Joke: How old Cary Grant? (Gar Wood 1957) (Mark Clark 1959 Sept 29) (Cary Grant 1959 Nov 8)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 28 18:22:06 UTC 2010

Ben Zimmer has a great article, "The Legend of Cary Grant's Telegram",
at the Visual Thesaurus website:

He presents the story about Cary Grant given in Time magazine on July
27, 1962. I found an earlier version in 1959. The teller of the
anecdote is identified as a comedienne:

Cite: 1959, November 8, St. Petersburg Times, Betty Beale's Washington
Letter to Gloria Biggs, Women's Editor: Capital's Crowded With
Comments, Cut-Ups, Page 17-E (GN Page 47), St. Petersburg, Florida.
(Google News Archive)

She (Celeste Holm) recalled the time a reporter interviewed Cary Grant
and found out everything she wanted to know except his age, which she
felt was too delicate a question to ask. So she sent the following
wire to his studio: "How old Cary Grant?" ... She got a reply right
away, said the comedienne. The studio wired: "Old Cary Grant fine. How

Ben Zimmer also describes a wonderful version where Gar Woods appears
instead of Cary Grant. It is dated 1957 December 14 and was found by
Sam Clements. Based on my research there may be an earlier instance of
this account in the Minneapolis Tribune. I say this because I found a
version of the Gar Woods story in Reader's Digest for the same year
and month: 1957 December. The Reader's Digest attributes the story to
the Tribune.

Cite: 1957 December, The Reader's Digest, News Beat, Page 119 (GN Page
Number 117 is incorrect), Volume 71, The Reader's Digest Association.
(Google Books snippet view) (Verified on paper)

A crusty old newspaperman, who has worked all over the world, has one
pet hate. It is editors who don't bother to check handy reference
sources, but instead wire last-minute queries to far-flung reporters.
Some years ago he was covering a Florida speedboat race in which Gar
Wood was participating. Our boy had filed his story, but late at night
he got a telegram from his editor that read: "How old Gar Wood?" The
reporter wired back: "Old Gar Wood fine. How you?"
                    - "Almanac" in Minneapolis Tribune

I do not know if the Minneapolis Tribune issues of 1957 have been digitized.

The same story was also told about another person: General Mark Clark.
The earliest cite I have for this version is after the Gar Wood story
and before the Cary Grant story:

Cite: 1959 September 29, The Evening Standard, That's Earl for Today
by Earl Wilson, Page 12, Column 1, Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

NEWSPAPER TALE: Once in the old days at INS, a Rome correspondent
doing a feature story on Gen. Mark Clark didn't know his age. He
cabled the NY office: "How old Mark Clark?" An editor in NY thought
the cable needless, and cabled back: "Old Mark Clark fine. How you?"

This story flips the roles of the participants. The correspondent is
depicted as obnoxious; whereas, the home office editor was depicted
negatively in the earlier anecdote about Gar Wood.
If someone has access to the "Almanac" of the Minneapolis Tribune in
1957 (circa December or November) and can look for the Gar Wood story
that would be excellent.


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