American film producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) was known for his humorous misstatements or malapropisms that became known as “Goldwynisms.” One famous “Goldwynism” was when he allegedly remarked about his film We Live Again (1934), the little-seen adaptation of an 1899 Leo Tolstoy novel, that “the public stayed away in droves.” However, it can’t be verified with any certainty when (or if) he said the line.
“The good citizens..stayed away in droves” and “They stayed away in droves” were both cited in print in 1916, when they referred to sparsely attended baseball games.
Wikipedia: Samuel Goldwyn
Samuel Goldwyn (born Schmuel Gelbfisz (Yiddish: שמואל גלבפֿיץ); c. July 1879 – January 31, 1974), also known as Samuel Goldfish, was an American film producer. He was most well known for being the founding contributor and executive of several motion picture studios in Hollywood.
Samuel Goldwyn was also known for malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called ‘Goldwynisms’ ("A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruous or contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.") being frequently quoted.
27 May 1916, Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, PA), “Athletes Run True to Form at Cambridge” by Robert W. Maxwell, pg. 11, col. 3:
The good citizens of the cultured city just stayed away in droves yesterday, but a couple of hundred voters occupied space in the stadium.
17 September 1916, Anaconda (MT) Standard, “Twenty-One Pay To Watch Macklets Win,” pt. 3, pg. 2, col. 7:
They stayed away in droves.
Google News Archive
6 August 1931, Rochester (NY) Evening Journal and The Post Express, “Slats Still One Up on Maxie in Marathon” by Joseph S. Rogers, (United Service), pg. 21, col. 3:
Evidently the fans weren’t, for they stayed away in droves.
1 January 1936, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “In Hollywood” by Paul Harrison (NEA), pg. 4, col. 4:
Hollywood, Dec. 31.—People who saw “Strike Me Pink” on Broadway several season ago—a revue full of the frenzied but futile hot chaing of Jimmie Durante—are likely to stay away in droves from the forthcoming picture by that name.
9 November 1957, Boston (MA) Daily Record, “TV Yesterday” by Bill Buchanan, pg. 17, cols. 5-6:
Arlene also referred briefly to some of the great Hollywood film magnates, including Sam Goldwyn and his “Goldwynisms” such as, “They stayed away in droves” and “Include me out.”
The More You Show, the More You Sell:
A management guide for selecting, creating and using profit producing selling aids
By L. Mercer Francisco
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
They “stay away in droves,” as Sam Goldwyn used to say, when they don’t like the show.
By A. Scott Berg
New York, NY: Ballantine Books
“The public,” Sam Goldwyn told George Cukor, “stayed away in droves.”
The Campaign of the Century:
Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics
By Greg Mitchell
New York, NY: Random House
The reception that greeted We Live Again inspired one of Sam Goldwyn’s most famous malapropisms. The public, he explained, “stayed away in droves,” despite (or perhaps because of) a rave from EPIC News movie critic Upton Sinclair.
The Stupidest Quotes of All Time
By Rosemarie Jarski
Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press
They stayed away in droves.