Art and Entertainment

Literature, painting, sculpture, theatre, film -- all these forms are part of people's efforts to transcend reality. It might be for the purpose of moralizing, of presenting a "higher truth," or simply to entertain, to replace the theatre of the real with pleasant fantasy.

Where does the art end and the entertainment begin? What makes Shakespeare art and the latest horrible network sit-com entertainment (to use the term loosely)? It is partly the quality of endurance. Like elder statesmen, art achieves a certain aura merely therough survival. Apparently the logic goes that if someone or other hasn't burned or buried it after a few hundred years, it can't be too bad.

True art also tends to be abstruse. This characteristic is particularly noticeable in Russian literature, foreign films, and ballet. Nobody in their right mind enjoys these things until they have been taught to appreciate them. You can always tell the people who have been taught to appreciate foreign films. They're the ones who sound like they walked out of a Woody Allen movie. In fact, one suspects that nobody really enjoys these sorts of things, but when you pass a certain point in your education, you come to believe that you will be considered an illiterate cretin by your peers if you don't at least pretend to enjoy the latest Mongolian cinematic masterpiece.

If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle them, and, as it were, fondle them. Let them fall open where they will....Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of uncharted seas.
Sir Winston Churchill

Some day I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.
Clarence Darrow

He [George Orwell] would not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry.
Cyril Connolly

That's not writing -- that's typing.
Truman Capote on the writing of Jack Kerouac

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.
Albert Camus

A bestseller is a book which somehow sold well simply because it was selling well.
Daniel Boorstin

Quill: An instrument of torture yielded by a goose and commonly weilded by as ass.
Ambrose Bierce

Historian: an unsuccessful novelist.
H.L. Mencken

Charlemagne either died or was born or did something with the Holy Roman Empire in 800.
Robert Benchley

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
Robert Benchley

Shakespeare, who never could think up a plot by himself, found this one [Macbeth] in Holinshed's Chronicles, changing it just enough so that no one would recognize the source. He didn't count on the resourcefulness of modern scholars, who have to discover things like this to become associate professors.
Richard Armour

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he really is very good, in spite of all the people who say he is very good.
Robert Graves

Since the advent of the Dictaphone there is no longer any guarantee that a published author will be literate. Mr. [Tom] Hayden brings the sign of the times a few steps further: he proves that a visionary need not be coherent.
Garvin Arbuckle

Posterity -- what you write for after being turned down by publishers.
George Ade

In such novels as This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald depicts the spirit of the hour which is usually about 4 a.m. His suave young men, always commuting between Princeton and The Plaza in Stutz Bearcats never sat still for long. It was too uncomfortable, with a large flask in the hip pocket.
Richard Armour

I had to admit that in his old-fashioned way O'Hara was still romantic about sex; like Scott Fitzgerald, he thought of it as an upper-class prerogative.
Alfred Kazin

Ernest [Hemmingway] was always ready to lend a helping hand to the one on the rung above him.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

All work and no plagiarism makes a dull speech.
Jacob M. Braude

[Beowolf] is considered an epic because of its long speeches, its digressions, its repetition, and its being required.
Richard Armour

(Francis) Bacon's best known writings are his essays. They are loved for many reasons, such as their being so short.
Richard Armour

The success of many books is due to the affinity between the mediocrity of the author's ideas and those of the public.
Nicholas de Chamfort

The most immoral and disgraceful and dangerous thing that anybody can do in the arts is knowingly to feed back to the public its own ignorance and cheap tastes.
Edmund Wilson

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.
Peter Devries

He [P.G.Wodehouse] is I believe, the only man living who speaks with equal fluency the American and English languages.
Max Eastman

It takes the publishing industry so long to produce books it's no wonder so many are posthumous.
Teressa Skelton

He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.
George Eliot

Robert Benchley has a style that is weak and lies down frequently to rest.
Max Eastman

Science fiction is a kind of archaeology of the future.
Clifton Fadiman

To read some magazines makes you wonder what the editor has rejected.
Farmer's Almanac

Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met.
William Faulkner

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.
F.Scott Fitzgerald

An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterwards.
F.Scott Fitzgerald

Publisher to author: Your novel is excellent, but right now I'm looking for trash.
John Frost

I heard someone say he [Carl Sandburg] was the kind of writer who had everything to gain and nothing to lose by being translated into another language.
Robert Frost

Any fool can criticize, and many of them do.
Archbishop C. Garbett

I never read a book before reviewing it. It prejudices me so.
Sydney Smith

Asking a working writer what he thinks of critics is like asking a lamp-post what it thinks about dogs.
Christopher Hampton

To escape criticism -- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
Elbert Hubbard

He wasn't exactly hostile to facts, but he was apathetic to them.
Wolcott Gibbs on Alexander Woollcott

Good taste and humour are a contradiction in terms, like a chaste whore.
Malcolm Muggeridge

Would it be anything like a literary disaster if Gore Vidal were to fall silent? Easy. No. In fact, there is something to be said for the idea.
Lance Morrow

People are discontent; men are troubled; and the literature is excellent.
Andre Maurois

Adolf Hitler was a great man. His name alone can still heighten awareness and incite the torpid glance. (Note, for instance, how you reacted after reading my first sentence.)
D. Keith Mano

Some people think that physics was invented by Sir Francis Bacon, who was hit by an apple when he was sitting under a tree one day writing Shakespeare.
Eric Larrabe

A good many writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self- addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much a temptation to the editor.
Ring Lardner

As an editor, I must often tell writers that their stories "do not fit our present needs." But there are times when I want to reply: "Sir, I would not trust you to write a ransom note."
Richard Conniff

He has delusions of adequacy.
Walter Kerr

While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his very worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate him by his best.
Samuel Johnson

Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
Samuel Johnson

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Samuel Johnson

He was dull in a new way, and that made many people call him great.
Samuel Johnson

You have two topics, yourself and me. I am sick of both.
Samuel Johnson, to James Boswell

During five literary generations every enlightened person had despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there.
George Orwell

I was the toast of two continents: Greenland and Australia.
Dorothy Parker

Reading Proust is like bathing in someone else's dirty water.
Alexander Woollcott

If there's any literary ability in a feller, getting fired out of a good government job will bring it out.
Kin Hubbard

The next time anyone asks you "What is Bertrand Russell's philosophy?" the correct answer is "What year, please?"
Sidney Hook

Anyone who paints skies green and pastures blue should be sterilized.
Adolf Hitler

Some of the new books are so down to earth they ought to be ploughed under.
Anne Herbert

No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.
Russell Lynes

H.L.Mencken's war aims, according to the handful of observers who deigned to notice his conflict, were the overthrow of American Democracy, the Christian religion, and the YMCA. He was also credited with trying to wipe out poets and luncheon orators.
Ben Hecht

Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted, than when we read it in the original author?
Philip J. Hamerton

Anybody who can write home for money can write for magazines.
Wilson Mizner

Whilst in many places the effect of "Ulysses" undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be aphrodisiac.
John M. Woolsey, U.S. District Court judge

There's nothing wrong with Oscar Levant -- nothing a miracle won't cure.
Alexander Woollcott

Henry James writes fiction as if it were a painful duty.
Oscar Wilde

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.
Oscar Wilde

The gods bestowed on Max [Beerbohm] the gift of perpetual old age.
Oscar Wilde

The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is unread.
Oscar Wilde

M. Zola is determined to show that, if he has not got genius, he can at least be dull.
Oscar Wilde

Hiring someone to write your autobiography is like paying someone to take a bath for you.
Mae West

He was an author whose works were so well known as to be almost confidential.
Stanley Walker

To me, Poe's prose is unreadable -- like Jane Austen's. No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on a salary, but not Jane's.
Mark Twain

A classic is something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
Mark Twain

He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.
Mark Twain

Immature artists immitate. Mature artists steal.
Lionel Trilling

Satire is the sort of mirror in which beholders generally discover everybody's face but their own.
Jonathon Swift

James Joyce -- an essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public opinion to be universally recognized.
Tom Stoppard

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.
Sydney Smith

I often quote myself; it adds spice to my conversation.
George Bernard Shaw

Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.
Laurence J. Peter

The affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in all literature.
Dorothy Parker, reviewing the Autobiography of Margot Asquith

This novel is not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force.
Dorothy Parker

It was written without fear and without research.
Dorothy Parker, reviewing a book on science

He has a mind so set that not a fact can violate it.
National Review, on Norman Mailer

Saul Bellow writes that true power is the ability to inflict boredom. I don't know about you, but it scares the hell out of me to think that Andy Rooney is the most powerful being on this or any other planet.
National Lampoon

He writes his plays for the ages - the ages between five and ten.
George Nathan

Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves they have a better idea.
John Ciardi

A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.
Al Capp,on abstract art

One reassuring thing about modern art is that things can't possibly be as bad as they're painted.
Visitor to Bitish Museum of Modern Art

Right now I'm the greatest. I don't say this through vanity. It's just that the rest are so bad.
Salvador Dali

There's nothing wrong with a surrealist painting that a good paint remover can't remedy.

Surely nothing has to listen to so many stupid remarks as a painting in a museum.
Edmond and Jules De Goncourt

I always suspect an artist who is successful before he is dead.
John Murray Gibbon

The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable.
H.L. Mencken

As for borrowing Mr. Whistler's ideas about art, the only thoroughly original ideas I have heard him express have had reference to his own superiority as a painter over painters greater than himself.
Oscar Wilde

I like Wagner's music better than anybody's; it's so loud, one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says.
Oscar Wilde

There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can't stand Picasso, those who can't stand Raphael, and those who've never heard of either of them.
John White

Highbrow: A fellow who can listen to the "William Tell Overture" without thinking of "The Lone Ranger."
Jack Perlis

The harpsicord sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.
Sir Thomas Beecham

Even Bach comes down to the basic suck, blow, suck, suck, blow.
Larry Adler, harmonica player

Bethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of a bag of nails, with here and there also a dropped hammer.
John Ruskin

The music teacher came twice a week to bridge the awful gap between Dorothy and Chopin.
George Ade

Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
Mark Twain

Composers shouldn't think too much -- it interferes with their plagiarism.
Howard Dietz

The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
David Gerrold

Classical music is the kind that we keep hopin' will turn into a tune.
Kin Hubbard

When I die I intend to take my music with me. I don't know what's out there, but I want to make sure it's in my key.
George Burns

George, if you had to do it all over, would you fall in love with yourself again?
Oscar Levant, to George Gershwin

Robert Creely's poems have two main characteristics. 1) They are short; 2) they are not short enough.
John Simon

Very nice couplet, although there are dull stretches.
Antoine de Rivorol

A mighty good sausage-stuffer was spoiled when that man became a poet. He would look well standing under a descending pile driver.
Eugene Field

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.
Robert Frost

We were all imitative. We all wandered in after Miss Edna St. Vincent Millay. We were all being dashing and gallant, declaring we weren't virgins, whether we were or not.
Dorothy Parker, on the poetry of the 1920's

A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.
Robert Heinlein

Who is this [Alexander] Pope that I hear so much about? I cannot discover what is his merit. Why will not my subjects write in prose?
King George II

There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.
Oscar Wilde

If its length be not considered a merit, it hath no other.
Edmund Waller,on Milton's Paradise Lost

A good musical comedy consists largely of disorderly conduct occassionally interrupted by talk.
George Ade

To me, opera is getting stabbed and instead of bleeding you sing.
Joey Adams

In opera, anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung.

I liked your opera. I think I will set it to music.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Sleep in an excellent way of listening to an opera.
James Stephens

If you asked central casting in Hollywood for somebody to play the role of President, they'd send you John Connally.
Phil Crane

I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.
Humphrey Bogart, attributed last words

Elizabeth Taylor looks like two small boys fighting underneath a mink blanket.

Applause: the echo of a platitude.
Ambrose Bierce

It was one of those plays in which all of the actors unfortunately enunciated very clearly.
Robert Benchley

The best audience is one that is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.
Alben W. Barkley

The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
Tallulah Bankhead

It's so clean here [in California]...That's because they don't throw out their garbage. They make it into TV shows instead.
Woody Allen

Hollywood is a great place if you're an orange.
Fred Allen

A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.
Fred Allen

An associate producer is the only guy in Hollywood who will associate with a producer.
Fred Allen

A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
Samuel Goldwyn

If we have his [Roger Moore's] looks at 53, we'll be lucky. If we have his luck with women, we'll be dead.
Bill Harris

It was a dream world, a kind of Alice in Wonderland, with its kings and queens, princes and princesses, and our millions of loyal subjects. But it wasn't real, and it couldn't last.
Sylvia Sidney, of her time in Hollywood

If I had as many love affairs as you fellows have given me credit for, I would now be speaking to you from inside a jar at the Harvard Medical School.
Frank Sinatra

I wish to be cremated when I die and my ashes to be thrown in [Hollywood producer] Harry Cohn's face.
Norman Krasna

In Hollywood, a starlet is a name for any woman under thirty who is not actively employed in a brothel.
Ben Hecht

Therre was popcorn in paradise.
Ben M. Hall, on the introduction of the "talkies"

Writers are idiots with Underwoods.
Darryl F. Zanuck

The Bible has been a bestseller for centuries. Why should I let two thousand years of publicity go to waste?
Cecil B. DeMille, producer of The Ten Commandments

Keep it out of focus. I want to win the foreign-picture award.
Billy Wilder

The only reason to make a million dollars in this business is to tell some fat producer to go to hell.
Humphrey Bogart

I found out that acting was hell. You spend all your time trying to do what they put people is asylums for.
Jane Fonda

A fan club is a group of people who tell an actor he's not alone in the way he feels about himself.
Jack Crason

The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Bette Davis

Most of the time he [Marlon Brando] sounds like he has a mouth full of toilet paper.
Rex Reed

Bogey's a helluva nice guy until 11:30 p.m. After that he thinks he's Bogart.
Dave Chasen

I believe that God felt sorry for actors, so he created Hollywood to give them a place in the sun and a swimming pool.
Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Why should people go out and pay money to see bad films when they can stay at home and watch bad television for nothing?
Samuel Goldwyn

[Cole Porter] sang like a hinge.
Ethel Merman

Farrah [Fawcett] is uniquely suited to play a woman of limited intelligence, but the subtle sexual tension intended for her role in completely lost on her. She fits in perfectly with the general texture of this abysmal film and radiates all the intense sensuality of an inflatable sex doll.
Harry and Michael Medved

BOOM! -- Tennessee William's play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore destroyed as only Liz-'n'-Dick can do it.
Harry and Michael Medved, on a Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor performance

No, Groucho is not my real name. I'm breaking it in for a friend.
Groucho Marx

I'm not a human being. I'm despicable and disgusting - but that's where the money is.
Steve Martin

Danny Osmund has all the style and flare of a glass of milk.
Stuart Kline

She [Marilyn Monroe] was good at playing abstract confusion in the same way that a midget is good at being short.
Clive James

I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.
Alfred Hitchcock

A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.
Alfred Hitchcock

Some people claim I say all actors are cattle. What I say is that all actors should be treated like cattle.
Alfred Hitchcock

Yentl wasn't conventionally bad. It's a big, wooden, inert ark of a movie waiting, high and dry, for someone to provide a flood that it might float away.
New York Times

Debbie Reynolds is as wistful as an iron foundry.
Oscar Levant

With Tallulah [Bankhead], a leading man has an exhausting time offstage.
Donald Cook

I don't have ulcers; I give them.
Harry Cohn, American film producer

The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.
Charlie Chaplin,1916

Mr. Cooper said to me that he had an idea for a film in mind. The only thing he'd tell me was that I was going to have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood. Naturally, I thought of Clark Gable.
Fay Wray, female lead in King Kong

They shoot too many pictures and not enough actors.
Walter Winchell

You can pick out actors by the glazed look that comes into their eyes when the conversation wanders away from themselves.
Michael Wilding

A movie studio is the best toy a boy ever had.
Orson Welles

A good many inconveniences attend playgoing in any large city, but the greatest of them is usually the play itself.
Kenneth Tynan

What, when drunk, one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober.
Kenneth Tynan

In Hollywood, success is relative. Th closer the relative, the greater the success.
Arthur Treacher

The most expensive fix in the world is celluloid, not heroin, and I need a fix every few years.
Stephen Spielberg

John Denver is Johnny Mathis disquised as a hillbilly. He has never written a decent song, his voice is an Irish tenor only a whit less offensive than Dennis Day's, and, as far as I can tell, his only function is to provide adolescent girls with records to cry over in the privacy of their bedrooms.
Steve Simels

I keep saying I wish I had as much in bed as I get in the newspapers. I'd be real busy.
Linda Ronstadt

Some say, what is the Salvation of the Movies? I say, run 'em backwards. It can't hurt 'em and it's worth a trial.
Will Rogers

I get tired of singing to the guys I beat up in motion pictures.
Elvis Presley

I know my hair is out of the '60's, my clothes are '50's and the shoes I wear are from the '40's. But I like looking like I came out of a fairy tale.
Dolly Parton

The only 'ism' Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.
Dorothy Parker

She [Katharine Hepburn] ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B.
Dorothy Parker

Good heavens, television is something you appear on; you don't watch.
Noel Coward

Cheryl Ladd Special -- One-hour long, one thought show of jigglevision.
Edwin Diamond

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
Groucho Marx

I wish you would come up with a different device than running a man down with a car, as we have done this now in three different shows. I like the idea of sadism, but I hope that we can come up with a different approach to it.
Quinn Martin, in a memo on the Untouchables

Cute teenagers exist only on television, I suspect.
Robert MacKenzie

Why spend 18 hours watching someone else's war, when you know how it comes out? We win, and then have to buy all their cars.
Orson Welles, on the television miniseries The Winds of War

Just as you get ready to throw a punch [at Phil Donahue], he steps back and pre-emptively jabs himself in the face.
Washington Journalism Review

Acting: An art which consists of keeping the audience from coughing.
Sir Ralph Richardson

I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse circumstances - the curtain was up.
Groucho Marx

Opening night is the night before the play is ready to open.
George Nathan

You can't shoot the actors, they're not animals! Oh, no? Have you ever eaten with one?
from The Producers

Playing Shakespeare is very tiring. You never get to sit down unless you're a king.
Josephine Hull

The stage can be defined as a place where Shakespeare murdered Hamlet and a great many Hamlets murdered Shakespeare.
Robert Morse

The scenery in the play was beautiful, but the actors got in front of it.
Alexander Woollcott

[Reviewing a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin] The dogs were poorly supported by the cast.
Don Herold

Eons ago I staggered out of the stage show [of Annie] to get a stiff drink -- and maybe burn down an orphanage -- I felt as if a large scruffy dog had been licking my face for a couple of hours.
Bruce Williamson

There is no racial or religious prejudice among people in the theater. The only prejudice is against bad actors, especially successful ones.
Helen Hayes

Mrs. Patrick Cambell is an aged British battleship sinking rapidly and firing every available gun on her rescuers.
Alexander Woollcott, in a drama review

Shoot her.
George S. Kaufman, when asked by a press agent about "How do I get our leading lady's name in the Times?"

There was laughter in the back of the theater, leading to the belief that someone was telling jokes back there.
George S. Kaufman, leading off a review of a comedy

One of my chief regrets during my years in the theatre is that I couldn't sit in the audience and watch me.
John Barrymore

A certain columnist has been banned from all Shubert openings. Now he can wait three days and go to their closings.
Walter Winchell, on himself

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