Posted by (Various posters--RB) on August 10, 2002
Posted by Masakim on June 11, 2002
In Reply to: "Never give a sucker an even break" posted by R. Berg on June 11, 2002
: : I believe this phrase, while uttered by W.C. Fields in a movie or two, is mistakenly ascribed to him.
: : My understanding is that it was coined by the showman, Phineas T. (P.T.) Barnum, who began producing freak shows in New York and later became the impresario of "The greatest show on earth," the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
: : The full phrase is, "Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump."
: Eric Partridge, "Dictionary of Catch Phrases," says this one is "more credibly attributed to a remark made by Edward Francis Albee (1857-1930). From the US it went to Aus. in the mid-1940s. . . . It had reached Britain by 1944--via the US Army."
: Barnum said "There's a sucker born every minute."
[Ralph] Keyes [_Nice Guys Finish Seventh_, 1992] conjecture that Wilson Mizner picked up this phrase during his gambling days in Alaska and San Francisco and brought it to New York in 1905. He was a good friend of W.C. Fields, who popularized the line by "ad-libbing" it in the1923 musical comedy _Poppy_.
From _Proverb Wit & Wisdom_ by Louis A. Berman.
Never give a sucker an even break.
title of a W.C. Fields film ; the catchphrase (Field's own) is said to have originated in the musical comedy _Poppy_
From _The Oxford Dictionary of Quiotations, Fifth Edition_ .
"The line of mine that brings down the house always was true, wasn't it?" "Which line?" I asked. "Never give a sucker an even break," he [W.C. Fields] answered. (_Collier's_, Nov 28, 1925)
Since we have coined a slogan, Never give the sucker an even break and the Old Army Game goes on -- Let the dance goe on.... (C. Sandburg, _Good Morning, America_, 1928)
"Do you get the idea?" "Sure I get the idea. It's the old army game: first, pass the buck; second, never give a sucker an even break...." (T. Fredenburgh, _Soldiers March_, 1930)
Wasn't it "Poppy" that provided him with his immmortal motto, "Never give a sucker an even break"? (_New York Herald Tribune_, March 15, 1936)