“just happy to see me”

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

A play on a famous fugitive quotation, widely attributed to Mae West but never actually traced to her.

From a posting on this blog from 2/4/13:

Over on ADS-L, the quotation hounds have been considering

Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

which is widely attributed to a flirty Mae West — it *sounds* like the sort of thing she would have said — but without any actual source in some particular movie. There’s a huge family of variants here, constituting the verbal counterparts to the examples of visual phallicity I’ve so often posted about.

Common variants have gun, pistol, and banana (the version I think of as “original”, just from my own remembered experience), but (as Larry Horn wrote on ADS-L) many other phallic things have been folded into the formula. And there are antecedents going back to back to Lysistrata.

Now, in the cartoon above, the horn of a unicorn.

The version “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” is often attributed to Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933), but, no, it’s not in that movie.

[Added later in the day, thanks to detective work by Michael Palmer, who links to the Greatest Film Mis-Quotes site:

“Is that a gun [or pistol] in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” – was not spoken by Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933) – but she did restate the line in her final film Sextette (1978) to co-star George Hamilton. Reportedly, she spoke the line to an escorting LA police officer who met her at the LA railway station in February, 1936.

and to the Quote Investigator site:

The earliest evidence located by QI was in a 1958 book about a New York theatre producer titled “The Nine Lives of Michael Todd” by Art Cohn. In 1944 the play “Catherine Was Great” which was produced by Todd and starred Mae West opened on Broadway. The author Cohn stated that West improvised the humorous line of dialog when she was interacting with her fellow star Gene Barry: 1

Barry, playing Lieutenant Bunin, was unaccustomed to carrying a sword, and in the second act, during an embrace, his scabbard came between him and his Empress.

A covert smile stole over Mae’s face. “Lieutenant,” she ad-libbed with a Westian leer, “is that your sword or are you just glad to see me?”

West claimed in remarks published in the 1980s that she employed the saying in the 1930s while speaking with a policeman. In addition, West did utter the saying in the 1978 film Sextette which was based on a play she wrote.

1978, Movie: Sextette, Total run time: 1 hour 28 minutes, Quote spoken by Mae West (Marlo Manners) to George Hamilton (Vance Norton), Location within movie: 24 minutes remaining, Video seen on Hulu streaming video service. (Accessed hulu.com on August 19, 2013)

Oddly, neither the Wikipedia page nor the IMDB entry for Sextette mentions the quotation.]

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