Paraprosdokian: I had a lovely evening, but this wasn't it (disclaimed by Groucho)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 14 21:01:23 UTC 2012

I've had a wonderful evening but this wasn’t it.

The word paraprosdokian was discussed on the list recently, and I was
reminded of the classic insult of this type which is given above. This
statement is usually ascribed to Groucho Marx and the Yale Book of
Quotations has an example in 1988. The earliest evidence I've located
credited the comment to a less well-known comedian named Hugh Herbert.

Cite: 1936 October 14, Augusta Chronicle, Hollywood by Sidney Skolsky,
Page 4, Column 4, Augusta, Georgia. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
Hugh Herbert leaving a party, said to the hostess: "I had a lovely
evening, but this wasn't it."
[End excerpt]

A not yet verified citation with an approximate year of 1940
attributed the quip to an actor named Walter Catlett.

Cite: Circa 1940, Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan,
Article title is probably: I Cover Hollywood, Start Page 55, Quote
Page 119, International Magazine Co., New York. (Google Book snippet
view; Not yet verified; Data may be inaccurate)
[Begin extracted text]
Director Ratoff was thinking of using the best line ever pulled at a
Hollywood party as a tag for his party sequence. It actually occurred,
however, when Walter Catlett, on leaving a swanky party, said to the
hostess, "I had a lovely evening, but this wasn't it."
[End extracted text]

In 1941 the Reader's Digest attached the words to Groucho Marx. A
footnote indicated that the performer Eddie Cantor supplied the
quotation and ascription.

Cite: 1941 March, Reader's Digest, Volume 38, Party Chatter, Page 116,
The Reader’s Digest Association. (Verified on microfilm)
{Begin excerpt]
"I've had a wonderful evening," said Groucho Marx to his hostess as he
was leaving a dull Hollywood party, "but this wasn't it!"*
* Contributed by Eddie Cantor
[End excerpt]

Also in 1941 a slightly different wording for the comment was credited
to Groucho in an Iowa newspaper.

Cite: 1941 March 13, The Alden Times, "School Chatter: Fifth Column",
Page 5, Column 3, Alden, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)
[Begin excerpt]
"I've had a wonderful time," said Groucho Marx to the hostess on
leaving the dull party, "but this wasn't it."
[End excerpt]

In 1946 Groucho was featured in a slightly extended version of the anecdote.

Cite: 1946 October 30, Omaha World Herald, Anecdotes of the Famous:
Enjoyment, Page 8, Column 1, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)
[Begin excerpt]
Comedian Groucho Marx attended a dull dinner party, which kept him
yawning all evening. As he was preparing to depart, the hostess said:
"I hope you had a pleasant time, Mr. Marx!"
"I had a wonderful time," cracked Groucho, but this wasn't it."
[End excerpt]

In 1962 Groucho wrote an article published in a newspaper supplement
called "This Week Magazine". He disclaimed the joke by writing: "I
never made that mean remark in real life." This leaves open the
possibility that Groucho used the quip in a comedy routine or
monologue. But I have not found direct evidence for this.

Cite: 1962 March 11, Salt Lake Tribune, Section: This Week Magazine,
Groucho's Who's Who of Great Ha-Ha's by Groucho Marx with Leslie
Lieber, Subsection title: Groucho didn't say it, Page 15, [NArch Page
138], Salt Lake City, Utah. (NewspaperArchive)
[Begin excerpt]
That grouchy Shaw crack reminds me of a rebuff I'm supposed to have
uncorked as I took leave of my hostess at a Hollywood dinner-party;
"I've had a wonderful evening, Madame; but this wasn't it."

Cross my heart, I never made that mean remark in real life.
[End excerpt]


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