Film Mis-Quotes

Part 1

Written by Tim Dirks

Greatest Film Mis-Quotes
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Greatest Movie Misquotes
(Part 1)

Greatest Movie Mis-Quotes: Some of the most classic film lines or scenes are really only legendary and/or apocryphal, or they are merely movie misquotes, but after many years of repetition and being misquoted in subsequent films, they have become part of the filmgoing public's consciousness. Many of these examples are film quotes that were either commonly attributed wrongly, or in fact were never actually spoken.

The top 10 most misquoted film lines are marked with an icon #1

Title Screen(s)
Film Misquote(s)

The Virginian (1929)

The Virginian (1946)

In The Virginian (1929), one of the earliest Western talkies, Gary Cooper (as the Virginian) gave a famous taunting line to bad guy Trampas (Walter Huston) at the saloon's bar. At the start of the heated exchange, Trampas challenged the Virginian:

Trampas (Walter Huston): "When I wanna know anything from you, I'll tell ya, you long-legged son of a ..."
Virginian: (Gary Cooper): "If you wanna call me that, smile." (He quick-drew his gun pressed against Trampas' abdomen)
Trampas: (long pause, then grinning) "With a gun against my belly I... I always smile."

Play clip from The Virginian (1929): The Virginian - 1929

It was not:

  • "Smile when you call me that!"
  • "Smile when you say that."
  • "When ya call me that, smile!"

Note however that Owen Wister's 1902 Western novel The Virginian actually used the phrase:

"When ya call me that, smile!"

A second version of the novel was filmed 17 years later, also titled The Virginian (1946), starring Joel McCrea as the title character. In the remake, the Virginian used the same "smile" line as in the novel when he confronted Trampas at a card table for lying:

Virginian (Joel McCrea): "When you call me that, smile!"
Trampas (Brian Donlevy): "With a gun against my belly, I always smile."
Play clip from The Virginian (1946): The Virginian - 1946

Animal Crackers (1930)

In the Marx Brothers comedy film Animal Crackers (1930), Groucho Marx (as African jungle explorer Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding) delivered the following line:

"One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."
Play clip from Animal Crackers (1930): Animal Crackers - 1930

It has often been misquoted as:

"...How he got in my pajamas I'll never know."

Dracula (1931)

Ed Wood (1994)

In the Universal horror classic, Dracula (1931), the legendary blood-sucking Count Dracula (Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi) never said:

"I want to suck your blood."

However, the line was spoken in director Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994). It was used in a humorous context by Dr. Tom Mason (Ned Bellamy) practicing his Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) impersonation:

"I want to suck your blood."
Play clip from Ed Wood (1994): Ed Wood - 1994

Frankenstein (1931)

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Often misquoted is Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) - yes, Frankenstein was the name of the mad scientist - and his famous shout in Frankenstein (1931), with the stirring of life within his non-human Monster (Boris Karloff):

"It's alive!"
Play clip from Frankenstein (1931): Frankenstein - 1931

Frankenstein has often been quoted as saying instead:

"He's alive! Alive!"

Mel Brooks' irreverent spoof Young Frankenstein (1974) featured grandson Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) resuming his late grandfather's experiments, and his loud exclamation to bug-eyed Igor (Marty Feldman) and voluptuous lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr):

"Alive. It's alive! IT'S ALIVE!"
Play clip from Young Frankenstein (1974): Young Frankenstein - 1974

Blonde Crazy (1931)

Taxi! (1932)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The mobster refrain: "You dirty rat!" - was never said verbatim by James Cagney, although he did say something similar in two films:

  • Blonde Crazy (1931) (aka Larceny Lane):
    Oh, that dirty, double-crossin' rat. I'd like to get my own hooks on him. I'd tear him to pieces."
    Play clip from Blonde Crazy (1931): Blonde Crazy

  • Taxi! (1932):
    "Come out and take it, ya dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to ya through the door!"
    Play clip from Taxi! (1932): Taxi!

It was misquoted in Cole Porter's Broadway 1934 stage classic Anything Goes, starring Ethel Merman.

It was also misquoted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) when Michelangelo imitated James Cagney:

"You dirty rat. You killed my brudda. You dirty rat."
Play clip from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

[Note: In Home Alone (1990), Macauley Culkin watched a scene from a fictional B/W gangster film videotape titled, "Angels With Filthy Souls" (a take-off on the Cagney film Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)), in which gangster Johnny shoots a rival gangster named Snakes, while saying, "Keep the change, ya filthy animal!"]

Grand Hotel (1932)

Ninotchka (1939)

Greta Garbo's most famous quote of all prominently appeared, with her famous accent spoken by the character Grusinskaya (a forlorn ballerina), in Grand Hotel (1932):

"I want to be alone."
Play clip from Grand Hotel (1932): Grand Hotel - 1932

Slightly later in the same scene, she also stated two other variations: "I just want to be alone", and "But I want to be alone." Play clip (excerpt): Grand Hotel

Garbo also stated a similar line, including her partner-lover Leon (Melvyn Douglas) in her solitude, in Ninotchka (1939):

"We want to be alone."
Play clip from Ninotchka (1939): Ninotchka

It was often thought that statements about Garbo wanting to be alone were non-existent or merely a comment on her reclusive nature in private life.

Tarzan The Ape Man (1932)

"Me Tarzan, you Jane" - was a catch-phrase inaccurately-quoted from Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932).

However, in a 1932 interview, Johnny Weissmuller (as Tarzan) actually claimed: "I didn't have to act in Tarzan, the Ape Man, just said: 'Me Tarzan, You Jane."

See (and hear) the actual conversation between Tarzan and Jane below:

Jane: "Thank you. Thank you for protecting me."
Tarzan: "Me?"
Jane: (repeating herself, and pointing to herself to teach him his mistake) "I said: 'Thank you for protecting me.'"
Tarzan: (poking at Jane) "Me?"
Jane: "No." (she points to herself) "I'm only 'Me' for me."
Tarzan: (wrongly again poking at Jane) "Me."
Jane: (correcting him and pointing at him) "No. To you, I'm 'You'."
Tarzan: (wrongly pointing at himself) "You."
Jane: "No. I'm Jane Parker. Understand? Jane. Jane."
Tarzan: (pointing at her) "Jane...Jane. Jane."
Jane: "Yes, Jane. (she points at him) And you? (she points at herself and gives her own name) Jane."
Tarzan: (he points at her) "Jane."
Jane: "And you? (she points at him) You?"
Tarzan: (stabbing himself proudly in the chest) "Tarzan, Tarzan."
Jane: (emphasizing his correct response) "Tarzan!"
Tarzan: (pointing excitedly toward her and back to himself) "Jane. Tarzan." (then more rapidly, poking at her each time he repeats her name, going faster and faster) "Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan. Jane..."
Jane: (exasperated) "Oh, please stop! Let me go! I can't bear this!..."

Play clip from Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932): Tarzan, the Ape Man - 1932

The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933)

The Old Fashioned Way (1934)

In the short two-reel W.C. Fields comedy The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933), the comedian often stated the following line (with the famous gag of a handful of fake snow being thrown in his face from an opened cabin door).

"And it ain't a fit night out for man or beast."
Play clip from The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933): The Fatal Glass of Beer - 1933

Later, W.C. Fields would reprise the gag during the "play-within-the-play" in The Old-Fashioned Way (1934).

"It ain't a fit night out for man or beast."
Play clip from The Old Fashioned Way (1934): The Old-Fashioned Way - 1934

The phrase became popularized as an easy way to describe awful weather.

It has often been misquoted as:

"And it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast."

42nd Street (1933)
  • "You're going out (there) a youngster, but you're coming back a star!"
  • "You're going out (on that stage) a nobody, (kid), but you're coming back a star!"
  • "You're going out a chorus girl, but you're coming back a star!"

These are all misquotes of the original line (see below) in 42nd Street (1933):

"But you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out, and, Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"
Play clip from 42nd Street (1933): 42nd Street - 1933

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

America's Sweethearts (2001)

The following line, a classic double entendre, was not spoken by Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933):

"Is that a gun [or pistol] in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

  • She did restate the line in her final film, an outrageous comedy titled Sextette (1978). As aging movie-star Marlo Manners, she was speaking to Vance Morton (co-star George Hamilton).

  • Reportedly, she also spoke the line to an escorting LA police officer who met her at the LA railway station in February, 1936.

Note: The line was parodied in at least three other films: Blazing Saddles (1974), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and America's Sweethearts (2001):

In Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (1974), Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Schtupp quipped:

"Is that a ten gallon hat, or are you just enjoying the show?"
Play clip from Blazing Saddles (1974): Blazing Saddles

In Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) asked Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) - with Roger Rabbit concealed in his pants pocket:

"Is that a rabbit in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
Play clip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988): Who Framed Roger Rabbit

And in the romantic comedy America's Sweethearts (2001), in a revenge fantasy sequence, the line was parodied in a scene between two movie stars who were at odds with each other after a break-up:

Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones): "Oh, Eddie, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I know you'll never forgive me, but please, please take me back. Oh... you've got a gun in your pocket or just happy to see me?"
Eddie Thomas (John Cusack): "Actually, it's a gun." (Bang, bang, bang...)
Play clip from America's Sweethearts (2001): America's Sweethearts

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

I'm No Angel (1933)

Bawdy actress Mae West has often been misquoted, especially with these mis-stated lines:

  • "Why, don't you come up and see me sometime, (big boy)?"
  • "Come up and see me sometime."

In fact, the line was stated differently in the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong (1933). Mae West (as Lady Lou) propositioned her co-star Cary Grant (as Captain Cummings) thusly:

Lady Lou: "I always did like a man in a uniform. That one fits you grand. Why don't you come up sometime 'n see me? I'm home every evenin'."
Captain: "Yeah, but I'm busy every evening."
Lou: "Busy? So, what are you tryin' to do, insult me?"
Captain: "Why no, no, not at all. I'm just busy, that's all..."
Lou: "I heard ya, but you ain't kiddin' me any. You know, I met your kind before. Why don't you come up sometime, huh?"
Captain: "Well, I..."
Lou: "Don't be afraid. I won't tell...Come up. I'll tell your fortune...Aw, you can be had."
Play clip from She Done Him Wrong (1933): She Done Him Wrong - 1933 (short version)

Play clip from She Done Him Wrong (1933): She Done Him Wrong - 1933 (long version)

Later in the film, she again offered her services to Captain Cummings, with a modified invitation:

Lou: "Come up again, anytime."
Captain: "Thanks, I will."
Lou: "Well, it won't be long now."
Play clip from She Done Him Wrong (1933): She Done Him Wrong - 1933 (variation)

Much earlier in the film, she had already invited suave Serge Stanieff (Gilbert Roland) with the same words:

Lou: "Come up again, anytime."
Serge: "I shall. And I hope you will be alone."
Lou: "So do I. (He graciously kissed her extended hand) Warm, dark, and handsome."
Play clip from She Done Him Wrong (1933): She Done Him Wrong - 1933 (variation)

Toward the end of another Mae West film in the same year, I'm No Angel (1933), the actress (as lion tamer Tira) also thanked (on the telephone) Juror # 4 for her acquittal and some "beautiful flowers," with her own, self-referential oft-misquoted line:

"And don't forget. Come up and see me sometime."
Play clip from I'm No Angel (1933): I'm No Angel - 1933

Sons of the Desert (1933)

In the Laurel and Hardy classic comedy, Sons of the Desert (1933), Oliver Hardy exclaimed to partner Stan Laurel:

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"
Play clip from Sons of the Desert (1933): Sons of the Desert - 1933

He did NOT say:

  • "Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into."
  • "Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into."

King Kong (1933)

At the conclusion of the classic adventure film King Kong (1933), Robert Armstrong (as Carl Denham) uttered the famous closing line:

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."
Play clip from King Kong (1933): King Kong - 1933

Some have heard it to say this variant (see below), although there's little doubt:

"...'Twas Beauty killed the Beast."

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)

In The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Douglass Dumbrille (as treacherous and sinister Mohammed Khan) said the following line as a taunting threat to Bengal Lancers. In his delivery, he paused after "Well, gentlemen" to give a smile and then a scowl:

"Well, gentlemen. We have ways to make men talk."
Play clip from The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935): The Lives of a Bengal Lancer - 1935

He did NOT say:

  • "We have ways of making you talk."
  • "We have ways of making men talk."
  • "We have ways to make you (men) talk."

The movie was reportedly Adolph Hitler's favorite. The torture method to get them to talk involved sharp slivers of bamboo inserted under fingernails that were set on fire.

Poppy (1936)

At the end of the film Poppy (1936), conniving patent-medicine salesman Prof. Eustace P. McGargle (W.C. Fields) bid farewell to heiress Poppy (Rochelle Hudson), who always thought he was her father. He told her:

"That's marvelous. And if we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you one little bit of fatherly advice."
- "Yes, Pop."
- "Never give a sucker an even break."

The proverb meant that one should not give a fair chance to a fool (or one easily deceived). It became the title of Fields' later film: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941).

It has been misquoted, often written as:

"And remember, Dearie, never give a sucker an even break."

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

#2 In Disney's animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the wicked Queen asked her Magic Mirror:

"Magic Mirror on the Wall, who is the Fairest one of all?"
Play clip from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - 1937

The misquote (such as: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?") has been heard in a number of films, including Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988), 101 Dalmatians (1996), 54 (1998), and Shrek (2001):

  • "Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the most drop-dead gorgeous one of all?"
    Play clip from Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988): Elvira: Mistress of the Dark
  • "Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all? (You are)."
    Play clip from 101 Dalmatians (1996): 101 Dalmatians
  • "Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?"
    Play clip from 54 (1998): 54 - 1998

  • "Mirror, mirror, show her to me. Show me the princess."
    Play clip from Shrek (2001): Shrek

Algiers (1938)

"Come with me to the Casbah," followed by "we'll make beautiful music together" - was never said by Charles Boyer to co-star Hedy Lamarr in Algiers (1938). Boyer claimed it was invented by his press agent.

It was voiced by cartoon character Pepe LePew in subsequent Looney Tunes cartoons, among others. In fact, animator Chuck Jones based the Warner Brothers cartoon character Pepe LePew, a French skunk, on Charles Boyer's Pepe Le Moko.

Pepe LePew: "You do not have to come with me to the Casbah."
Play clip from cartoon "For Scent-imental Reasons" (1949): Pepe LePew

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

"Elementary, my dear Watson!" - was a phrase never spoken by the lead character in the many Sherlock Holmes novels from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This mis-quote was found in a film review in the New York Times on October 19, 1929.

The closest phrases in Doyle's writings were in:

  • The Adventure of the Cardboard Box (1892)
    ("It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you").
  • The Adventure of the Crooked Man (1893)
    ("'Excellent!' I cried. 'Elementary!', said he.")

The misquoted catchphrase became popularized only after its trademark use in two films:

First, here's the dialogue between Holmes (Clive Brook) and Dr. Watson (H. Reeves-Smith) in the 1929 film:

Dr. Watson: "Amazing, Holmes."
Holmes: "Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary."

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929) (the first Holmes film with sound)

It was also stated twice by the Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) character in the 1939 20th Century Fox classic:

Dr. Watson: "Amazing."
Holmes: "No, no, no. Elementary, my dear Watson. Purely elementary."

Play clips from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939): The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (extended)

Dr. Watson: "And how did you know about them?"
Holmes: "Elementary, my dear Watson. This man has been dead for at least two hours. And Moriarty isn't wasting any time."
Play clips from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939):
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (extended)

There was also a clever reversal of the phrase spoken by Holmes' companion Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) in the 1939 film's last lines.

Holmes: "Very effective, my dear Watson!"
Dr. Watson: "Elementary, my dear Holmes, elementary."
Play clip from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939): The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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