Friday, August 10, 2012

Who Was It Who Said...?

The line "Death ends a life, not a relationship" is quoted on several websites with attribution to Robert Benchley, but none, at least not any of the sites that I visited, offer any verification (such as when and where was it uttered or printed). In fact, the various websites all seem to be simply swiping it from each other with no attempt to verify.

It appears (verified) in Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie (1997) but not attributed to Benchley.

Matthew Hahn, president of the Washington "Lost Locomotive" Chapter of the RBS, reports that the line appeared in Irish playwright Hugh Leonard's 1978 play Da.

It appears (verified) more expansively in Robert Woodruff Anderson's 1966 play (and 1970 movie) I Never Sang for My Father:
"Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor's mind torwards some resolution which it never finds."
This occurrence also is without attribution to Benchley.

Does anyone care to research this any further, or shall we say it is a Robert Anderson quotation with no Benchley association?


Unknown said...

"Towards" (if that's the word intended) tends to be British English so that may simplify it. Sounds very un-Benchleyesque for public utterance. Doesn't rule out that it was taken from a letter or interview during an uncharacteristic moment. But the statement itself is so commonplace that I can't imagine Benchley shrinking himself to that level. Mitch Albom: yes. I don't know Anderson's stuff. It must have been difficult to deliver that line for a play or movie and hold back one's laughter.

Well, I guess that sounded pretty clever.

David Trumbull said...

Doesn't sound at all like Benchley to me. As for Albom -- well, I read the book and saw the play (under duress) and my take on it was there was less there than meets the eye. As for Anderson's play -- we studied it in high school and even then I thought it a reeking pile of forced verbiage and cheap sentiment.

Robert Benchley Society

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