On this day in 1893, the great writer Dorothy Parker was born. She is best known today for her clever sayings like, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think” and her proposed epitaph, “Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.” But she was far more than this. She was quite an accomplished writer of poetry, short stories, screenplays, and nonfiction.
In her mid-20s, she became a replacement theater critic for Vanity Fair where she met people like Robert Benchley and Alexander Woollcott. Their lunches at the Algonquin Hotel became known as Algonquin Round Table. Basically, it was just a meeting place for clever and urbane people. But it was through this group that her work got a wider audience. According to Wikipedia, she published 300 poems during the 1920s. And she was on the board of editors of The New Yorker at its founding in 1925. During this period she also wrote a number of short stories, book reviews, and co-wrote the Broadway play Close Harmony.
In 1934 she went to Hollywood where she did quite well doing what we would now call “punching up” scripts. She did have screenwriting credit, however—most notably on A Star Is Born. In the 1950s, she was blacklisted because of her involvement in left wing politics. The executor of her will, for example, was Lillian Hellman and she bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. So of course she was blacklisted!
What I still find interesting today is that no one went after former or even current fascists. And you can see just how radical Parker was by the fact that nothing she believed in is considered radical today. But the point is that anyone who stands up for the people against the power elite is attacked by whatever media and political organs are controlled by the power elite. And today, that means all of them. Of course, Parker was fine. She had money from all of her writing and was still employable in the magazine industry at places like Esquire.
She drank to excess in later years—especially after the suicide of her second and third husband, Alan Campbell. She died of a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 73. Here she is reading her poem “One Perfect Rose”:
Happy birthday Dorothy Parker!