Alas the famous exchange between Churchill and George Bernard Shaw is fiction.
According to the usually reliable Kay Halle, in her quotations book Irrepressible Churchill (Cleveland: World, 1966, page 116), Shaw wrote to Churchill in 1924: “Am reserving two tickets for you for my premiere. Come and bring a friend—if you have one.”
Churchill, Halle says, replied: “Impossible to be present for the first performance. Will attend the second—if there is one.” Finest Hour editor Dalton Newfield explained in the 1970s that the play in question was Shaw’s “St. Joan.”
But Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, has just come across an correspondence in a remote corner of the Churchill Papers (CHUR 2/165/66,68) in which both Shaw and Churchill deny the exchange:
“A Mr. Tatham writes to George Bernard Shaw on 15 September 1949 asking to publish the famous exchange with WSC over theatre tickets.
“Shaw replies: ‘The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel which may possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril, whether in assertion or contradiction.’
“Tatham also writes to Churchill, whose secretary, Elizabeth Gilliatt, replies on 16 September 1949 as follows: ‘he [Churchill] considers Mr. Bernard Shaw is quite right in calling the incident to which you refer ‘a flat lie.’”
The famous retort has been reprinted in many quotebooks, including mine, but no more.