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Elsa Maxwell

  • Good manners spring from just one thing — kind impulses.

  • Etiquette — a fancy word for simple kindness.

  • Good manners — the longer I live the more convinced I am of it — are a priceless insurance against failure and loneliness. And anyone can have them.

  • Someone has said that life itself is a party: you join after it's started and you leave before it's finished.

  • ... don't try for wit. Settle for humor. You'll last longer.

  • [A bore is] a vacuum cleaner of society, sucking up everything and giving nothing.

  • Under pressure people admit to murder, setting fire to the village church, or robbing a bank, but never to being bores.

  • I make enemies deliberately. They are the sauce piquante to my dish of life.

    • Elsa Maxwell,
    • in New York Journal-American ()
  • I don't hate anyone. I dislike. But my dislike is the equivalent of anyone else's hate.

    • Elsa Maxwell,
    • in Time ()
  • Cocktails are society's most enduring invention.

    • Elsa Maxwell,
    • in Stephen Birmingham, The Right People ()
  • I want a woman guest to be beautiful. Second, I want her to be beautifully dressed. Third, I demand animation and vivacity. Brains are always awkward at a gay and festive party. Brains are only a requisite when the party is limited to a handful of persons, say six or eight. And, fifth, I expect obedience. It is ruinous if guests refuse to cooperate with a hostess. Above all things, a man should be good-looking. Then he should boast a tailor who is an artist. Third, he must not be overly married. This is a matter of attitude. Fourth, men guests must not only dance well but be willing to dance. Finally, all men should have manners. I'd rather they didn't throw bottles out of the window.

    • Elsa Maxwell,
    • in Gene Tierney, with Mickey Herskowitz, Self-Portrait ()
  • To get fifty people to a cocktail party in New York, you ask one hundred. In Hollywood, you invite twenty.

    • Elsa Maxwell,
    • in Malcolm Forbes, Women Who Made a Difference ()
  • My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.

    • Elsa Maxwell
  • Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.

    • Elsa Maxwell
  • Nothing spoils a good party like a genius.

    • Elsa Maxwell
  • Keep your talent in the dark and you'll never be insulted.

    • Elsa Maxwell
  • ... the wealthy ... live in marble mausoleums surrounded by the suspicions and neuroses that have replaced the medieval moats which once isolated so-called aristocrats from reality.

  • The loudest psalm singer in the congregation always is a reformed sinner.

  • Important enemies to me are the sauce piquante to my dish of life!

  • [On the British Museum:] It was manifestly impossible to read all the books in that huge, gloomy structure, but I made a good try and accumulated a fund of useless information guaranteed to cast a pall over any dinner table.

  • People who have escaped from poverty are like old soldiers. In later years they recount the little, amusing incidents that happened infrequently, and conveniently forget the long, unrelieved stretches of misery and boredom.

  • There was a running gag that Elsa Maxwell always traveled with fourteen trunks and a hatbox — the trunks for her clippings and the hatbox for her other dress. A base canard. I didn't own another dress.

  • Fight fire with fire. If you must have bores, always put them together or at the same table ... bores have an effervescent chemical reaction on one another at a party. They invariably have a marvelous time trading banalities in the absence of competition. Clichés roll trippingly off the tongue like sparkling epigrams and trite observations acquire depth sinking into receptive minds.

  • [On her night club venture:] My Sister's Garden was a great success. It made so much money that it took the employees two years to steal us blind.

  • Protocol may be defined as the code of etiquette which protects royalty from the competition of intellectual and social superiors.

  • ... no one ever went broke in Hollywood underestimating the intelligence of the public ...

  • [On Hollywood:] I had gone there expecting to see parties that reflected the stock-in-trade of the movies — glamour. Instead, I found the same attitude toward parties that European peasants had for baths. It was something to be done methodically every Saturday night ...

  • Only those who have earned leisure know how to use it profitably.

Elsa Maxwell, U.S. host, writer, broadcaster

(1883 - 1963)