Dorothy Parker (born Dorothy Rothschild) (August 22, 1893 - June 7, 1967) was an American writer and poet best known for her caustic wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles.
Born in West End, New Jersey, Parker first sold some poems to Vogue magazine in 1916 and worked there for a short while captioning fashion photographs, before beginning her career writing theatre criticism for Vanity Fair. She was initially employed as a stand-in for the vacationing Robert Benchley), and during this time she met and married Edwin Pond Parker II, whom she later divorced. She also had a torrid affair with the publisher Seward Collins. When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker she and Benchley joined its staff. Parker contributed many of her greatest short stories to the magazine, before pursuing a career as an independent writer of poems and short stories and making a name for herself as an acerbic wit. She married a young writer named Alan Campbell with whom she had a rocky relationship, untroubled by fidelity, but they lived together on-and-off until his death in 1963.
Parker was the founding member of the noted Algonquin Round Table in New York. She published three volumes of poetry (Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, and Death and Taxes), and numerous short stories (her most noted was entitled "Big Blonde"). After she left the staff of the New Yorker she continued to work as a reviewer, as well as a playwright and screenwriter, often involved in "polishing" other people's scripts. Politically liberal, she was investigated by the FBI for her suspected involvement in Communism during the McCarthy era and bequeathed the copyright to her work to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Parker became famous for her short, viciously humorous poems, many about the perceived ludicrousness of her many (largely unsuccessful) romantic affairs and many others wistfully considering the appeal of suicide. She never considered these poems as her most important works.
She is also famous for her eminently quotable wisecracks, which were repeated by her literary friends and also appeared liberally throughout her works.
She attempted suicide several times in her life but in the end died of a heart attack. 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.
Her life was the subject of the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, in which she was played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Dorothy Parker reading her own poem, Men
Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.
Entire text of her poem "News Item"
By the time you swear you're his, shivering and sighing
And he swears that his love is infinite, undying
Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying.
"An Unfortunate Coincidence"
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp.
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Gas smells awful--
You might as well live!
I like to have a martini,
two at the very most,
after three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under the host!
"Brevity is the soul of lingerie."
"This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."
"She delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B." (Review of Katharine Hepburn in the Broadway play, "The Lake".)
"Excuse me, I need to go to the lady's room. Actually, I need to make a telephone call, but I was too embarrassed to say."
"You can lead a horticulture, but you cannot make her think." (When challenged to use "horticulture" in a sentence.)
"Pearls before swine." (When she and Clare Boothe Luce were entering a room, Clare hung back, saying, "Age before beauty"; Dorothy swept into the room with this retort.)