Thursday, 22 July 2010

Dorothy the disrespected

Diana Mitford wrote, when she compared her lot to the other women incarcerated at Holloway. "It was still lovely to wake up in the morning and feel that one was the lovely one,"

(I meant to include that comment in yesterday’s blog. It tells us something about the vacuous thinking of many members of the British aristocracy)


“I never said most of the things I said”. These are the words of the famed American baseball player and manager “Yogi” Berra.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) could have said the same. She is mostly remembered for her wit, and for her cutting comments, but not all of the ones which are quoted are from her voice!

Here are a few of the genuine "Dorothy Parker" quotations:

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie”. 

“I’ve never been a millionaire but I just know that I’d be darling at it”. 

“If all the girls at the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised”.

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B” (re Katherine Hepburn).

But Dorothy Parker was much more than a wit. She was a brilliant, yet tragic woman.

Born Dorothy Rothschild (of a Jewish father and a Scottish mother), she married Edwin Parker in 1917. He was a member of a famed Hartford CT Congregationalist family. She first became aware of anti-Semitism when Edwin Parker’s grandfather prayed that she would be delivered from her errors.

It was an ill fated marriage, and they divorced in 1928. Dorothy married again in 1934. Her husband was Alan Campbell – an aspiring actor and screen-writer. They divorced in 1947, and then re-married in 1950.

Campbell was almost certainly a homosexual. But he was devoted to Dorothy, and was a rock of stability in her life which was slowly being eviscerated by her alcoholism. In the waning years of their first marriage she treated him abominably in an alcohol soaked part of her life.

Much more than being a wit, Dorothy Parker was also a fabulous (when sober) poet, short story writer, magazine reviewer, and screen play writer.

She was also passionate in the cause of human rights and liberty.

  She worked against the tyranny of the Spanish Fascist (Franco) regime.

She organised a union for screenplay writers.

She bequeathed her estate to the Martin Luther King Foundation.

Most commendably she never betrayed a single friend in the McCarthy era “un-American activities/Red scare” days.

All this I write because it bothers me, (i.e. it makes me f-cking mad), that women such as Dorothy Parker are reduced by our history to ciphers. Thus we are led to believe that Dorothy Parker was only and simply a humourist. 

She was much more than that. She was a passionate and courageous worker for social justice.

One of her recorded quotations, funny as it is, holds deep truth. She said “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

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