Thursday, November 20, 2014

Goldfish and Goldwyn

“A self-made man may prefer a self-made name.”

- Judge Learned Hand, 1923

Born Billings Learned Hand (1872-1961), Judge Learned Hand was an American judge and philosopher. Highly regarded as a judge and as a defender of civil liberties, he remains a highly quoted figure in both law and philosophy. The second and last child of Samuel Hand and Lydia Learned, He dropped the name “Billings” when aged 27, believing that it sounded pompous.

Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) was born Szmul Gelbfisz in Warsaw, Poland to a Hasidic Jewish family. At a young age he travelled to England where he began using the name Samuel Goldfish. In 1899 he moved to the US and became involved in the motion picture industry. In 1916 he and partners Edgar and Archibald Selwyn combined their names to form Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. He used the name Goldwyn thereafter.

In 1923 Goldwyn, no longer with Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, intended to form Samuel Goldwyn Incorporated. Goldwyn Pictures Corporation objected, saying that the name had been theirs from the days that Samuel had been only a Goldfish. Seeking an injunction to restrain him, Goldwyn sought to legally change his Goldwyn. The suit came before Judge Learned Hand who proclaimed that “A self-made man may prefer a self-made name.” He dismissed the application to restrain and allowed the name change, but ruling that Goldwyn had to put the banner “Samuel Goldwyn presents” before his pictures.

Today Goldwyn is also remembered for his abuse of the English language . . .

"An oral contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." 

"Gentlemen, include me out."

"I've gone where the hand of man has never set foot." 

"Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined." 

"If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive." 

"They stayed away in droves." 

"Don't improve it into a flop!" 

"I don't want yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell the truth, even if it costs them their jobs." 

"I read part of it all the way through." 

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

"If I look confused it's because I'm thinking." 

"That's the trouble with directors. Always biting the hand that lays the golden egg." 

"Tell them to stand closer apart." 

"For your information, just answer me one question!" 

"You fail to overlook the crucial point." 

"In two words, impossible." 

"It's absolutely impossible, but it has possibilities." 

"Go see that turkey for yourself, and see for yourself why you shouldn't see it."
"A hospital is no place to be sick." 

"Give me a couple of years, and I'll make that actress an overnight success." 

"If I were in this business only for the business, I wouldn't be in this business." 

"I'm willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong." 

"Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day." 

"Even if they had it in the streets, I wouldn't go." -- On Mardi Gras. 

"Yes, but keep copies." -- When his secretary asked him if she should destroy files that were over ten years old. 

"True, I've been a long time making up my mind, but now I'm giving you a definite answer. I won't say yes, and I won't say no -- but I'm giving you a definite maybe." 

"I don't care if it doesn't make a nickel. I just want every man, woman, and child in America to see it." 

"A bachelor's life is no life for a single man." 

"Can she sing? She's practically a Florence Nightingale." 

"Let's have some new cliches." 

"Why did you do that? Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Sam!" -- When a friend told him he named his son Sam. 

"I paid too much for it, but it's worth it." 

"Yes, but that's our strongest weak point." -- When a reporter asked a young Samuel Goldwyn if he'd ever made a picture before. 

"The trouble with this business is the dearth of bad pictures." 

"You've got to take the bull between your teeth." 

"We have that Indian scene. We can get the Indians from the reservoir." 

"I have been laid up with intentional flu." 

"He treats me like the dirt under my feet." 

"I want to make a picture about the Russian secret police -- the GOP." 

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

"There is a statue of limitation." 

"I never put on a pair of shoes until I've worn them at least five years." 

"Never make forecasts, especially about the future." 

"I don't think anyone should write his autobiography until after he's dead." 

"Modern dancing is old fashioned." 

"This makes me so sore it gets my dandruff up." 

"Why is everything so dirty here?" Goldwyn once asked of a film director. When told it was supposed to be a slum, Goldwyn responded, "Well, this slum cost a lot of money. It should look better than an ordinary slum." 

"Keep a stiff upper chin." 

"Gentlemen, listen to me slowly." 

"Don't worry about the war. It's all over but the shooting." 

"To hell with the cost, if it's a good story, I'll make it." -- When told a particular script was "too caustic" for film. 

"Our comedies are not to be laughed at." 

"Put it out of your mind. In no time, it will be a forgotten memory."

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