Polish-American movie producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) was known for his malapropisms, or “Goldwynisms.” In August and September 1934, several stories emerged about Goldwyn in a writers’ conference. One person at the conference said that a particular writer would be perfect—the names of Sidney Howard (1891-1939) and Moss Hart (1904-1961) were suggested in two story versions—but another person mentioned that the writer shouldn’t be hired because he’s too caustic. “Too caustic?” Goldwyn allegedly replied. “To hell with the cost! Hire him!” A more general ending became, ‘To hell with the cost, we’ll make the picture anyway!”
It’s not known for certain if the story is true, or if a Goldwyn aide released a fiction to the Hollywood press. A similar “too caustic” joke appeared earlier, January 1930, and involved two unidentified “Hollywood magnates.” A May 1930 version cited an unidentified film producer and a June 1930 version mentioned an unidentified movie producer. An April 1934 version was spoken by the comedy team of George Burns (1896-1996) and Gracie Allen (1895-1964). The “too caustic” malaprop is a now business classic.
[This quotation was also examined by the Quote Investigator. Additional research was conducted by Bill Mullins of the American Dialect Society.]
caustic (comparative more caustic, superlative most caustic)
1. Capable of burning, corroding or destroying organic tissue.
2. (of language etc.) Sharp, bitter, cutting, biting, and sarcastic in a scathing way.
Wikipedia: Samuel Goldwyn
Samuel Goldwyn (born Szmuel Gelbfisz (Yiddish: שמואל גלבפֿיש); August 17 1879 – January 31, 1974), also known as Samuel Goldfish, was 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.
Samuel Goldwyn was also known for malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called ‘Goldwynisms’ ("A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruous or contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.") 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 “Include me out.”
IMDb.com (The Internet Movie Database)
Too caustic? To hell with the costs, we’ll make the picture anyway.
9 January 1930, Scranton (PA) Republican, “On Broadway” by Walter Winchell, pg. 5, col. 2:
Then there’s a quip that Robert C. Benchley spread around the Fulton theater foyer the other first-night. It concerns the two Hollywood movie magnates who graduated to the Gold Coast from the Garment Centre. They were in conference trying to save a picture that lacked, what critics usually call, “a wallop.”
“If we could only get someone to fix it up,” said one.
‘Why don’t you get Jim Tully,” suggested an executive.
“Jim Tully is too caustic!”
“Oh,” thundered one of the magnates, “the devil with the cost, get him.”
20 May 1930, Oneonta (NY) Daily Star, “The Cost,” pg. 9, col. 2:
The film producer was in difficulty about the leading man for his new film.
“What about So-and-so?” he asked.
“He’s too caustic,” said the studio manager.
“Hang the expense!” roared the producer. “Get him!”—Tit-Bits.
22 June 1930, Coshocton (OH) Tribune, “Smiles,” pg. 4, col. 3:
Movie Producer—What about Mr. Rosenblatt for the leading part in the next film?
Assistant—Why, he’s too caustic.
Movie Producer—Hang the expense—get him!
15 April 1934, Amarillo (TX) Sunday News and Globe, pg. 9, col. 2:
BURNS AND ALLEN IN RIALTO SHOW
George Burna and Gracie Allen were discussing hiring a Hollywood writer to work up new gags for use in their latest film, “Six of a Kind,” now showing at the Rialto.
Gracie favored one writer who is noted for his cynical style, but George objected.
“He won’t do, Gracie,” Burns insisted. “He’s too caustic.”
“But George,” retorted Gracie, “we shouldn’t think of the expense in a case like this.”
11 August 1934, The New Yorker, “The Talk of the Town: No Objection”, pg. 8, col. 1:
As usual, we’ve got a couple of those Hollywood stories. One’s about a big producer who told an assistant that in his opinion Sidney Howard was the only man for a certain writing assignment they had under consideration. The aide was tactfully doubtful. “Don’t you think perhaps he’s a little too caustic?” he suggested. “Do I care how much he costs?” demanded the producer. “Get him!”
25 September 1934, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, ‘The Theater” by Arthur Pollack, pg. 21, cols. 2-3:
It’s a favorite story about Sam Goldwyn that bobs up now and again and this time Eddie Cantor is the one who relays it. His “Kid Millions” by the way has been previewed and looks swell-o.
According to the legend, Goldwyn was sitting in a story conference with several of his writers. He was complaining that he couldn’t quite get the story slant he wanted.
“I know the ideal man to patch this up for you,” suggested one of the writers. “Why not get Moss Hart. He’s the man who wrote ‘As Thousands Cheer’ and he might be able to supply the very things this story lacks.”
“Oh no,” protested another writer, “not Moss Hart. He’s much too caustic.”
“Too caustic!” exclaimed Sam in that inimitable dialect. “What do I care about the costs! Get him!”
The Great Goldwyn
By Alva Johnston
New York, NY: Random House
“It’s too caustic,” said a director, when asked his opinion of a script.
“To hell with the cost,” replied Sam. “If it’s a good picture, we’ll make it.”
21 July 1938, San Diego (CA) Union, “Film Censorship Lightens” by Maurice Savage, pg. 5-A, col. 1:
Speaking of “caustic commentators” brings to mind a story told about Samuel Goldwyn. In a story conference, Goldwyn suggested that a certain writer be hired.
Yes man No. 1 said: “Mr. Goldwyn, we don’t want that man around here, he’s too caustic.”
“I don’t care what he costs,” Goldwyn is credited as replying, “just get his name on a contract.”
They Never Said It:
A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions
By Paul F. Boller and John H. George
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
CAUSTIC QUOTE: “To hell with the cost. If it’s a good story, I’ll make it.”
One day Goldwyn’s associates at the studio came to him to warn against a certain property because “it’s too caustic for films.” “To hell with the cost,” Goldwyn is supposed to have exclaimed. “If it’s a good story, I’ll make it.” But Arthur Marx, Goldwyn’s biographer, relegated this story to the large body of Goldwyn apocrypha and thought it was coined either by a gag man for a Goldwyn picture or by a press agent.
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