[Ads-l] Family of Sayings: You're only as good as your last performance

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 17 15:48:47 UTC 2018

The saying in the subject line is a member of a family of adages that
was examined by Charles Doyle and Wolfgang Mieder in the 2016 update
to “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” published in “Proverbium”. They
presented citations beginning in November 1935.

Barry Popik also examined part of this topic and presented citations
beginning in July 1935.

The Quote Investigator website now has an entry with citations
beginning in July 1930. Earlier citations and pertinent information
would be welcome.

The first match located by QI that fits into the family was published
by the powerful syndicated gossip columnist Walter Winchell:

[ref] 1930 July 16, The Akron Beacon Journal, Winchell On Broadway,
Quote Page 15, Column 1, Akron, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
A columnist is only as good as his last column.
[End excerpt]

In October 1930 Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons published an
instance of the adage while disclaiming authorship:

[ref] 1930 October 14, Beaumont Enterprise, Sophisticated Plays
Continue Popular by Louella O. Parsons, Quote Page 5, Column 2,
Beaumont, Texas. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
If John Ford's “Up the River” is as good as everyone says, anything
connected with his next picture is of special interest. Who was it
said an actor is only as good as his last picture and a director too?
[End excerpt]

In November 1930 the movie star Barbara Stanwyck used the saying while
discussing her desire to leave Hollywood:

[ref] 1930 November 7, The Hartford Courant, The Show Window, Quote
Page 20, Column 6, Hartford, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Barbara Stanwyck will abandon the screen as soon as her present
contract expires. "A star is only as good as her last picture," she
explains and then another reason for her proposed retirement is that
she wants to be able, to give more time to being Mrs. Frank Fay.
[End excerpt]

In March 1932 Stanwyck employed the saying again. This time she
employed a version with the pronoun “you”:

[ref] 1932 March 6, The Hartford Courant, Barbara Stanwyck Takes Rank
With Box Office Stars, Quote Page D2, Column 4, Hartford, Connecticut.
(Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
"Marriage and a career can go together if you do it sensibly," she
said. "Marriage is the most important. I mean it continues. In the
'movies' I'm a success as long as the public likes me. When they stop
going to see me I'll stop work . . . you're only as good as your last
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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