A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 03, 2014
“It takes ten years to become an overnight success”

An entertainment hit could make any performer an “overnight success,” but the performer usually had struggled many years to achieve that success. “It takes 10/20 years to become an overnight success” is a saying that is used in the performing arts and in business.

The saying is usually credited to New York City-born entertainer Eddie Cantor (1892-1964). “There’s no such thing as an overnight success” was said in 1952 by an actor on the film The Eddie Cantor Story. “Geraldine Page, the new star of Broadway (in ‘Mid-Summer’ at the Vanderbilt Theater), who waited 12 years to become ‘an overnight’ success” was cited in print in 1953. “ I agree with Danny Thomas, who said, ‘it took me 20 years to become an overnight success’” was said by actor Harry Belafonte in 1956. “As Eddie Cantor is supposed to have said, ‘It takes twenty years to make an overnight success’” was mentioned in a 1957 book, Ten Talents in the American Theatre.


4 August 1930, Coshocton (OH) Tribune, “Fresno Shuts Out Stonecreek,” pg. 3, col. 7:
Thurston, a chronic failure for years, becomes an overnight success at the most opportune moment in the pennant race.

15 July 1952, San Mateo (CA) Times, “Actor ‘Sells Himself’ Into Role in Cantor’s ‘Story’” by Aline Mosby (UP), pg. 13, col. 3:
“There’s no such thing as an overnight success.”
(Keefe Brasselle, star of The Eddie Cantor Story.—ed.)

12 February 1953, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, “In New York with Walter Winchell,” pg. 21, col. 1:
Midtown Vignette: From The New Yorker’s snapshot of Geraldine Page, the new star of Broadway (in “Mid-Summer” at the Vanderbilt Theater), who waited 12 years to become “an overnight” success.

13 July 1956, Fairbanks (AK) News-Miner, “Belafonte’s Experience Is Paying Off at Box Office” by Bob Thomas, pg. 8, col. 4:
Asked to explain his success, Belafonte laughed:

“It looks to some people as if it happened suddenly. I agree with Danny Thomas, who said, ‘it took me 20 years to become an overnight success.’”

Google Books
Ten Talents in the American Theatre
By David Harrison Stevens, Robert Edward Gard, et al.
Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press
1957
Pg. 70:
As Eddie Cantor is supposed to have said, “It takes twenty years to make an overnight success.”

26 January 1959, Rockford (IL) Register-Republic, “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 12B, col. 9:
TODAY’S BEST LAUGH:
With fewer films being produced in H’wood, it now takes ten years instead of five to become an overnight success.—Army Archerd.

4 July 1962, The Times (San Mateo, CA), “Lyons’ Den” by Leonard Lyons, pg. 40, col. 5:
THEATER NOTE: Geraldine Page, now one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood and on Broadway, dissented from a magazine’s description of her as “an overnight success.” Mis Page said: “A girl can’t very well be called an overnight success when in took 10 years of study and acting to get there. It would be an awfully long overnight.”

2 March 1966, The Valley Independent (Monessen, PA), “Holy Success: It Took Long Time for ‘Batman’” by Erskine Johnson, pg. 35, cols. 5-6:
“It makes me sound like an overnight success,” he (Adam West—ed.) says, “but I spent eight years in Hollywood before this show and another seven years in radio, TV and on the stage.” Add them up and you see it took Adam 15 years to become an “overnight success.”

Google Books
May 1966, Ebony, pg. 74, col. 1:
True to the old axiom of show business, Cleveland-born Dorothy (Dorothy Dandridge—ed.) had spent all her life becoming an overnight success.

Google Books
25 May 1968, The Billboard, pg. 5 ad:
Sometimes it takes years to become an overnight success.

26 July 1970, Oakland (CA) Tribune, “My Favorite Jokes” by Flip Wilson, Parade magazine, pg. 12, col. 2:
EDITOR’S NOTE: It only took Flip Wilson ten years and five minutes to become an overnight success. The ten years were spent working his way up from obscure nightclubs, and the five minutes comprised his debut on the Tonight Show.

OCLC WorldCat record
Ten year overnight success
Author: Black Oak Arkansas (Musical group)
Publisher: Universal City, Calif. : MCA Records, 1976.
Edition/Format: Music LP : English

Google Books
July 1978, Ebony, pg. 63, col. 1:
He has been performing for half a century, or, as he likes to tell people, he is “an overnight success after 50 years.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Detroit’s renaissance : our seven year overnight success story.
Author: Emanuel Company.
Publisher: Detroit, Mich. : The Company, [1980?]
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Company Profile: Cooper’s “Overnight” Success 78 Years in the Making
Edition/Format: Article Article
Publication: ELASTOMERICS -NEW YORK- 124, no. 7, (1992): 29
Database: British Library Serials

OCLC WorldCat record
Myco-protein: A twenty-year overnight success story
Author: Anthony P J Trinci
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: Mycological Research, v96 n1 (199201): 1-13
Database: CrossRef

OCLC WorldCat record
LONG TIME COMING - “Overnight success” in the Olympic Marathon Trials took 13 years for first-place finisher Jenny Spangler.
Author: John Brant
Publisher: Emmaus, PA : Rodale Press, c1987-
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: Runner’s world. 31, no. 8, (1996): 78
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
An overnight success after 85 years: Common-rail fuel injection was invented in 1913 by a British engineer called McKechnie Vickers. Now at last it is about to make the big time as highly fuel-efficient small DI diesels step into the limelight
Author: J Kendall
Publisher: [London]
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: The Transport engineer. no. DEC, Supp/1 (1998): 12
Database: ArticleFirst

OCLC WorldCat record
A Ten Year overnight success
Publisher: [Topeka]
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication: The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association. 71, Part 6 (2002): 5
Database: ArticleFirst

Twitter
James Janega
‏@JamesJanega
Daily aphorism: RT @liftapp: “It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.”—‘Biz’ Stone, Twitter cofounder pic.twitter.com/bg1OePFVBS
9:23 AM - 30 May 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theater • Tuesday, June 03, 2014 • Permalink