Monday, January 30, 2006
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was an American short story writer, poet, critic, and a legendary figure in the New York literary scene. She was a writer of sketches and short stories, and was often published in the The New Yorker. Famous for her wit and cruel humor, her column 'Constant Reader' was highly popular.
Dorothy Parker was born in West End, New Jersey, the fourth and last child of Jacob (Henry) Rothschild, a garment manufacturer, and Annie Eliza (Marston) Rothschild, the daughter of a machinist at Phoenix Armour. Her father remarried in 1900 after Dorothy's mother died in 1898. Dorothy never liked her stepmother, a Roman Catholic. Her stepmother died just three years later; her father died in 1913.
Dorothy was educated at a Catholic school. After graduating, she moved to New York City, where she wrote during the day and earned money at night playing the piano in a dancing school.
After selling some of her poetry to Vogue in 1916, Dorothy was offered an editorial job with the magazine.sold some of her poetry to the editor of Vogue. In 1917 she married Edwin Pond Parker II, a stockbroker, whom she later divorced. Wounded in World War I, Edward was an alcoholic, and also became a morphine addict during the war.
Dorothy worked for Vanity Fair from 1917 to 1920. Frank Crowinshield, the managing editor of the magazine, later recalled that she had "the quickest tongue imaginable, and I need not to say the keenest sense of mockery."
From 1927 and 1933 Dorothy wrote book reviews for The New Yorker, and continued to appear irregularly until 1955. Parker's first collection of poems, Enough Rope, was published in 1926. It contained the often-quoted 'Résumé' on suicide.
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Gas smell awful;
You might as well live.
During the 1920s Dorothy had several extra-marital affairs. She drank heavily and attempted suicide three times. With her second husband Alan Campbell, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a screenwriter, working on films including A Star is Born and Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur.
Along with Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy helped found the Screen Writers' Guild. She also reported on the Spanish Civil War, and collaborated on several plays. After World War II, Dorothy declared herself a Communist, for which she was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Her last major film project was The Fan (1949), directed by Otto Preminger.
Parker died alone on June 7, 1967, in the New York hotel she called home. She left her estate to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some of her more saucy quotations:
- A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.
- Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
- I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true.
- 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.
- If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
- If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
- Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
- The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant — and let the air out of the tires.
- This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
- That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.
- They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
- The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
- 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 any thing. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more.
- 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 Romania.
- Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.
- She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. [speaking of Katharine Hepburn]
Dorothy Parker | Screenwriter's Guild | The New Yorker