Each time there is a concentrated media resurgence on the subject of W.C. Fields, the quote, "No man who hates dogs and children can be all bad," is consistently dragged out like an abused step-child, manacled to the pillory of show business literature, then flogged (Calendar Letters, March 23).
The perennial contention is that either Fields or author Leo Rosten was the father of this aphorism of mixed emotion.
Last week a letter over an indecipherable signature, rambled on that Rosten had first uttered this seemingly immortal phrase in 1939 at a roast of W.C. Fields. For several years, the great American wit, H. Allen Smith, was under the impression that this sterling utterance belonged to Rosten and in 1944 let the world know about it in his book, "Lost in the Horse Latitudes."
But sometime later, Smith received a letter from Cedic Worth, a former New York newspaperman, who included an article from the November, 1937, issue of Harper's magazine. The piece had to do with the reporting of a 1930 New York cocktail party where a man named Gastonbury "monopolized the conversation with an eloquent attack on dogs," Allen wrote.
"When the party was ending, Mr. Worth found himself in the elevator with several other guests, including Mr. Byron Darnton of the New York Times. In that elevator, this Mr. Byron Darnton uttered the remark which Mr. Worth promptly wrote down: 'No man who hates dogs and children can be all bad.' "
Between us, H. Allen and I figured that Byron Darnton of the New York Times had given birth to this deathless phrase in the elevator "at 30 Fifth Avenue (corner of Tenth), at approximately the sixth floor, in the summer of 1930."
Perhaps a baseball writer might mark it this way on his score card: From Darnton, to Worth, to Rosten, to Fields.
Fowler--who was 17 at the time--attended the 1937 W.C. Fields roast with his father, the noted journalist/playwright/screenwriter Gene Fowler.