Re-reading the MovieMorlocks post I really like this one, which is a great stab at Method Acting: ““I didn’t know what to make of Patty Duke’s erratic behavior. I thought she was a Method actress but then I was informed she was manic depressive” – Elsa Lanchester”
    When I was young, enthusiastic and not so discriminating, I admired most method actors in almost everything. But now I see that often they are trying too hard. I watch some performannce & think “Uh oh, your Method is showing!.” I really understand why old stage trained professionals scoff at the style.

    • Thanks for sharing this post, Muriel — I love that Lanchester quote! I will have to pay closer attention to the Method actors and see if I share your conclusion.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I’d even prefer my actors to ad lib if they can say the intent of the line better than the actual written words. After all, everyone else’s got their hands in my script…

  2. HA HA! Loved the quote from Ernst Lubitsch about Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper. Hilarious!

    Great quotes you’ve selected for us.

  3. I recommend David Mamet’s short book of advice & essays “True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor”
    It’s a short book, full of common sense about the profession of theater and acting.


  5. Love Burt Lancaster’s quote!

    These are hilarious.

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