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November 09, 1992 12:00 PM

>THE BEST LINE W.C. FIELDS NEVER SAID

FROM NICE GUYS FINISH SEVENTH: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings and Familiar Misquotations, by Ralph Keyes (HarperCollins, $18): “W.C. Fields’s best remembered saying is ‘Any man who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad.’ Fields didn’t say it. These words were said about Fields by Leo Rosten, as he introduced the comedian at a 1939 Masquers banquet in Los Angeles…. Rosten, then a young social scientist studying the movie industry… later called it ‘one of those happy ad libs God sends you.’… In November, 1937—nearly two years before the Masquers banquet—Harper’s Monthly ran a column by Cedric Worth about a New York cocktail party which took place in 1930. This party was dominated by a man who had a case against dogs. After leaving, Worth found himself in an elevator with a New York Times reporter. As the elevator made its way to the ground, the reporter observed, ‘No man who hales dogs and children can be all bad.’… Few remember [the reporter’s] name. Yet most of us have heard of W.C. Fields. This is why Fields so often gets credit for someone else’s words. He probably always will.”

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