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Great Hollywood Wit: A Glorious Cavalcade of Hollywood Wisecracks, Zingers, Japes, Quips, Slings, Jests, Snappers, & Sass from the Stars

Great Hollywood Wit: A Glorious Cavalcade of Hollywood Wisecracks, Zingers, Japes, Quips, Slings, Jests, Snappers, & Sass from the Stars

by Gene Shalit

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Great Hollywood Wit rollicks with hilarious movie lines and backstage zingers-smart, tart, and (in Sir John Gielgud's case) wicked: "Ingrid Bergman speaks five languages and can't act in any of them." Julia Roberts, fashion buff: "I only put clothes on so that I'm not naked when I go out shopping." Retiring Burt Reynolds: "You can only hold your


Great Hollywood Wit rollicks with hilarious movie lines and backstage zingers-smart, tart, and (in Sir John Gielgud's case) wicked: "Ingrid Bergman speaks five languages and can't act in any of them." Julia Roberts, fashion buff: "I only put clothes on so that I'm not naked when I go out shopping." Retiring Burt Reynolds: "You can only hold your stomach in for so many years."

Great Hollywood Wit is an unequaled cavalcade of hilarity that you'll laugh through again and again. A wonderful one-of-a-kind gift.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shalit, the longtime Today Show film critic with the unmistakable moustache, here serves up a goulash of Tinseltown's best witticisms. Many are familiar, like Groucho Marx's "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception," or Mae West's "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful." Others are less celebrated but still amusing, such as Woody Allen's "I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear." Especially dishy are Shalit's tales about old-school Hollywood power brokers, including Jack Warner and Sam Goldwyn, who had a Yogi Berra-esque way with words. Shalit divides the book loosely by theme-e.g., the chapter entitled "Shooting Stars" shares quotes from celebrities about other celebrities, and in "Booray For Hollywood," the stars share their thoughts on Tinseltown. Readers may not find belly laughs in here, but with such a storehouse of famous quips, it's hard for Shalit to miss. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.53(d)

Read an Excerpt

Great Hollywood Wit

By Gene Shalit

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Gene Shalit
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8048-7


Shooting Stars

(mostly at each other)

* * *

Every actor has a natural animosity toward every other actor, present or absent, living or dead.


That Heston is a nice guy, but what a hamola.

ALDO RAY, actor

Shirley MacLaine — who does she think she isn't?

YVES MONTAND, French actor, reflecting on MacLaine's past lives

Get John out of the saddle and you've got trouble.

JOAN CRAWFORD, actress, describing John Wayne, actor

I'm no actor, and I have sixty-four pictures to prove it.


Alec Baldwin is this big new alleged sex symbol. But he has eyes like a weasel. He makes Clint Eastwood look like a flirt.


She ought to know about closeups. Jesus, she was around when they invented them! The bitch has been around forever!

BETTE DAVIS, when told Lillian Gish looked wonderful in a close-up in The Whales of August

Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at the same time.

DIRK BOGARDE, actor, to Julie Christie, actress, in Darling (1965)

My jokes are one of the reasons Liz Taylor went on a diet. When I took her to SeaWorld and Shamu the Whale jumped out of the water, she asked if it came with vegetables.

JOAN RIVERS, actress, comedienne on Elizabeth Taylor, actress

There is not enough money in Hollywood to lure me into making another picture with Joan Crawford. And I like money.

STERLING HAYDEN, actor, of Joan Crawford, actress

That obstinate, suspicious, egocentric, maddening, and lovable genius of a problem child.

MARY PICKFORD describing Charlie Chaplin.

I've always hated that damn James Bond. I'd like to kill him.


Heston's the only man who could drop out of a cubic moon, he's so square. The trouble with him is he doesn't think he's just a hired actor, like the rest of us. He thinks he's the entire production. He used to sit there in the mornings and clock us with a stopwatch.

RICHARD HARRIS, Heston's costar in Major Dundee (1965)

Clark Gable's an idiot. You know why he's an actor? It's the only thing he's smart enough to do.


I didn't know Judy Garland well, but after watching her in action I didn't want to know her well.


He's the sort of guy if you say, "Hiya, Clark, how are ya?" he's stuck for an answer.

AVA GARDNER, actress, describing ex-lover Clark Gable, actor

[Katharine Hepburn] is a legend, but once you get beyond that, she's just a cranky old broad ...

NICK NOLTE after they starred in the failure Grace Quigley (1984)

I'm not nearly as cranky as I should have been with him. ... He was getting drunk in every gutter in town.

KATHARINE HEPBURN, actress, responding to Nolte, actor

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a farce. In a more sophisticated culture, he would have remained a body cultist. In America, he is not only a movie star, he has political power. The son of a Nazi, yet what the father did should be separate from what the son does. But this Schwarzenegger, he invites the ex-Nazi president of Austria [Kurt Waldheim] to his wedding with a girl who is of the Kennedy family, a family of Democrats! He has no shame and sense of what is appropriate or decent.

YVES MONTAND, French actor

Katharine Hepburn's film debut came in 1932 with A Bill of Divorcement, playing the daughter of John Barrymore. Afterward Hepburn told him, "Thank goodness I don't have to act with you anymore." Barrymore slyed back, "I didn't know you ever had, darling."

At the RKO studios, Hepburn was called "Katharine of Arrogance." Not without reason, as I could tell you — but why bother? I really have nothing to say about Miss Hepburn which you can print.


Ann Sothern is a lovely person, a fine actress. She has been underrated, but she's lost her sense of self-discipline — she no longer believes in eating on an empty stomach.

BETTE DAVIS, actress

Where else but in America can a poor black boy like Michael Jackson grow up to be a rich white woman?


How did Tinseltown get so ugly? Why is it today's actors look like male hookers? Alec Baldwin, Richard Gere, Kiefer Sutherland ... they look like they haven't slept for days — except perhaps for money.


If Peter O'Toole had been any prettier, it would have been Florence of Arabia.

NOEL COWARD, actor, writer, composer

[Bob] Hope is not a comedian. He just translates what others write for him.


Gina Lollobrigida's personality is limited. She is good playing a peasant but is incapable of playing a lady. That said, I don't think she's positively mad about me.


I do not talk about Sophia Loren. I do not wish to make for her publicity. She has a talent, but not such a big talent.


And you can tell Miss Shearer that I didn't get where I am on my ass.

JOAN CRAWFORD with a message for Norma Shearer [married to her boss, Irving Thalberg]

It was like kissing Hitler.

TONY CURTIS, actor, after filming a scene with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot

I have never been a fan of Woody Allen's. I'm sorry. Somebody closed the door on me there. God knows, many people say he's the funniest in the world, but I've never been able to appreciate his humor. I find him neurotic.


Kathleen Turner's okay in stills. When she talks and moves about, she reminds me of someone who works in a supermarket.

ANN SOTHERN, actress

Ingrid Bergman speaks five languages and can't act in any of them.

JOHN GIELGUD, actor, director

You always knew where you were with Errol Flynn — he always lets you down.


No wonder Clara Bow had It. She caught It from receiving too many passes from too many football players.


Doing love scenes with Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind was not that romantic. His dentures smelled something awful.


Wet she's a star, dry she ain't.

JOE PASTERNAK, actor, about swimming actress Esther Williams

I'm not upset about my divorce from Tom Arnold. I'm only upset I'm not a widow.


She is her biggest fan. If Kathleen Turner had been a man, I would have punched her out long ago.


He's the type of man who will end up dying in his own arms.

MAMIE VAN DOREN, actress, regarding Warren Beatty, actor

Joan always cried a lot. Her tear ducts must be close to her bladder.

BETTE DAVIS, actress, regarding Joan Crawford, actress

Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons [Hollywood columnists]. They were bitches.


Go figure those two. Hedda Hopper was homophobic, and her only child was homosexual. Louella was anti-Semitic, yet she was born Jewish, then converted. They were a demented pair, and Hollywood was even more demented for allowing them so much power over people's careers and lives.


Mr. Dean appears to be wearing my last year's wardrobe and using my last year's talent.

MARLON BRANDO, actor, in 1955, regarding James Dean.

Garbo had this androgynous quality. If she'd been American, I think the ladies in the audience would have thought her sort of dykey.


An actor's a guy who, if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.


Bette and I are very good friends. There's nothing I wouldn't say to her face — both of them.

TALLULAH BANKHEAD, actress about Bette Davis, actress

I acted vulgar. Madonna is vulgar.


That broad's got a great future behind her. ...

CONSTANCE BENNETT, actress, on newcomer Marilyn Monroe, actress

She's jumped right into the movie game, but I think people should learn to act first.

ROSEANNE BARR, comedienne, actress, regarding Madonna's role in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

Well at least he has finally found his true love. What a pity he can't marry himself.

FRANK SINATRA, singer, actor, regarding Robert Redford, actor

Dramatic art, in her opinion, is knowing how to fill a sweater.

BETTE DAVIS, actress, regarding Jayne Mansfield, actress

It's a new low for actresses when you have to wonder what's between her ears instead of her legs.

KATHARINE HEPBURN, actress, regarding Sharon Stone, actress

[Bob Hope] is an applause junkie. Instead of growing old gracefully and doing something with his money, all he does is have an anniversary with the President looking on. He's a pathetic guy.


Tallulah was sitting with a group of people, giving the monologue she always thought was conversation.


I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception.

GROUCHO MARX, actor, comedian

When Mary of Scotland (1936) was being filmed, Queen Elizabeth was played by Florence Eldridge, and Katharine had the title role. But Hepburn wanted to play both roles, and she kept yapping and yapping until the whole cast was fed up. Finally, John Carradine confronted her: "If you played both parts, how would you know which queen to upstage?"

Claudette Colbert kept forgetting her lines, and tempers were hot. Miss Colbert apologized, "I knew these lines backward last night," to which Noel Coward shot back, "And that's the way you're saying them this morning."

I married a designer [Oleg Cassini]. The thing is, I wasn't the only person he had designs on.


I am free of all prejudices. I hate every one equally.

W. C. FIELDS, unique comic actor, writer, juggler

The son of a bitch is a ballet dancer! He's the best ballet dancer that ever lived, and if I get a good chance, I'll strangle him with my bare hands.

W. C. FIELDS, unique comic actor, writer, juggler after viewing a Charlie Chaplin movie

Sheesh! I'd hate to have his nerve in my tooth.

LUCILLE BALL'S view of Orson Welles, director, actor

Ricardo Montalban is to improvisational acting what Mount Rushmore is to animation.


It's hard to believe Anna Magnani won the Academy Award and not Susan Hayward! Shouldn't they have separate categories for foreigners? I mean, they're called the Oscars, not the Raviolis.

WARD BOND, actor

Don Ameche got an award for break-dancing in Cocoon, only all his dancing was done by a stunt double. Doesn't the dancer deserve his own junior Oscar?


Hollywood's dumbest blonde never even made a Hollywood picture. It is Brigitte Bardot. She is — she was — beautiful in an overripe way. But she was and remains cheap, petty, jealous, bigoted, and untalented. She also tries to kill herself every few years without success. I hope she never succeeds, but one wonders if she is very good at anything?

YVES MONTAND, French actor

You know, once they're dead, death just scrubs [celebrities] clean.

Everybody says, "Oh, they were wonderful." Suddenly, Grace Kelly didn't drink.

JOAN RIVERS, comedienne

She's the original good time that was had by all.

BETTE DAVIS, actress on starlet Marilyn Monroe

It must be tough having a beautiful mother like Cher and being named Chastity. I guess the only thing worse would be being beautiful and being named Slut.

AVA GARDNER, actress

Orson Welles Summed It Up Ruefully

Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that's printed about him.


Samuel Goldwyn, a King of Producers

(The Lord of Apocrypha)

* * *

Anyone who sees a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Samuel Goldfish (approximately) was born into a poor family in Warsaw on August 7, 1882. Orphaned early, he waved do widzenia to Poland and crossed the Atlantic, arriving in New York in 1896 at age fourteen, with a name so infested with consonants that Goldfish was the nearest pronunciation the Ellis Island clerk could come up with.

By the time he died in California at age ninety-one (his name long before changed to Goldwyn), he was a motion picture colossus who had enriched America's culture and society.

As the immigrant boy, he sold gloves in upstate New York, saved his money, and went west to get in on the emerging movie industry. A smart, irascible, difficult egoist, he made his way quickly, and by 1923 he was an important independent producer. The key word was independent. "When you have a partner, you don't need an enemy," he said.

Samuel Goldwyn was a perfectionist with a volcanic temper. He knew what he wanted when he wanted it, and he wanted the best. Once established, he hired the finest writers he could find. He even had the chutzpah to offer movie contracts to George Bernard Shaw and Sigmund Freud.

He worshiped at the altar of talent. Then he altered the talent. "He screamed at them, beat them to a frazzle, argued with them, and praised them when he got the picture he wanted." The writer Ben Hecht said Goldwyn dealt with creative people like "an irritated man shaking a slot machine."

But consider the results:

Wuthering Heights, The Pride of the Yankees, Arrowsmith, Dodsworth, Stella Dallas, Dead End, The Westerner, The Little Foxes, and The Best Years of Our Lives, winner of the 1946 Academy Award for Best Picture. He was so proud of it that he proclaimed, "I don't care if the picture makes a nickel. I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it."

His immaculate productions of good taste and high quality, produced on a grand scale, were praised for having "that Goldwyn touch."

I'll tell you what else had "that Goldwyn touch": English. After he got through with it.

So much of his speech was merrily mangled that his remarks were savored, passed around, and collected as "Goldwynisms." Many are genuine. Some are aprocraphyl. All are as delightful as are the remarks of Mrs. Malaprop (created by Richard Sheridan in 1775). It was she who said, "He is the very pineapple of politeness."

When an aide suggested that a screenplay was too caustic, Goldwyn said, "Who cares about the expense?"

But while making another movie, he ordered his staff to "spare no expense to make everything as economical as possible."

In 1934, when Goldwyn sought the movie rights to Lillian Hellman's Broadway hit The Children's Hour, a staffer protested: "Mr. Goldwyn, you can't buy that property. It's about lesbians." Goldwyn shrugged: "So we'll make them Albanians."

He made that one into a hit in 1936, retitled These Three, with neither Albanians nor lesbians. When its director William Wellman switched one night scene to daylight, Goldwyn stormed at him: "Nobody can change night into day, or vice versa, without asking me first."

* * *

When James Thurber complained that the adaptation of his fantasy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was too violent, Goldwyn attempted to soothe him: "I'm sorry you felt it was too blood and thirsty."

Thurber replied, "Not only did I think so, but I was horror and struck."

* * *

I had a great idea this morning, but I didn't like it.

* * *

What we want is a story that starts with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.

* * *

Informed that some more Indians were needed as extras for a Western, Goldwyn had the solution: "Get some more from the reservoir."

* * *

After a preview: "It will create an excitement that will sweep the country like wildflowers."

* * *

Defensive about a flop: "Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn't see it."

* * *

To a writer: "Let's have some new clichés."

* * *

And again: "Let's bring it up to date with some snappy nineteenth-century dialogue."

* * *

Cryptic: "It's more than magnificent — it's mediocre."

* * *

Fatalistic: "If people don't want to go to a picture, nobody can stop them."

* * *

During a story conference: "I read part of the book all the way through."

* * *

Dismissive: "I don't pay any attention to him. I don't even ignore him."

* * *

Inviting differing opinions: "I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs!"

* * *

To the author Sidney Kingsley: "If you don't disagree with me, how will I know I'm right?"

* * *

To an assistant: "I challenge you to give me a frank, affirmative answer: yes or no."

* * *

Problems? No problem: "I don't care about that; it rolls off my back like a duck."

* * *

Irritated: "That makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up."

* * *

Decisive: "I'll give you a definite maybe."

* * *

Goldwyn, when partly complimentary: "You are partly one hundred percent right."

* * *

Goldwyn, when biwordly adamant: "I can answer you in two words. Im Possible."

* * *

Declining a risk: "I would be sticking my head in a moose."


Excerpted from Great Hollywood Wit by Gene Shalit. Copyright © 2002 Gene Shalit. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gene Shalit is one of America's most popular movie critics and anthologists of humor. It would be difficult to find another personality who has appeared on the same daily network TV show for thirty straight years, which is Shalit's still-continuing record on NBC's Today. He lives in Western Massachusetts with Fellini D. Katt, named to resonate with feline, film, and Shalit's friend and hero, the late Italian director.

Shalit prefers pasta to popcorn but advocates eating neither at the movies.

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