Poet, critic and satirist Dorothy Parker could turn a phrase like no other.
Poet, critic and satirist, Dorothy Parker could turn a phrase like no other – and she turned quite a few during her 73 colorful years. In memory of the always-quotable Parker, we’ve compiled some of her clever quotes and fascinating facts about her life.
“I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.”
Fact: Born Dorothy Rothschild to a Jewish father and Protestant mother, she eagerly changed her name when she married Edwin Pond Parker II in 1917. The anti-Semitism of the day led her to dislike her maiden name.
“Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.”
Fact: Perhaps Parker was best known as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers and wits who met daily at New York’s Algonquin Hotel to lunch and trade wisecracks and barbs. Well-known members of the Round Table – otherwise known as the Vicious Circle – included Tallulah Bankhead, Harpo Marx, Edna Ferber, and many more.
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
Fact: Parker gained a reputation as a ruthless literary critic when she wrote reviews for The New Yorker under the byline “Constant Reader.” Among her notable reviews was her unforgettable response to A.A. Milne’s childhood classic House at Pooh Corner: “Tonstant Weader fwowed up.”
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
Fact: Parker kicked off a lifelong love for left-wing activism at a protest against the executions of notorious anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927. Parker was arrested and saddled with a $5 fine for the charge of “loitering and sauntering.”
“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”
Fact: Parker pursued a career as a screenwriter in the 1930s and ’40s, and was twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing – Screenplay, first for A Star Is Born in 1937 and again in 1941 for The Little Foxes starring Bette Davis. But her film career came to an abrupt end when her leftist leanings landed her a prominent spot on Hollywood’s blacklist. The FBI’s dossier on Parker’s suspected Communist activity stretched to 1,000 pages.
“I’m never going to accomplish anything; that’s perfectly clear to me. I’m never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don’t do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don’t even do that anymore.”
Fact: When Dorothy Parker died on June 7, 1967, she bequeathed her entire estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. After King’s death the following year, the estate was passed along to the NAACP, but the decision was contested. With the estate trapped in a bitter fight, Parker’s ashes went years without finding a final resting place (they resided for some time in her attorney’s filing cabinet, among other locations). In 1988, more than 20 years after her death, the NAACP created a memorial garden for Parker, where they laid her remains to rest once and for all. An informational plaque includes her suggested epitaph: “Excuse my dust.”
“Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.”
Originally published June 7, 2013