Written by Pauline Savard
Biography of Dorothy Rothschild Parker
Parker born Rothschild was an American writer and poet. Dorothy Parker
contributed to many works of literature including newspaper columns, reviews,
screenplays, satirical verses, and books; she is especially known for short
stories, poems, and powerful quotes.
In fact, she “was once one of the most-quoted people in America” (Fitzpatrick
1). Parker was also
known for “her pointed verbal wit
and satire” (Johnson Lewis
1). She was one of the most accomplished feminists of her time: “Parker
illustrated the real effects of poverty, economic and spiritual ideas upon women
who had lacked education as a result of social class and sex.” (Tu 2).
Parker was born on August 22, 1893 in West End, New Jersey to Eliza
Marston Roths, a Scottish Protestant, and J. Henry Rothschild, a wealthy Jewish
garment manufacturer. Parker did not have a happy childhood. She lost her mother
when she was only four years of age and her father when she was 16. In addition,
Parker lost her brother Henri in 1912 when the steamship Titanic sank. Parker
was educated in private schools, the Blessed Sacrament Convent School and a
finishing school in Morristown, New Jersey. Later, parker said in an interview,
“but as for helping me in the outside world, the convent taught me only that
if you spit on a pencil eraser it will erase in.” Parker’s formal education
ended when she was 14. But she never received a high school diploma, “her
knowledge was acquired through her voracious reading” (Pettit 1).
Parker sold her first poem “Any Porch” to Vanity Fair magazine in
1916, and, at the same time, she started working for Vogue magazine as an
editorial assistant. But a year later, she went back to Vanity Fair as a drama
critic. In 1917, she married Edwin Pound Parker II, a stockbroker, who she
divorced within the same year. Even though the marriage lasted for a very short
period of time, she kept Parker’s name. In 1919, Parker became a founding
member of the renowned intellectual literary circle the Algonquin
Round Table which included Robert Benchley, Robert E. Sherwood, James
Thurber, George S. Kaufman, Edna Ferber, Franklin P. Adams, and others. During
this period, Parker drank heavily and attempted suicide on various occasions. In
1920, she was fired from Vanity Fair because her reviews were more and more
sarcastic and unfavorable. Soon after, she found a job at Ainslee’s and could
be as sarcastic, bitchy, and witty as she wanted. Her literary career began in
1922 when she wrote her first short story “Such a Pretty Little Picture”.
Parker’s first collection of poems, Enough Rope was published in 1926
and contained ‘Résumé’
a poem on suicide that has been often quoted. Enough Rope became a
bestseller and was followed by Sunset Guns in 1928 and Death and Taxes
in 1931. In 1929, Dorothy won the O. Henry Prize for her short story “Big
Blond”. Parker’s short stories were collected in Laments for the Living
(1930), After Such Pleasures (1933), and Here Lies (1939).
In 1933, Parker moved to California where she wrote screenplays with her
second husband, Alan Campbell. She was nominated for an Academy award in 1937
for A Star
Is Born. The film received an Oscar for Best Original Story. She received
another Oscar nomination in 1948 for Smash-Up:
The Story of a Woman. Throughout the 1940’s Dorothy continued writing
prose and short stories along with screenplays. Parker was against Fascism and
Nazism and she declared herself a Communist, for which she and some of her
fellow writers were blacklisted in Hollywood. As a result, Parker could no
longer work in California and moved back to the East Coast and wrote for Esquire
until her death. In
1959, Parker was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was
a distinguished visiting professor at California State College in Los Angeles in
1963. Parker died at age 73 on June 7, 1967. She left her literary estate to Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Parker’s unhappiness in her own life was reflected in her writing. Most of Parker’s writing was about unhappiness, death, and frustration with the world she was living in. Parker offered “a witty and often acerbic assessment of human affairs – whether they concerned romantic love, the family, war, racism, self-deception, economic disparity, or the intersection of these issues. She has been called a period writer, a humorist, and a (pejoratively speaking) sentimentalist” (Pettit 1). However, Parker “was the most talked-about woman of her time, worshipped by an entire college generation for whom she mirrored, expressed, and helped to establish a new style in life and art” (Pickering 1405). Despite her sadness toward life, her alcoholism, and her various suicide attempts, Dorothy Parker was one of the most successful women and was regarded as the most brilliant writers from the early 1900s. Her work is timeless and as pertinent to today's society as it was to that of the time she wrote.
Kevin Dorothy Parker. Electronic file accessible via Internet: http://www.findadeath.com/Decesed/p/Dorothy%20Parker/dorothy_parker.htm
Accessed on March 26, 2006.
Johnson Lewis, Jone, Women’s History. Dorothy
Parker Quotes. Electronic
file accessible via Internet: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/dorothy_parker.htm
Accessed on March 25, 2006.
Pettit, Rhonda, Dorothy Parker (1893 –1967). Electronic file accessible via Internet: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/parker/parker.htm Accessed on March 25, 2006.
Pickering, James H. Fiction 100 An Anthology of Short Fiction. 10th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458
Tu, Yvonne, Dorothy Rothschild Parker 1893-1967 Celebrated
Conversationalist renowned for her literary contributions and founder/member
of the "Algonquin Round Table. Electronic file accessible via Internet: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/386/dparker.html.
Accessed on March 25, 2006.