[Ads-l] Antedating "off the cuff" in the sense of impromptu

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 10 18:38:14 EDT 2018


Several years ago Stephen Goranson posted an earliest known example of "off the cuff", in the sense of impromptu or without a plan, from the Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1927.  The suggestion is that film directors shot movies based on notes written on their shirt cuffs, rather than from a formal script.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2012-August/121545.html


I have found a few earlier examples of the impromptu sense of the expression in the movie industry which both elaborate on the cuff-writing phenomenon.  The earliest one does not exactly use the expression, but it describes the practice.  The one from Photoplay magazine uses "shoot from the cuff" and the one from Hollywood Vagabond magazine that same month uses, "shoot it off the cuff."


Camera!, Volume 4, Number 17, August 6, 1921, page 7.  Screen Writers’ Forum.

[Excerpt]

The pleasant story about Rupert Hughes writing his scenarios upon his cuffs, ran out about the time that his supply of linen was exhausted.  You see, he had to proceed farther than the cuffs.  He says he does not care about the expense, but a careless washerwoman eradicated a $10,000 tale with a 5-cent bar of soap once, and now he’s off the cuff system for life.

[End]


Photoplay,April  1926, Volume 29, Number 5, page 50.

[Excerpt]

You see, Mickey Nielen is famous for being one of the few surviving directors who “shoot from the cuff” – which means the only script he ever has is what’s in his  head, aided by an occasional note on the cuff.

[End]


Hollywood Vagabond, Volume 1, Number 12, April 28, 1927, page 5.

[Excerpt]

“We don’t step on the set until we know exactly what we’re going to do,” Menjou was saying.  “We don’t get out here in the lights and then try to find out what’s going to happen.  We read the script, know the story and throw the script away.  Then we come out on the set and shoot it off the cuff.  But we always know what we’re shooting.  To try to make pictures from a cut-and-dried scenario formula isn’t exactly provocative to originality."

[End]


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