A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 08, 2010
“Follow the money”

"Follow the money” is a line popularized by the film All the President’s Men (1976), about the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat (Mark Felt, it was later revealed) tells Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford) to “follow the money” to find the scandal. The line does not appear in the Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein book, All the President’s Men, and Woodward couldn’t find anything like it in his notes.

The movie’s screenwriter was William Goldman—an experienced writer who’d won a previous Academy Award for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Goldman said (see 1997 citation below): ‘’I can’t believe I made it up. I was in constant contact with Woodward while writing the screenplay. I guess he made it up.”

The line “follow the money” had been well-known Hollywood, cited in print since at least 1971. The camera and lights are told to always “follow the money”—either the highest paid star on the film or the expensive set. It’s highly possible that William Goldman heard the line “follow the money” from his many years in Hollywood.

“Follow the money” remains a popular saying in business and government. “Policy follows the money”


Wikipedia: William Goldman
William Goldman (born August 12, 1931) is an American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He lives in New York City.

Goldman has won two Academy Awards: an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for All the President’s Men.

Wikiquote: All the President’s Men (film)
All the President’s Men is a 1976 film about two journalists investigating the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula. Written by William Goldman, based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
(...)
Deep Throat: You thought I’d help out on specifics? I’ll confirm what you get, try to keep you on the right track, but that’s all. Are you guys really working? [Woodward nods] How much?
Woodward: I don’t know maybe sixteen, eighteen hours a day--we’ve got sources at Justice, the FBI, but it’s still drying up.
Deep Throat: Then there must be something, mustn’t there. Look, forget the myths the media’s created about the White House--the truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.
Woodward: If you don’t like them, why won’t you be more concrete with me?
Deep Throat: Because the press stinks too--history on the run, that’s all you’re interested in. You come up with anything?
Woodward: John Mitchell resigned as head of CREEP to spend more time with his family. That doesn’t exactly have the ring of truth. Howard Hunt’s been found--there was talk that his lawyer had 25 thousand in cash in a paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money. Always follow the money.
Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can’t tell you that.
Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that’s all. Just… follow the money.

22 August 1971, New York (NY) Times, “Don’t Give My Regards To Broadway” by Gerald Hiken, pg. D1:
I know that stars go through hell to get where they are, but that doesn’t make it easier to take their bullying, to sit through their tempers and nerves. To work with them is depressing. In Hollywood they tell the camera and lights to “follow the money.” It’s the same in New York. I learned to deal with them, to sympathize, and take their acting notes, and the notes from their agents, husbands or wives.

25 May 1975, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Movies: Malcom McDowell at Mid Career” by Mary Blume, Calendar section, pg. Q36:
Follow the money. When you’re filming, the operator will say to the director: “Where shall we go, guv?” And they say “follow the money” which means that when characters go two ways the camera follows the star.

Google Books
Cinefantastique, Volume 5
Frederick S. Clarke
1976
Pg. 36:
“It’s a big tendency in Hollywood and has been in filmmaking since the very beginning. There’s an old wise crack: ‘follow the money’ which means, when you’re in doubt as to where to point the camera, point it at the most expensive item, whether it’s the actor or the set.”

Google News Archive
29 April 1976, Bend (OR) Bulletin, “Watergate riddles remain unsolved” by Richard Street of The New Republic, pg. 6, col. 4 photo caption:
“Follow the money...who has the most to gain by shutting off presidential campaign funds?”

New York (NY) Times
On Language
Follow the Proffering Duck

By William Safire
Published: August 3, 1997
(...)
But wait: thanks to Daniel Schorr, the National Public Radio commentator whose investigative credibility includes the credential of a place on the notorious ‘’Enemies List,’’ we now have a new and disconcerting take on the origin of the famous phrase.

Schorr searched for the phrase in the journalists’ book. It wasn’t there. Nor was it in any of the Watergate reporting in the Washington Post. Follow the money first appeared in the movie ‘’All the President’s Men,’’ spoken by Hal Holbrook playing Deep Throat.

The screenplay was written by William Goldman. When Schorr called him, the famed screenwriter at first insisted that the line came from the book; when proved mistaken about that, he said: ‘’I can’t believe I made it up. I was in constant contact with Woodward while writing the screenplay. I guess he made it up.’’

Schorr then called Woodward, who could not find the phrase in his exhaustive notes of Watergate interviews. The reporter told Schorr he could no longer rely on his memory as to whether Deep Throat had said the line and was inclined to believe that Goldman had invented it.

The Times (London)
January 6, 2010
Cameron will not break his vow on marriage
The Tory leader stumbled over his marriage tax plans. But he won’t ditch them as they are at the heart of his beliefs

Daniel Finkelstein
Deep Throat didn’t tell Bob Woodward to follow the money. William Goldman made it up for the screenplay of his Watergate film All the President’s Men. The reason it became the most famous instruction ever (not) given to a journalist is because of its almost universal application. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Monday, November 08, 2010 • Permalink