Weird (and Wonderful) Words of Wisdom: Special Year-End Edition, Part 2

In My Opinion: The Seventeen Book of Very Important Persons, 1966
Edited by Enid Haupt

Today, we receive more wisdom from the 20th century’s cultural leaders, courtesy of Seventeen Magazine. As I told you last week, this book comprises essays from the magazine’s long-running “Talk to Teens” column. Seventeen Editor Enid Haupt edited this book. I hope you will gain some year-end inspiration–and a bit of amusement–from these quotes.

(You’ll noticed I included Joan Crawford quotes in each part of this edition. Her whole essay is a gold mine. She even starts it with a dig at one of her daughters–most likely Christina–for wanting to achieve stardom without doing all the hard work it requires.)

Next week, Weird Words of Wisdom will revert to what it does best–mocking vintage teen advice books.

Quotes from In My Opinion

Vance Packard

Vance Packard

“In my travels during the past year I have found myself talking with at least a dozen women I knew as teenage girls. Some, I must confess, have not aged very gracefully. What impresses me most is that those who were most conspicuously girls of strong-minded integrity then are the most delightfully stimulating adults today.”

Vance Packard, journalist and social critic, author of The Hidden Persuaders, a groundbreaking work about advertising

Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters

“Although I am no longer the blonde bombshell of my early career, I often find myself acting that part because I feel I won’t be accepted as an educated, intelligent woman. These feelings limit my social world considerably. The discipline of study, of developing your mind so that it wants to study and likes to and considers it fun, which I have seen in many young people, I have never acquired. These feelings of inadequacy have made me make life decisions which have proved to be terribly serious mistakes.”

Shelley Winters, Academy Award-winning actress

Artur Rubinstein

Artur Rubinstein

“American girls marry much too young. I don’t believe a girl should marry until she finds the right person, and knows it deeply. I don’t care if she doesn’t marry until she is 35.”

Artur Rubinstein, pianist

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

“If these are your primary concerns–amounting to something and getting high marks–if you put these first and all else subordinate to them, what may this do to your feminine feelings and attitudes and role, to your regard for what is really good and really important, and to those people who cannot achieve your sort of success?”

Dr. J Roswell Gallagher, Boston physician specializing in adolescents

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

“Most women look as if they dressed in the dark and made up in a closet. They needn’t, for the essence of chic is simplicity. Chic begins with cleanliness–that wonderful sense of being freshly bathed and powdered and perfumed.”

Joan Crawford, Academy Award-winning actress

Philip Roth

Philip Roth

“Novels do not pussyfoot around. They can leave you sulky, angry, fearful and desperate. They can leave you dissatisfied with the life you are living. Sometimes, upon finishing a book, you can’t help but dislike yourself–for being smug or narrow or callous or unambitious…Novels can make you skeptical and doubting–of your family, of your religion, of your country; they can reveal to you that the kind of person you happen to be or think you want to be isn’t really worth being.”

Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell

“You’ll know us (parents) by the pride in our eyes and by our outstretched arms. No, we won’t smother you. We promise. We want to stand by you, not over you. We want to talk with you, not dictate to you. We want to talk frankly, not nag you. We want to discipline you because we’re supposed to. We want your cooperation to help us be better parents. We want your respect, and most of us know we must earn that respect. We want you to forgive our mistakes or at least try to overlook them. Above all, we want to love you, and you cannot deny us this because we loved you first.”

Rosalind Russell, Tony Award-winning actress

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

“Travel while you are young and still are free of responsibilities. See what a big, broad, beautiful land we have here, then maybe a foreign land or two. See that there are honest, hard-working people in every corner of the globe, all quite certain that their own way of living, their local geography, their music, etc, is the most beautiful.”

Pete Seeger, folk singer

Jean Dalrymple

Jean Dalrymple

“Seventeen is a darling age…It is an age to enjoy, to savor and to appreciate, especially if you are a girl, because then you are lovely. Everything about you is fresh and springlike–your body, your mind, and your soul.”

Jean Dalrymple, playwright and theatrical producer

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

“Only the Lord knows how many adults are forced into psychoanalysis at age thirty-five because of sweeping a problem under the rug at age twelve or thirteen.”

Rod Serling, television producer


“Like morality, good taste recognizes the existence of other people. Good taste requires that we care about other people’s feelings sufficiently to discipline our behavior.”

Rosemary Park, president of Barnard College at the time this book was written

Eileen Farrell

Eileen Farrell

“The successful human being, as I see him, is willing, even eager, to expose himself to new experiences and ideas. He welcomes contact not only with those who agree with him, but with those who don’t–not necessarily to persuade them to his way of thinking (though that’s always a possibility) but to learn something about theirs. That’s the only way to replace prejudices that create fear–with the knowledge born of conviction that gives courage. And with courage, everything is possible!”

Eileen Farrell, concert and opera soprano

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy

Attending to Our Bodily Housekeeping Edition

Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition


A Love Affair with Words: His Girl Friday

My husband balked at re-watching my favorite movie with me this weekend.

 “How can you not love this?” I asked, a few minutes into the film.

“It’s just so much…talking!” he sputtered.

His Girl Friday is, indeed, all talk. Its characters talk so much, so quickly, that their words overlap, ringing out into a musical counterpoint.  

Words attracted me to His Girl Friday the first time I encountered the movie, during my teenage years. As I flipped channels, this exchange captured my attention:

 Walter: This other fellow–I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to see him. I’m more or less particular about whom my wife marries. Where is he?

Hildy: Oh, he”s right on the job, waiting for me out there.

Walter. Hmm…Do you mind if I meet him?

Hildy: Oh, no, Walter. It wouldn’t do any good, really.

Walter: Now, you’re not afraid are you?

Hildy: Afraid? Of course not!

Walter: Then, come on! Let’s see this paragon. Is he as good as you say?

Hildy: He’s better!

Walter: Well, then, what does he want with you?

The Front Page, a 1928 Broadway hit written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, is His Girl Friday’s source. In the play, star reporter Hildy Johnson wants to escape the seedy world of journalism by marrying and finding “respectable” work. His managing editor, Walter Burns, thwarts him at every turn as the two collaborate on a bombshell story—a prison break by condemned murderer Earl Williams.

In His Girl Friday, Director Howard Hawks transforms Hildy Johnson into a woman, a change that raises the stakes considerably. Hildy’s choice between journalism and respectability is also a choice between a career and a traditional feminine role, and a choice between two very different men—her insurance-salesman fiancé Bruce Baldwin and her ex-husband, Walter Burns.

Two kinds of people populate His Girl Friday’s world. The journalists make up one group—a fast-talking, irreverent group. Walter Burns is this group’s apotheosis; nothing matters to him except the power and pleasure he derives from words. On the other hand, we have earnest people like Bruce; Earl Williams and his friend Molly Malloy; and prospective “city sealer” Joe Pettibone, who blows the lid off the mayor’s plan to execute a mentally ill man. These people speak slowly, mean what they say, and become lost in the journalists’ layered ironies and wise cracks.

Rosalind Russell’s Hildy operates well within both groups. Adopting a hushed interview style, she elicits Earl’s story. Showing sympathy that her male counterparts lack, she wins Molly’s trust. Admiring goodness and simplicity, she works to protect Bruce from Walter’s machinations.

In the end, though, Hildy can’t escape Walter and the lure of word craft. Words are weapons in their sparring, but also bind them in moments of shared delight that Bruce can’t comprehend. (Consider his delayed reaction, in the restaurant scene, when Hildy sees through Walter’s lies about another reporter. Bruce’s confusion produces contempt in Walter and embarrassment in Hildy.)

As James Walters wrote in the Journal of Film and Video:

“The film makes clear Hildy and Walter’s delight in controlling language, their near-delirium in playing together with the pace, tone, and rhythm of words. Their fluent use of language connects them with a world in which the ability to use words dictates a person’s status and in which, as in Molly’s case, an inability signals a person’s collapse…Indeed, there is a truthfulness in their shared vocal rhythms and patterns, as though their profound affinity emerges naturally and unavoidably whenever they are together.”

Choosing Walter’s world means giving up a lot, from little courtesies accorded to ladies, to society’s respect, to hopes of home and family and “a halfway-normal life.” For Hildy, however, giving up the mental exercise that Walter and writing provide would be a more bitter sacrifice.

His Girl Friday influenced my own choices, propelling me toward journalism school and a writing career. One day, in my college newspaper offices, the managing editor mentioned a Cary Grant movie she’d watched the night before.

“Have you ever seen His Girl Friday?” I asked.

 My reserved editor suddenly turned gushy: “Isn’t she great?!”

Hildy became a heroine ahead of her time when she announced, “I’m no suburban bridge player. I’m a newspaper man.”

Final Fun Facts: Hawks pioneered the overlapping dialog style that distinguishes His Girl Friday, but Grant and Russell made some delightful contributions to the script as well. Grant’s ad-libs include Walter’s description of Bruce as looking like “you know, that fellow in the movies…Ralph Bellamy.” Rosalind Russell, in her autobiography Life is a Banquet, described her secret hiring of a comedy writer to punch up the script. He added such bits as her murmured “slap happy” and her hand-signal-of-warning, both in the restaurant scene.

Note: His Girl Friday is available for streaming, free, at Hulu, and for free downloading and streaming at Internet Archive.