“I have a gift for enraging people, but if I ever bore you, it’ll be with a knife”

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“I have been taking stock of my 50 years since leaving Wichita in 1922 at the age of 15 to become a dancer with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. How I have existed fills me with horror. For I have failed in everything -- spelling, arithmetic, riding, tennis, golf; dancing, singing, acting; wife, mistress, whore, friend. Even cooking. And I do not excuse myself with the usual escape of “not trying”. I tried with all my heart.

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“For two extraordinary years I have been working on it - learning to write - but mostly learning to tell the truth. At first it is quite impossible. You make yourself better than anybody, and when you finally come to see you are “like” everybody - that is the bitterest blow of all to the ego. But in the end it is only the truth, no matter how ugly or shameful, that is right, that fits together, that makes real people, and strangely enough - beauty…”

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“I never gave away anything without wishing I had kept it; nor kept anything without wishing I had given it away”

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“Most beautiful dumb girls think they’re smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren’t much smarter”

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“Every actor has a natural animosity toward every other actor, present or absent, living or dead”

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“The great art of films does not consist of descriptive movement of face and body but in the movements of thought and soul transmitted in a kind of intense isolation”

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“There is no other occupation in the world that so closely resembled enslavement as the career of a film star”

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“In my dreams I am not crippled. In my dreams, I dance”

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“I learned how to act by watching Martha Grace dance and I learned how to dance by watching [Charlie Chaplin] act”

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“When I went to Hollywood in 1927, the girls were wearing lumpy sweaters and skirts … I was wearing sleek suits and half naked beaded gowns and piles and piles of furs”

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“[On Margaret Sullavan] Do you know my favourite actress? She was very special in her appearance, her voice was exquisite and far away, almost like an echo. She was an excellent actress, completely unique. This wonderful voice of hers - strange, fey, mysterious - like a voice singing in the snow”

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“A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world”

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“Love is a publicity stunt, and making love - after the first curious raptures - is only another petulant way to pass the time waiting for the studio to call”

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“[On W.C. Fields] He was an isolated man. As a young man, he stretched out his hand to beauty and love and they thrust it away. Gradually he reduced reality to exclude all but his work, filling the gaps with alcohol. He was also a solitary person. Years of travelling alone around the world with his juggling act taught him the value of solitude and the release it gave his mind”