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Dorothy Parker Pospa

Born August 22, 1893(1893-08-22)
Long Branch, New Jersey, United States
Died June 7, 1967 (aged 73)
New York, New York, United States
Occupation Author, poet, critic, screenwriter
Nationality American
Genres Poetry, satire
Literary movement American modernism
Notable work(s) Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, A Star Is Born
Notable award(s) O. Henry Award
1929
Spouse(s) Edwin Pond Parker II (1917-1928)
Alan Campbell (1934-1947)
Alan Campbell (1950-1963)
Official website

Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American writer and poet, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles.

From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in such venues as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Following the breakup of that circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the infamous Hollywood blacklist.

Parker went through three marriages (two to the same man) and survived several suicide attempts, but grew increasingly dependent on alcohol. Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker". Nevertheless, her literary output and her sparkling wit have endured.

Contents

Early life

Also known as Dot or Dottie, Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild to Jacob Henry[1] and Eliza Annie Rothschild (née Marston)[2] at 732 Ocean Avenue in the West End village of Long Branch, New Jersey,[3] where her parents had a summer beach cottage. Dorothy's mother was of Scottish descent, and her father was of German-Jewish descent (unrelated, however, to the Rothschild banking dynasty). Parker wrote in her essay "My Hometown" that her parents got her back to their Manhattan apartment shortly after Labor Day so she could be called a true New Yorker. Her mother died in West End in July 1898, when Parker was a month shy of turning five.[4] Her father remarried, in 1900, a woman named Eleanor Francis Lewis.[5] Parker detested her father and stepmother, accusing her father of being physically abusive and refusing to call Eleanor either "mother" or "stepmother," instead referring to her as "the housekeeper."[6] She grew up on the Upper West Side, and attended Roman Catholic elementary school at the Convent of the Blessed Sacrament, despite having a Jewish father and Protestant stepmother.[7] She was asked to leave following her characterization of the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion."[8] Her stepmother died in 1903, when Parker was nine.[9] Parker later went to Miss Dana's School, a finishing school in Morristown, New Jersey.[10] Her formal education ended when she was 13. Her father died in 1913. Following his death, she played piano at a dancing school to earn a living[11] while she worked on her verse.

She sold her first poem to Vanity Fair magazine in 1914 and some months later, she was hired as an editorial assistant for another Condé Nast magazine, Vogue. She moved to Vanity Fair as a staff writer following two years at Vogue.[12]

In 1917, she met and married a Wall Street stock broker, Edwin Pond Parker II[13] (March 28, 1893 in Hartford, Connecticut – January 7, 1933 in Hartford, Connecticut[14]), but they were separated by his army service in World War I. She had ambiguous feelings about her Jewish heritage given the strong antisemitism of that era and joked that she married to escape her name.

Algonquin Round Table years

In 1919, her career took off (1921) while she was writing theatre criticism for Vanity Fair, which she began to do in 1918 as a stand-in for the vacationing P. G. Wodehouse.[15] At the magazine she met Robert Benchley, who became a close friend, and Robert E. Sherwood.[16] The trio began lunching at the Algonquin Hotel on a near-daily basis and became founding members of the Algonquin Round Table. The Round Table numbered among its members the newspaper columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Alexander Woollcott. Through their re-printing of her lunchtime remarks and short verses, particularly in Adams' column "The Conning Tower," Dorothy began developing a national reputation as a wit.

Parker's caustic wit as a critic initially proved popular, but she was eventually terminated by Vanity Fair in 1920 after her criticisms began to offend powerful producers too often. In solidarity, both Benchley and Sherwood resigned in protest.[17]

When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925, she and Benchley were part of a "board of editors" established by Ross to allay concerns of his investors. Parker's first piece for the magazine appeared in its second issue.[18] Parker became famous for her short, viciously humorous poems, many about the perceived ludicrousness of her many (largely unsuccessful) romantic affairs and others wistfully considering the appeal of suicide.

Her greatest period of productivity and success came in the next 15 years. In the 1920s alone she published some 300 poems and free verses in outlets including the aforementioned Vanity Fair, Vogue, "The Conning Tower" and The New Yorker along with Life, McCall's and The New Republic.[19]

Cover of the first edition of Enough Rope

Parker published her first volume of poetry, Enough Rope, a collection of previously published work along with new material in 1926. The collection sold 47,000 copies[20] and garnered impressive reviews. The Nation described her verse as "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity."[21] Although some critics, notably the New York Times, dismissed her work as "flapper verse,"[22] the volume helped cement her status, as the New York World review put it, as "one of the most sparkling wits who express themselves through light verse."[20] Parker released two more volumes of verse, Sunset Gun (1928) and Death and Taxes (1931), along with the short story collections Laments for the Living (1930) and After Such Pleasures (1933). Not So Deep as a Well (1936) collected much of the material previously published in Rope, Gun and Death and she re-released the fiction with a few new pieces in 1939 under the title Here Lies.[23]

In 1924, Parker collaborated with fellow Algonquinite George S. Kaufman on a one-act play, Business is Business.[24] She next collaborated with playwright Elmer Rice to create Close Harmony. The play was well received in out-of-town previews and was favorably reviewed in New York but closed after a run of just 24 performances. It did, however, become a successful touring production under the title The Lady Next Door.[25]

Some of her most popular work was published in The New Yorker in the form of acerbic book reviews under the byline "Constant Reader" (her response to a moment of whimsy in A. A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner: "Tonstant Weader fwowed up."[26]). Her reviews appeared semi-regularly from 1927 to 1933,[27] were widely read, and were later published in a collection under the name Constant Reader in 1970.

Her best-known short story, "Big Blonde", published in The Bookman magazine, was awarded the O. Henry Award as the best short story of 1929.[28] Her short stories, though often witty, were also spare and incisive, and more bittersweet than comic.

She eventually separated from her husband and had a number of affairs, including with reporter-turned-playwright Charles MacArthur and the publisher Seward Collins. Her relationship with MacArthur resulted in a pregnancy—which she aborted—about which Parker is alleged to have remarked, "How like me, to put all my eggs into one bastard",[29] and a depression that culminated in her first attempt at suicide.[30] Edwin and she divorced in 1928.[31]

It was toward the end of this period that Parker began to become politically aware and active. What would become a lifelong commitment to left-leaning causes began in 1927 with the pending executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. Parker travelled to Boston to protest the proceedings. She and fellow Round Tabler Ruth Hale were arrested, and Parker eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of "loitering and sauntering," paying a $5 fine.[32]

Hollywood

In 1934, she married Alan Campbell,[33] an actor with aspirations of being a screenwriter. (Like Parker, he was half-Jewish and half-Scottish.) He was reputed to be bisexual—indeed, Parker claimed in public that he was "queer as a billy goat". The pair moved to Hollywood and signed ten-week contracts with Paramount Pictures, with Campbell (who was also expected to act) earning $250 per week and Parker earning $1,000 per week. They would eventually earn $2,000 and in some instances upwards of $5,000 per week as freelancers for various studios.[34] She and Campbell worked on more than 15 films.[35]

In 1936, she contributed lyrics for the song "I Wished on the Moon", with music by Ralph Rainger. The song was introduced in the The Big Broadcast of 1936 by Bing Crosby.

With Robert Carson and Campbell, she wrote the script for the 1937 film A Star is Born, for which they were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing - Screenplay.[36] She wrote additional dialogue for The Little Foxes in 1941 and received another Oscar nomination, with Frank Cavett, for 1947's Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman, starring Susan Hayward.[37]

After the United States entered the Second World War, Parker and Alexander Woollcott collaborated to produce an anthology of her work as part of a series published by Viking Press for servicemen stationed overseas. With an introduction by Somerset Maugham[38] the volume compiled over two dozen of Parker's short stories along with selected poems from Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, and Death and Taxes. It was released in the United States in 1944 under the title The Portable Dorothy Parker. (Alas, Woollcott was not alive to see the new edition: he had died in early 1943, aged 56.) Parker's is one of only three of the Portable series (the other two being William Shakespeare and The Bible) to remain continuously in print.[39]

During the 1930s and 1940s period, Parker became a more vocal advocate of increasingly radical left-wing causes, a fierce civil libertarian and civil rights advocate and a frequent critic of those in authority. She reported on the Loyalist cause in Spain for the Communist New Masses magazine in 1937.[40] At the behest of Otto Katz, a covert Soviet Comintern agent and operative of German Communist Party agent Willi Muenzenberg, Parker helped to found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League in 1936.[41] The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League's membership eventually grew to some 4,000 strong, whose often wealthy but mostly unsuspecting members were, in the words of David Caute,[42] "able to contribute as much to [Communist] Party funds as the whole American working class."[42][43]

Parker also served as chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Rescue Committee. She organized Project Rescue Ship to transport Loyalist veterans to Mexico, headed Spanish Children's Relief and lent her name to many other left-wing causes and organizations.[44] Her former Round Table friends saw less and less of her, with her relationship with Robert Benchley being particularly strained (although they would reconcile).[45] Parker met S.J. Perelman at a party in 1932, and despite a rocky start (Perelman called it 'a scarifying ordeal')[46] - they remained friends for the next 35 years, even neighbors, when Sid and Laura Perelman helped Parker and Campbell buy a run-down farm in Bucks County, PA, where many of New York's literati had chosen to settle. "We haven't any roots, Alan" Parker had complained to Campbell.[47]

Her marriage with Campbell was tempestuous, with tensions exacerbated by Parker's increasing alcohol consumption and Alan's long-term affair with a married woman while he was in Europe during World War II.[48] They divorced in 1947,[49] then remarried in 1950,[50] and remained married (although they lived apart from 1952–1961) until his death in 1963 in West Hollywood.[51]

Parker's final screenplay was The Fan, a 1949 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, directed by Otto Preminger.

Later life

Parker was heard occasionally on radio, including Information Please (as a guest) and Author, Author (as a regular panelist). She wrote for the Columbia Workshop, and both Ilka Chase and Tallulah Bankhead used her material for radio monologues.[52]

Parker was listed as a Communist by the publication Red Channels in 1950.[53] The FBI compiled a 1,000-page dossier on her because of her suspected involvement in Communism during the McCarthy era.[54] As a result, she was placed on the Hollywood blacklist by the movie studio bosses.

In 1952 Parker moved back to New York, into the Volney residential hotel.[55] She drew upon her experiences there to co-write, with Arnaud d'Usseau, the play Ladies of the Corridor. The play opened in October 1953 to uneven reviews and closed after six weeks.[56]

From 1957 to 1962 she wrote book reviews for Esquire,[57] though these pieces were increasingly erratic owing to her continued abuse of alcohol. One of these reviews had a huge impact on the career of the young Harlan Ellison. Reviewing his paperback short story collection Gentleman Junkie and Other Stories of the Hung-Up Generation (Regency, 1961), she described Ellison as "a good, clean, honest writer, putting down what he has seen and known and no sensationalism about it" and lavished praise on his story "Daniel White for the Greater Good,"[58] commenting, "It is without exception the best presentation I have ever seen of present racial conditions in the South and of those who try to alleviate them. I cannot recommend it too vehemently.... Incidentally, the other stories in Mr. Ellison's book are not so dusty, either."[59] Her favorable nod gave Ellison a foothold with both mainstream publishers and film producers, and shortly afterwards he headed for Hollywood.[60]

In 1961 Parker returned to Hollywood and reconciled with Campbell. They worked together on a number of unproduced projects; among her last was an unproduced film for Marilyn Monroe.[61] Parker found Campbell dead in their home in 1963, a suicide by drug overdose.[62]

Following Campbell's death, Parker returned to New York City and the Volney. In her later years, she would come to denigrate the group that had brought her such early notoriety, the Algonquin Round Table:

These were no giants. Think who was writing in those days--Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway. Those were the real giants. The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were. Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them.... There was no truth in anything they said. It was the terrible day of the wisecrack, so there didn't have to be any truth....[63]

Parker died of a heart attack[3] at the age of 73 in 1967. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP.[64] Her executrix, Lillian Hellman, bitterly but unsuccessfully contested this disposition.[65] Her ashes remained unclaimed in various places, including her attorney Paul O'Dwyer's filing cabinet, for approximately 17 years.[66]

Posthumous honors

In 1988, the NAACP claimed Parker's remains and designed a memorial garden for them outside their Baltimore headquarters. The plaque reads,

Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988.[67]
Marker at Parker's birthplace.

On August 22, 1992, the 99th anniversary of Parker's birth, the United States Postal Service issued a 29¢ U.S. commemorative postage stamp in the Literary Arts series. The Algonquin Round Table, as well as the number of other literary and theatrical greats who lodged there, helped earn the Algonquin Hotel its status as a New York City Historic Landmark. The hotel was so designated in 1987.[68] In 1996 the hotel was designated a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA based on the contributions of Parker and other members of the Round Table. The organization's bronze plaque is attached to the front of the hotel.[69] Her birthplace was also designated a National Literary Landmark by Friends of Libraries USA in 2005 and a bronze plaque marks the spot where the home once stood.[70]

Pastiches and fictional portrayals

Parker was the inspiration for a number of fictional characters in several plays of her day. These included "Lily Malone" in Philip Barry's Hotel Universe (1932), "Mary Hilliard" (played by Ruth Gordon) in George Oppenheimer's Here Today (1932), "Julia Glenn" in the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart collaboration Merrily We Roll Along (1934) and "Paula Wharton" in Gordon's 1944 play Over Twenty-one (directed by Kaufman). She also appeared as "Daisy Lester" in Charles Brackett's 1934 novel Entirely Surrounded.[71] Kaufman's representation of her in Merrily We Roll Along led Parker, once his Round Table compatriot, to despise him.[72]

She has been portrayed on film and television by Dolores Sutton in F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (1976),[73] Rosemary Murphy in Julia (1977),[74] Bebe Neuwirth in Dash and Lilly (1999),[75] and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994).[76] Neuwirth was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance, and Leigh received a number of awards and nominations, including a Golden Globe nomination.

Parker, along with other figures of the era such as Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin, is featured as a character in Act 1, Scene 12 of the stage musical version of Thoroughly Modern Millie, "Muzzy's Party Scene."[77]

Spoken word recordings

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References

  1. ^ Meade, Marion (1987). Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?. New York, NY: Penguin Books. p. 5. ISBN 0140116168 (paperback). 
  2. ^ Meade 6
  3. ^ a b "Dorothy Parker, 73, Literary Wit, Dies". New York Times. June 8, 1967. http://dorothyparker.com/nytobit.html. 
  4. ^ Meade 12
  5. ^ Meade 13
  6. ^ Herrmann, Dorothy (1982). With Malice Toward All: The Quips, Lives and Loves of Some Celebrated 20th-Century American Wits. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 78. ISBN 0399127100. 
  7. ^ Meade 14
  8. ^ Chambers, Dianne (1995), "Parker, Dorothy", in Wagner-Martin, Linda, The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States, Oxford University Press, http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t196.e0604 
  9. ^ Meade 16
  10. ^ Meade 27
  11. ^ Silverstein, Stuart Y. (1996). Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker. New York: Scribner. p. 13. ISBN 0743211480 (paperback). 
  12. ^ Silverstein 13
  13. ^ Herrmann 78
  14. ^ "Edwin P. Parker 2d." New York Times. January 8, 1933
  15. ^ Silverstein 18
  16. ^ Altman, Billy (1997). Laughter's Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 146. ISBN 0393038335. 
  17. ^ Altman 156–8
  18. ^ Silverstein 32
  19. ^ Silverstein 62-3
  20. ^ a b Silverstein 35
  21. ^ Meade 177
  22. ^ Meade 178
  23. ^ Silverstein 36
  24. ^ Meade 132
  25. ^ Meade 138
  26. ^ Parker, Dorothy (1976). Far From Well, collected in The Portable Dorothy Parker Revised and Enlarged Edition. New York: Penguin Books. p. 518. ISBN 0140150749. 
  27. ^ Silverstein 38
  28. ^ Herrmann 74
  29. ^ Meade 105
  30. ^ Silverstein 29
  31. ^ Herrmann 79
  32. ^ Silverstein 44
  33. ^ Meade 238
  34. ^ Silverstein 40
  35. ^ "Dorothy Parker". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0662213/. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  36. ^ "A Star is Born (1937) - Awards". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029606/awards. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  37. ^ "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman - Awards". Internet Movie Database. http://imdb.com/title/tt0039840/awards. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  38. ^ Meade 318
  39. ^ Publisher's Note (1976). The Portable Dorothy Parker Revised and Enlarged Edition. New York, NY: Penguin. ISBN 0140150749. 
  40. ^ Meade 285
  41. ^ Koch, Stephen, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, New York: Enigma Books (2004), Revised Edition, ISBN 1929631200
  42. ^ a b Caute, David, The Fellow Travellers: Intellectual Friends of Communism, New Haven: Yale University Press (1988), ISBN 0300041950
  43. ^ Willi Münzenberg's ‘Innocents' Clubs’
  44. ^ Buhle, Paul; Dave Wagner (2002). Radical Hollywood: The Untold Story Behind America's Favorite Movies. New York, NY: The New Press. p. 89. ISBN 1565847180. 
  45. ^ Altman 314
  46. ^ Perelman 171
  47. ^ Pereleman 175
  48. ^ Meade 327
  49. ^ Meade 329
  50. ^ Meade 339
  51. ^ Silverstein 58
  52. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507678-8. 
  53. ^ "DOROTHY PARKER Writer, Versifier". Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television. Counterattack. http://www.authentichistory.com/1950s/redchannels/redch115.html. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  54. ^ Kunkel, Thomas (1996). Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker. Carrol & Graf. p. 405. ISBN 0786703237. 
  55. ^ Meade 346
  56. ^ Silverstein 56
  57. ^ Itzkovitz, Daniel (1998-05-28). "Dorothy Rothschild Parker (1893–1967)". Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/parker.html. Retrieved 2005-09-25. 
  58. ^ Ellison, Harlan. "Daniel White for the Greater Good". http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/ebarnes/242/daniel-white.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  59. ^ Strickland, Galen. "Harlan Ellison". The Templeton gate. http://templetongate.net/ellison.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  60. ^ alt.fan.harlan-ellison "Harlan Ellison FAQ". 1995. http://harlanellison.com/text/newsfaq.txt alt.fan.harlan-ellison. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  61. ^ Meade 380
  62. ^ Meade 392–3
  63. ^ Herrmann p. 85
  64. ^ Silverstein 59
  65. ^ Meade 413
  66. ^ Meade 412
  67. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (2000). Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere. New York, NY: Verso. p. 293. ISBN 1 85984 786 2. 
  68. ^ Heller Anderson, Susan (09-20), "City Makes It Official: Algonquin is Landmark", New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE6DE1E38F933A1575AC0A961948260, retrieved 2007-10-21 
  69. ^ Friends of Libraries USA. "1996 dedications". http://www.folusa.org/outreach/landmarks-year/1996.php. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  70. ^ Friends of Libraries USA. "Dedications by Author - P". http://www.folusa.org/outreach/landmarks-author/P.php. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  71. ^ Silverstein 10–11
  72. ^ Meade 241
  73. ^ "F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood". Internet Movie Database. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0074509/. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  74. ^ "Julia". Internet Movie Database. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0076245/. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  75. ^ "Dash and Lilly". Internet Movie Database. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0171214/. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  76. ^ "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle". Internet Movie Database. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0110588/. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  77. ^ Synopsis

Further reading

  • John Keats, You Might As Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.
  • Marion Meade, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?. New York: Villard, 1988.
  • Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil, eds., Dorothy Parker's Elbow - Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. New York: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, A Journey into Dorothy Parker's New York. Berkeley, CA: Roaring Forties Press, 2005.
  • S.J. Perelman, "Dorothy Parker". in The Last Laugh. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1981.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dorothy Parker (1893-08-221967-06-07) was an American writer, poet, and critic. A fixture of 1920s literary society known for her acerbic wit and low opinion of romantic relationships, she became a member of the famous Algonquin Round Table.

Contents

Sourced

  • Excuse my dust.
    • Her proposed epitaph for herself, quoted in Vanity Fair (June 1925)
  • And she had It. It, hell; she had Those.
    • Regarding a character in Elinor Glyn's novel It; in her review of same, "Madame Glyn Lectures on 'It,' with Illustrations" in The New Yorker (1927-11-26)
  • Salary is no object: I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.
    • New Yorker (4 February 1928)
  • Well, Aimee Semple McPherson has written a book. And were you to call it a little peach, you would not be so much as scratching its surface. It is the story of her life, and it is called In the Service of the King, which title is perhaps a bit dangerously suggestive of a romantic novel. It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario.
    • "Our Lady of the Loudspeaker" in The New Yorker (1928-02-25)
  • It is that word 'hummy,' my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.
  • That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.
    • "But the One on the Right" in The New Yorker (1929)
  • The House Beautiful is, for me, the play lousy.
    • Review of "The House Beautiful" by Channing Pollock, New Yorker (21 March 1931)
  • [A] lady ... with all the poise of the Sphinx though but little of her mystery.
    • Concerning a child actress in A. A. Milne's play Give Me Yesterday; in her review of same, "Just Around Pooh Corner" in The New Yorker (1931-03-14)
  • Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
    Love, the reeling midnight through,
    For tomorrow we shall die!
    (But, alas, we never do.)
    • "The Flaw in Paganism" in Death and Taxes (1931)
  • [On the most beautiful words in the English language] The ones I like...are "cheque" and "enclosed."
    • Quoted in N.Y. Herald Tribune (12 December 1932)
  • And I'll stay away from Verlaine too; he was always chasing Rimbauds.
    • "The Little Hours" in Here Lies (1939); this plays on the title of the popular song "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows"; Paul Verlaine was Arthur Rimbaud's lover.
  • I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.
    • "The Little Hours" in Here Lies (1939)
  • I'm never going to accomplish anything; that's perfectly clear to me. I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more.
    • "The Little Hours" in Here Lies (1939)
  • One more drink and I'd have been under the host.
    • Quoted in Try and Stop Me by Bennett Cerf (1944)
  • There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.
    • Interview, Paris Review (Summer 1956)
  • It's not the tragedies that kill us; it's the messes.
    • Interview, Paris Review (Summer 1956)
  • [On being told of Calvin Coolidge's death] How do they know?
  • There is no such hour on the present clock as 6:30, New York time. Yet, as only New Yorkers know, if you can get through the twilight, you'll live through the night.
    • "New York at 6:30 P.M.", Esquire (November 1964)
  • This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
    • Quoted in The Algonquin Wits (1968) edited. by Robert E. Drennan
  • You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.
    • Quoted in The Algonquin Wits (1968) edited. by Robert E. Drennan
  • [On her abortion] It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.
    • Quoted in You Might as well Live by John Keats (1970)
  • You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.
    • Quoted in You Might as well Live by John Keats (1970)
    • Parker's answer when asked to use the word horticulture during a game of Can-You-Give-Me-A-Sentence?
  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
    • Quoted in Turning Numbers into Knowledge (2001) by Johnathan G. Koomey ISBN 0-9706019-0-5

From Enough Rope (1926)

Ballads of a Great Weariness

Scratch a lover, and find a foe.

Fame

If I didn't care for fun and such,
I'd probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.
First printed in NY World, (16 August 1925)

Comment

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Roumania.
First printed in NY World, (16 August 1925)

Résumé

Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.
First printed in NY World, (16 August 1925)

News Item

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.
First printed in NY World, (16 August 1925)

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying,
Lady, make a note of this —
One of you is lying.
First printed in Life, (8 April 1926) p. 11

Experience

Some men tear your heart in two,
Some men flirt and flatter,
Some men never look at you,
And that clears up the matter.
First printed in Life, (8 April 1926) p. 11

Rainy Night

I am sister to the rain;
Fey and sudden and unholy,
Petulant at the windowpane,
Quickly lost, remembered slowly.
First printed in New Yorker, (26 September 1926) p. 10

Inventory

Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
First printed in Life, (11 November 1926) p. 12

From Sunset Gun (1927)

Partial Comfort

Whose love is given over-well
Will look on Helen's face in Hell;
While they whose love is thin and wise
May view John Knox in Paradise.
First printed in Life, 24 February 1927 p. 5

A Pig's-Eye View of Literature: Oscar Wilde

If with the literate I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
First printed in Life, (2 June 1927) p. 13

Fair Weather

They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
First printed in NY World, (20 January 1928) p. 13

Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning

It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
"Aha, my little dear," I say,
"Your clan will pay me back some day."
First printed in New Yorker, (9 April 1927) p. 31

Alexander Woollcott While Rome Burns "Our Mrs Parker" (1934)

Woollcott's biographical essay on Dorothy Parker is the only source for many of the things she said at the Algonquin Round Table.

  • That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say No in any of them.
    • Compare with Ira Gershwin's line in "The Saga of Jenny" (1942): "In 27 languages she couldn't say no."
  • And there was that wholesale libel on a Yale prom. If all the girls attending it were laid end to end, Mrs Parker said, she wouldn't be at all surprised.
  • Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
    • Caption written for Vogue 1916
  • Katharine Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.
    • Woollcott writes in While Rome Burns that Parker had "recently...achieved an equal compression in reporting on The Lake, Miss Hepburn, it seems, had run the whole gamut from A to B." The words do not appear in Dorothy Parker's 1934 printed review of The Lake

From Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker (1996)

When We Were Very Sore (Lines on Discovering That You Have Been Advertised as America's A. A. Milne.)

Dotty had
Great Big
Visions of
Quietude.
Dotty saw an
Ad, and it
Left her
Flat.
Dotty had a
Great Big
Snifter of
Cyanide.
And that (said Dotty)
Is that.
First printed in NY World, (10 March 1927) p. 15

Misattributions

Note: A great many misquotations are attributed to Mrs. Parker. Please try to verify the provenance of any quotations you believe should be ascribed to her. Parker herself wrote about the perils of misquotation in "A Pig's Eye Look At Literature"

  • If you want to know what the Lord God thinks of money, just look at those to whom he gives it.
    • Man and the Gospel (1865) by Thomas Guthrie "and you may know how little God thinks of money by observing on what bad and contemptable characters he often bestows it."
  • Upon my honor
    I saw a Madonna
    Standing in a niche
    Over the door
    Of the glamorous whore
    Of a prominent son of a bitch.
    • Said to have been written in the guest-book of Hearst Castle, referring to the room occupied by Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies. Parker always denied it, pointing out that she would never have rhymed "honor" with "Madonna".
    • Since Parker didn't write it, there are many different versions of this, including ones where the word describing the whore is "favorite" or "famous", and ones where "son of a bitch" is modified by "the world's worst" instead of "a prominent".
  • How odd
    Of God
    To choose
    The Jews
    • This is actually by William Norman Ewer (1885-1976) in Week-End Book'(1924); This has sometimes been misattributed to Parker, who was herself of Jewish heritage, in the form:
      How odd of God
      To choose the Jews
    • Similar sayings have also been attributed to Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
      'It wasn't odd;
      the Jews chose God
    • Cecil Browne
      But not so odd
      As those who choose
      A Jewish God,
      But spurn the Jews
    • Leo Rosten
      Not odd
      Of God
      The goyim
      Annoy 'im.

About Dorothy Parker

  • Everything I've ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.
    • George S. Kaufman

External links

Wikipedia
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