Dorothy Parker’s Life and Works



A prolific writer of poetry, short stories, and non-fiction in the first half of the 20th century, Dorothy Parker made her name as much as a witty social commentator as she did as an author. Her witty criticisms are well-known and still read today. Dorothy Parker was known as one of the most famous female writers of her time; however, she was also renowned for being something else; the queen of coining insults and wisecracks.

Though she didn’t write much poetry, Parker found fame and success as a writer and critic in New York City in the early 20th century. First as part of the Algonquin Round Table, then as an actress and screenwriter during Hollywood’s Golden Age, and finally as one of America’s most famous literary personalities from her witty celebrity interviews with radio host Alexander Woollcott.

Early Life of Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on August 22, 1893. Her mother died when she was very young, and her father sent her to live with relatives. She attended a convent school and then went to Bryn Mawr College, where she studied Greek. After college, she moved to New York City and became a writer for Vanity Fair Magazine, where she wrote many short stories that criticized society’s flaws. She also started writing plays and had one produced at the Hudson Theatre. One of her most famous plays is A Star is Born, which was made into a movie starring Judy Garland. 

She became known for her sharp wit and even sharper tongue, which made her a columnist for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker magazine. During World War II, she helped entertain the troops with other famous people, such as Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. In 1948, her witty humour came to light in her famous work, The Long Goodbye. A film based on this novel was released in 1973, starring Peter Falk and directed by Robert Altman. However, after her mother’s death, Parker moved to Manhattan with her father and stepmother. She found work as a secretary to writer Robert Benchley and began writing her own short stories for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and other magazines.

Some Facts about Her

  1. After many years of heavy drinking, she developed cirrhosis and died from liver failure on June 7, 1967, at age 73, in Hollywood Hills, California.
  2. She married Alan Campbell, who served in World War I, but he died before they had any children together, so she never really knew what it was like to be a mother or wife.
  3. She became a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table in 1926.

Writing Career

Dorothy Parker was an American poet, short story writer, and critic. Her poems were published in several collections, including A Few Figs From Thistles, in 1924. In 1930 she co-wrote the screenplay for the film Dracula. Later in life, she turned to writing short stories because it had become challenging to publish poetry. Some of her best-known novels are Big Blonde (1937), I Can See It Now (1939), and Here We Are (1945). 

Some consider the column that she wrote from 1944 to 1956 to be one of the most significant columns written by a woman during this time. Her essays and articles were collected posthumously in 1973’s The Longshoreman’s Lunch: Uncollected Writings, 1928–1972. A line from I can see it now is used as the epigraph on Eugene O’Neill’s gravestone. 

In 1926, she became a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. This group was composed of writers who met at a round table in New York’s Algonquin Hotel each evening to read their work aloud.

Parker attended these meetings from 1927 to 1929. She co-wrote one novel titled ‘Now We Are Six, a play titled ‘The Female Animal’ published in 1927, and an autobiography titled ‘How About It?’ published posthumously in 1961. She married actor Alan Campbell and had two children during this time. They divorced after only three years together, but Parker never remarried. She continued writing until her death on June 7th, 1967.

Suggested Readings

How does the theme of “The Tide Rises the Tide Falls” develop as the poem moves forward?

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