Fred Astaire Likes Chocolates, Too

by admin on January 6, 2011

Source:  Word of Mouth segment with Arlene Dahl, Turner Classic Movies channel

One night I noticed a big commotion and I looked at the door and there was this gorgeous blonde in a white satin, slinky gown and I knew who it was, it was Marilyn Monroe. And all conversation stopped and she, with her marvelous walk, walked over to the Mendles and said, “Hello,” and the conversation began again.

And I remember I was in a corner with Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Reginald Gardner talking about Walt Whitman.  And Marilyn happened to overhear the name “Whitman” so she slunk over to the three gentlemen standing there, and I was just standing there to one side, and she said, “Oh!,” she said, “Whitman!  I just love his chocolates!”

Well, all conversation stopped in the room.  And Fred, who is such a darling and such a gentleman, didn’t laugh.  He said, “Oh, Marilyn, we all do.”

And I thought that was so brilliant of him and so nice of him to say that to Marilyn who never knew that she made a gaffe.  At all.

Wasn’t Fred Astaire just grand in his graciousness?  What would you have done?

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise January 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I think I would have grinned and said, “Well, we were talking about the poet, but yes, Whitman makes great chocolate.”

I hope that’s not too ungracious. When I’m amused, my face just glows with it. I really can’t help it.


Candra January 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Now THAT is classy.


Purple Penguin January 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I’m only 40, but the class, style and grace of those fellows, in my mind, makes them a whole lot “hotter” than the pretty boys of today.


Auryn Grigori January 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I think that that is more of a story than anything. Marilyn played a stereotypical ditzy blonde, but she was not one of them.

It is a cute story though.


irish January 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

To be fair, let’s not assume Marilyn had never heard of Walt Whitman. If she overheard just one word, she wouldn’t necessarily know exactly what the conversation was about. A very classy move from Fred Astaire though.


Lizajane January 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Auryn Grigori,
I agree, Marilyn was way smarter than she ever let on, but the point of the story is that Fred Astaire was a consumate gentleman. Likewise for the others in the group for going along. There was nothing to be gained by pointing out her mistake, whether it was real or not.


LovleAnjel January 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm

It doesn’t make her ditzy to overhear one world and be mistaken about the conversation. (Although it may indeed be apocryphal.) Even geniuses make “dumb” mistakes like that.


Mary January 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I’m pretty sure that Monroe had heard of Walt Whitman, just not the whole conversation. From everything I’ve heard she was extremely smart and an avid reader. But if Astaire did make that comment, it was a very good save.


Daisy January 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm

The first requirement for etiquette everywhere: kindness.


Justine January 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

LovleAnjel, you are right.


Lola January 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Sounds to me like MM was simply making a joke, with FA responding in kind. With her drollness and the blonde act, I can see how the onlookers might have misinterpreted it as an ignorant mistake. The joke is on them 🙂 MM was no dummy. Trust.


Kat January 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I think I’d want to be corrected in Marilyn’s position. There are tons of polite ways to say “Oh I’m sorry, you misunderstood.” I think Louise’s suggestion is fine.


many bells down January 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I don’t think it’s rude to say something like Louise suggested. It’s entirely possible that the other person didn’t hear enough of the conversation to realize what it was actually about. Anyway, think how much MORE embarrassing it would be if the new person went on an on in her misapprehension and found out later. I’d be saying “why didn’t anyone TELL me?”


Jillybean January 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm

@ Auryn Grigori – nice story – though I disagree with the assessment within that Marilyn was the only actress seemed to be confused with the parts she played. I think people judge actors/actresses all the time based on parts they play, in both good ways and bad ways. I think plenty of people get more credit than they deserve because they play “smart” roles, and vice versa.

Cute story about FA and MM though.


M. January 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The same thing, because the mention of chocolate would have given me chocolate on the brain. Mmm, chocolate.


Chelsey January 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

lol Well, it did say she only heard the name “Whitman.” They could have been talking about ANY Whitman, as far as she knew. LOVE his response, though. If I had found the strength in me to stop grinning, I probably would have responded similarly. At least, I hope I would have. =P


Sarah Peart January 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I would also say that even a genius can make a mistake. I think of the time I mistook a box of sanitary protection for chocolates – as a welcome to university we got a goody bag which contained various groceries etc. I took out the box and offered it to a friend saying “would you like a chocolate?” She was very gracious and just said “Oh, how sweet but no thank you”, simultaneously running her index finger under the legend on the box. No-one else in the group noticed. Very gracious and kind!


kero January 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Very nice of Fred Astaire to do so. I think even if he had politely corrected her, she could also add to the conversation :o)


Sharon January 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

@ Lola, I think you are right.

Her remark was much more memorable than if she had just joined the conversation about the poet… she got everyone’s attention with her remark. And, you have to admit that was kind of a “flirtly” and endearing.
She was a very intelligent woman, and one of the things she was most intelligent about was her ability charm both men and women but being both beautiful and nonthreatening at the same time. She achieved getting people to notice her in that exchange and here we are, still talking about this decades after it happened.
I think Astaire handled the match of “verbal volleyball” very well.


phoenix January 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Ah, but if she acted like a ditzy blonde, couldn’t such a mistake be part of that act?

It doesn’t matter, I like the story. You kind of forget that such a response is even an option after hanging out with entirely too snarky people.


aliasJaneCrow January 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

If you ever see Marilyn in one of her “starting” roles in “All About Eve,” she plays a starlet who may or may not be playing dumb to get her way to the top. In the “bumpy night” party scene, her facial expressions have these flashes of irony and intelligence that leave you with a sense of ambiguity. (Yes, later in the post-audition scene the character is more clearly drawn as not a brain trust.) My first thought when I read the story is that SHE was playing a joke on THEM.


Simone January 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

@Purple Penguin – I totally agree. When teaching my ‘boys’ manners I always explain that good manners make you more attractive to women. Makes a great motivator, and is true to boot! 🙂


Mariam67 January 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I love Fred Astaire! I’ve heard other stories about what a nice person he was.


WrenskiBaby January 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

You know, phoenix’s remark got me thinking. I am so lucky! No one I hang out with is snarky. No one at work is snarky, either. It’s really something to be thankful for!

Regarding Marilyn, I would have replied something like, “Yes, his chocolates are good!”


RP January 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm

@Sarah Peart – I love that she found a way to let you know your mistake without calling attention to it. Smooth! We should all be so lucky to have those social skills.

I like story in the post as well.


Freda January 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm

There’s also the urban legend of some Very High Society hostess whose dinner guest picked up his finger bowl and drank the contents. She picked up her own and did the same.


Ali January 6, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Remember MM was married to Arthur Miller and ran in a pretty intellectual crowd for a while. She was probably making an in character joke. Most accounts have her as actually a smart woman (although extremely self conscious about her lack of education background which she tried very hard to make up for).


jenna January 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm

First, I think this story is an urban legend. But if it happened to me, if it were a stranger, acquaintance or not-too-close friend or person in my social network (or relative I don’t know well) I’d say something like “Mmmm, yeah, I love them too” and let it go.

If it were a very close friend or immediate family member, we’re used to good-natured ribbing and they would have thought I was crazy for not saying “We were talking about Walt Whitman dude!” Even the person who made the gaffe would have figured it out later and been all “So why didn’t you call me out? I totally deserved it for that one!” But that’s reserved for people I’m very close to, who would expect a ribbing and know that I don’t think any less of them for it.


Cattra January 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

This story is just that…a story, or urban legend as others have mentioned above.


admin January 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

The story was told in the first person by actress Arlene Dahl in a Turner Classic Movie channel segment called “Word of Mouth”. Are you and others implying that Arlene Dahl is a liar?


Hal January 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

Daisy is right. Number one rule: kindness.
Through the years I have come to believe MM was very intelligent. Very, very intelligent. I also believe she became trapped inside her great creation. There was no way out for her. Sad.


aventurine January 7, 2011 at 12:22 am

I’d love to say I’d have responded in the same way, but I’m no good at thinking on my feet. Good on Fred.


Me January 7, 2011 at 1:00 am

I probably would have said the same thing as Fred Astaire and added something like, “Oh, speaking of Whitman, I read the most beautiful poem by Walt Whitman the other day…” to keep the previous conversation going.


Suzanne January 7, 2011 at 1:56 am

I find this story amusing because Whitman chocolate is terrible.

And I don’t care for much of Walt Whitman poetry either. I guess I would have been a bad party guest?


Buffy January 7, 2011 at 2:05 am

I’m not saying Arlene Dahl is a liar, but she may have misremembered, or just repeated a funny anecdote she heard from someone else. It happens quite often.


jenna January 7, 2011 at 6:10 am

“Are you and others implying that Arlene Dahl is a liar?”

Not necessarily, but she may just be an over-enthusiastic storyteller, an embellisher, or have not quite understood the dry wit and purposely wink-wink nature of the comment she heard. (These days we’d call it “ironic” even though it goes against the definition of irony – I can imagine a moderately intellectual hipster making this sort of comment to be “ironic”).

Or she may have misremembered, as Buffy pointed out, or made it seem as though she was there when in fact it was secondhand information that was not entirely accurate.

There is simply far more evidence out there supporting the fact that Marilyn was a highly intelligent woman than that she was the same sort of ditzy blonde she played in the movies.

And I’m with Suzanne – I don’t really like Whitman chocolates (they remind me of “home” though because someone always gave them to my mother, so I ate quite a few as a child) or the poetry of Walt Whitman (too bombastic). We considered using the last stanza of “Song of the Open Road” as a wedding reading and scrapped it in favor of Frost’s “The Master Speed” because, honestly, Frost is just less bam-bam-boom-sturm-and-drang than Whitman. (We also had a 13th century Chinese poem and a south Indian poem from the Sangam era).


lkb January 7, 2011 at 6:11 am

@ At Admin and Buffy:
As a classic movie buff, I often read/hear anecdotes in which people’s names get changed with the telling. It’s possible Ms. Dahl was telling the story as she remembered it. Or she may have changed the name because more people were familiar with the name Marilyn Monroe rather than whatever “dumb blonde sexpot” starlet it really happened to, so they could better envision the scenario. Or, it is possible, that Ms. Dahl heard the story and over time “remembered it” or (not saying it did, but it is possible) that she made it up or heard it and claimed it as her own.

Just enjoy it for an entertaining story about some of classic Hollywood’s most beloved stars.


admin January 7, 2011 at 7:38 am

I think you and others are missing the point of the post and focusing instead on speculation. The point of the story was not whether MM was a ditz but how someone deftly, graciously and kindly smooths over a possible gaffe.


Alrunia January 7, 2011 at 8:07 am

Wasn’t Marylin just being facetious? Kind of sounds like she was but I guess you can never know if you haven’t been there 🙂


Lola January 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

@Admin, I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment. The point of the story, the way you describe it, becomes moot once you realize there was no gaffe to smooth over, just some good-natured, self-deprecating humor, which elicited a response in kind. My friends and I joke with each other like that all the time, so it was natural for me to pick up on that tonality.

As for whether MM was a ditz IS an integral part of the story, the way Ms. Dahl tells it. I agree that it shouldn’t have been, but alas, Ms. Dahl had made it so. She made the point, almost obsessively, that to her, MM was just a gorgeous, sexy blonde who had no idea who Whitman was and unwittingly embarrassed herself in public by revealing that.


SHOEGAL January 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

At any rate – I absolutely adore Fred Astaire. He was true gentleman and one of the most gifted dancers – he made it look so effortless.


Bint January 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

Isn’t it significant that everyone else clearly thought Marilyn *had* made a gaffe? Arlene Dahl says all conversation stops when she says that. Fred Astaire therefore removes the embarrassment *anyone* might feel. He might know she was joking, but someone else might not and would be embarrassed for her wondering what response she might get.

Massive etiquette points to Fred Astaire!


winter January 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Yes, I think it was a classy answer. However, I think there are people in high positions, or celebrity status that get more kindness from others than most do. Most people now would have just snarled, acted all superior and made sure everyone knew how stupid theperson was for saying what they did. I wish this generation would learn class like that generation did.


Brenda January 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Here’s a site with a slightly different version:

Arlene Dahl, one of the evening’s Astaire-nostalgic celebrities, described a party at which “Fred was talking to Clark Gable about Walt Whitman. In comes this fantastic blonde, in a dress with nothing underneath. It was Marilyn Monroe. When she heard we were talking about Whitman, she sashayed over and said, ‘I love his chocolates!’ Fred just stood there, then said, ‘Gee, I do, too, Marilyn.’”

And a slightly different version about the attendees here:

CALLER: Yes. My question is to Miss Dahl. You were telling the story of when President Kennedy met Miss Monroe for the first time. What did Jack say to you when she came into the room?

DAHL: Well, he didn’t say anything when she came into the room. He was just looking at her, as every man was. And women.

And — but when she made the faux pas about Walt Whitman and his chocolates he had a great sense of humor, and he absolutely roared with laughter. It wasn’t until Fred Astaire broke the silence that — and said that he liked the chocolates too because he was such a gentleman…

IMHO, Monroe really didn’t make a gaffe, Astaire cleared the air, and Dahl has a wonderful party story that she’s been telling for almost 50 years.


Auryn Grigori January 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Thank you Brenda. My only point was that it seemed like a story that played up a lot of that “Monroe was a ditsy blond” angle. Besides, the party was a long time ago. Who knows? Maybe Monroe wasn’t reading Whitman at the time, and truly did not know. Maybe Marilyn Monroe was having a bit of a joke on her “ditz” role. Maybe people were mentioning Whitman by his last name only, and she thought they were talking about chocolates. Maybe it was a different blond altogether. Who knows?

I really wasn’t trying to cause an argument. I actually was trying to find the story online because it sounded great, and when I typed in “Marilyn Monroe” and “Walt Whitman”, the first story to pop up was not Arlene Dahl’s, but an article about Monroe and her favorite reads, with Whitman included among them. So I was wondering about the truth of this story.

I don’t think questioning the story makes Fred Astaire any less of a classy guy. He helped out Debbie Reynolds in “Singing in the Rain” with her dancing when Gene Kelly yelled at her. Fred Astaire was a gracious, kind man and a terrific dancer.

If I offended anyone, I am truly sorry.


Auryn Grigori January 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Oh, and Jillybean, I am there with you. I don’t believe that she is the only actor or actress that gets confused with the roles she plays. She may be one of the most famous, though 😉


Me January 7, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I’m pretty sure that MM knew who Walt Whitman was – she was an avid reader and wrote poetry herself. She simply came into the conversation at the wrong time and made a gaffe.


Vanessa January 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm

If you’ve seen interviews with Arlene Dahl about MM, it’s obvious that there are some bitter feelings there. She very obviously doesn’t like her and makes a lot of disparaging remarks. So it could well be a fabrication. But, even if it isn’t true, its a lovely story-and she obviously likes Fred Astaire.


Simone January 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm

It could also be true because even the smartest of people make mistakes. I really don’t care whether it’s true or not, it’s still a great story, but I just wanted to point out that the story being true would not necessarily make MM a ditzy blonde. Just a human being confronted with a familiar word whose synapses fired down one path instead of another.

It happens to all of us, even (I’m sure) Fred Astaire. So maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. But it’s not unbelievable just because MM was smart, or even because she liked Walt Whitman’s poetry.


chelonianmobile January 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

I find myself reminded of a line in a comic I read a while back where the protagonist confesses he used to get Walt Whitman confused with Wil Wheaton. I myself used to get Cagney and Lacey confused with Thelma and Louise >_< People often mix up names or mis-remember who other people are. Doesn’t make them stupid or mean they’ve never heard of the person.

Even if it’s not true, the point of posting it here was more to do with Fred Astaire’s reaction. Surely the reaction would have been just as important if these people were not celebrities? I mentally replayed the conversation as if it was between random people, and his reaction is still good. Personally if I was her I’d have preferred to be told, but maybe her view would have been different.


Aje January 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

To be perfectly honest, I think I might have said the same thing as Monroe, but as a joke. 🙂


Cattra January 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Again I agree with many of the posts above, she may just be embellishing the truth rather than lying. Just because someone is famous does not mean that everything they say is the truth. Sometimes, for theatricality or attention, a famous person does, in fact, embellish the truth, or even lie.

If there was any truth to this story, in all probability, Marilyn was probably fully aware of what she was saying and said it as an intentional joke rather than the ditzy blonde she is often portrayed to be.


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