because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dorothy Parker

Most women born in the U.S. in 1893 made some attempt to mind their manners or at least their tongue. Dorothy Parker did neither.

Her troubles started early. For example, when her Jewish father and Protestant stepmother sent her to a Catholic elementary school to be educated, Parker was soon expelled for calling the Immaculate Conception "spontaneous combustion."

And her wit just got sharper from there. "If you want to see what God thinks of money, look at the people he gave it to," she once wrote. And yet  another Parkerism was: "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised."

Needless to say, the things she wrote and said -- especially about important people -- made it hard for her to keep a job. Not to mention the way she downed alcohol (which might be one reason she didn't watch her mouth). But her first husband was a stockbroker and she did have some critical success writing for the stage and won some awards for her fiction (though that hardly pays the rent). It was when she moved to screenwriting in Hollywood, however, that her short snappy answers started putting money in the bank in a substantial way.

Unfortunately, it was about that same time that Parker's leftist political leanings -- particularly in the areas of civil liberties and civil rights -- began to bring down the hounds of hell on this in-your-face woman. Her highly public commitments (in both time and money) to anti-fascist and anti-Nazi causes in the 1930's and 1940's got Parker blacklisted as a Communist during the McCarthy era. With all that pressure, her personal relationships strained, and her drinking escalating by the minute, it was perhaps to be expected that Parker might give up trying and decide to overdose on drugs -- which she did. Some in-your-face women even decide when they want to die.

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