Yesterday, August 22nd, Dorothy “Dotty” Rothschild Parker (1893-1967) would have been 119 years old. For a woman who tried to commit suicide as many times as she did, it is a wonder that she lived into her seventies. Although Parker is most well known as a wit, theatre critic, poet, and short story writer, she also made some contributions to the Hollywood scene, writing such screenplays as A STOR IS BORN (1937 AND 1954), SABOTEUR (1942), and some dialogue for THE LITTLE FOXES (1941), so I believe she deserves a mention here. And despite the fact that she once said that Katharine Hepburn “runs the gamut of emotions from A to B,” she still happens to be one of my favorite 20th century women.
Politics: Dorothy Parker was a radical liberal. During the 1930s and 1940s she became a vocal advocate for civil rights. She visited Spain during the civil war and reported on what she witnessed over there in the Communist New Masses magazine. In 1936 she helped to found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, whose wealthy membership grew to be 4,000 strong. At one point she chaired the Joint Anti-Fascist Rescue Committee, as well as many other left-wing causes. During the McCarthy era, Parker was branded a Communist and subsequently put at the very top of the Hollywood blacklist. Her final screenplay was for THE FAN (1949). She then returned to New York where she wrote reviews for Esquire magazine.
The Algonquin Round Table: In 1919 an elite group of friends – wisecracking theatre critics, writers, and actors – started a tradition of lunching regularly at the Algonquin Hotel. The “vicious circle,” as they called themselves, had no fixed rule for membership, with regular attendees coming and going as they pleased. Charter members of the group included:
- Dorothy Parker
- Robert Benchly (humorist, actor)
- Ruth Hale (writer, woman’s rights activist)
- George S. Kaufman (playwright, director)
- Harold Ross (editor of The New Yorker)
- Robert E. Sherwood (author, playwright)
- Alexander Woollcott (critic, journalist)
- Tallulah Bankhead (actress – recited some of Parker’s works on her radio show)
- Edna Ferber (screenwriter, wrote STAGE DOOR (1937))
- Harpo Marx (commedian – of the Marx Brothers)
- Donald Ogden Stewart (screenwriter – including six Katharine Hepburn films)
- Estelle Winwood (actress)
- Peggy Wood (Mother Superior in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965))