August 15, 2014

“Yonder lies the castle of my fodder.” The famous movie “quote” that Tony Curtis didn’t say…

When actor Tony Curtis died at age 85, in September 2010, many obituaries and tributes mentioned what is widely believed to be one of his most famous movie lines.

In those articles, and in many books of quotations, the line is usually given as either “Yonder lies the castle of my fodder” or “Yonder lies the castle of my faddah.”

Sometimes you’ll find it written as “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda” or “Yonder lies the castle of my fadda.” Sometimes yonder is spelled yonda or yondah. It is also quoted in the more linguistically and politically correct, accent-free variation “Yonder lies the castle of my father.”

Some websites and books claim Curtis said the line in his 1951 film The Prince Who Was a Thief.

Some claim it’s from his 1954 movie The Black Shield of Falworth.

Both of those attributions are wrong. (I have watched those movies. Several times. I can personally confirm the line is not in them.)

Most sources say Curtis uttered the line in yet another of his early adventure flicks, Son of Ali Baba, which was released on August 15, 1952.

That attribution comes closest to being the right one — up to a point.

Curtis does say something that includes the words yonder and father in Son of Ali Baba. But he doesn’t say “Yonder lies the castle of my father.” And, he doesn’t say father with a heavy New York accent that makes it sound like fodder or faddah.

I’ve watched Son of Ali Baba. Several times. (Yes, I love cheesy vintage adventure movies and Tony Curtis.)

If you watch Son of Ali Baba yourself (or just zoom ahead to about 30 minutes in), you can hear the actual words that Curtis speaks to his co-star Piper Laurie. 

What he says is: “This is my father’s palace. And yonder lies the Valley of the Sun.”

The story of how those lines morphed into the much-mocked misquote “Yonder lies the castle of my fodder” was recalled by Curtis in his autobiography American Prince: A Memoir (2008).

Ironically, in that, even Tony misremembered the original lines.

Curtis wrote:

     Son of Ali Baba was the movie where I gave a line that people unjustly made fun of for years afterward. There’s a scene where I’m on horseback and Piper is sitting next to me, and I say to her, “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle.” After the film came out, Debbie Reynolds, who would later marry Eddie Fisher, went on television and said, “Did you see the new guy in the movies? They call him Tony Curtis, but that’s not his real name. In his new movie he’s got a hilarious line where he says, ‘Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.’”
     You could chalk her ridicule up to my New York accent, but when she mentioned the issue of my real name on television, I began to wonder if there was something anti-Semitic going on there. I’m probably just hypersensitive on that topic. But either way, she got the line wrong! Unfortunately, her version stuck with the public, and for a while it became popular for people to quote the incorrect line in a ridiculous New York accent.
     Years later, Hugh Hefner came up to me at a party and said, “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.”
     I looked at him coolly. “Hef. I never said that.”
     “Then don’t tell anybody,” he said. “It makes a great movie story.”

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