1/13/10 - dorothy parker

In today's excerpt - the vicious wit of Dorothy Parker, who was the most-quoted of the literary stars who frequented the Algonquin roundtable:

"Mrs. Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild in West End, New Jersey on August 22, 1893. She was educated at Miss Dana's School in Morristown, New Jersey, and the Sacred Heart Convent in New York, and her first publishing job came in 1916 when Vogue to which she had submitted some poems, offered to hire her as a picture-caption writer at $10 a week. Two years later, she moved to Vanity Fair where her co-editors were the men to whom she occasionally referred as 'the two Bobs' Sherwood and Benchley.

"She was fired in 1920 by Vanity Fair when three theatrical producers protested that her reviews were too tough. ... Sherwood and Benchley resigned immediately, feeling that the magazine should not have yielded to the pressure. Sherwood went on to Life, and Mrs. Parker and Benchley rented and shared an office for a while, trying to survive as freelance writers. The office was so tiny that Mrs. Parker said afterward, 'If we'd had to sit a few inches closer together, we'd have been guilty of adultery.' (The well-known story that they grew lonely and tried to lure company by having the word MEN painted on their office door is, unfortunately, apocryphal.)...

"The dark-haired, pretty writer was well-known for lines like, 'If all the girls at Smith and Bennington were laid end to end, I wouldn't be surprised' and 'One more drink and I'd have been under the host.' ... [Her writing career was aided greatly by columnist Franklin Pierce Adams whom she later claimed] 'raised her from a couplet.'...

"Dorothy Parker was a cute girl but hardly lovable; her forte was criticism which really stung. It was Dorothy Parker who, commenting on an early and uninspired performance by Katharine Hepburn in a Broadway play, 'The Lake,' said that the actress 'ran the gamut of emotions from A to B'; it was also Dorothy Parker who, feeling dislike for Countess Margot Asquith because the Countess had written a book which seemed too narcissistic, took care of her by commenting 'The romance between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the great love affairs of literature,' and adding that the book was 'in four volumes, suitable for throwing.' She also dealt with a drama called 'The House Beautiful' by calling it 'the play lousy' and, during the period in which she reviewed books under the pseudonym of Constant Reader, disposed of a book by A. A. Milne, whose cuteness and whimsy she abhorred, by writing 'Tonstant Weader fwowwed up.' "


Scott Meredith


George S. Kaufman and His Friends




Copyright 1974 by Scott Meredith


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