April 11

This Day in History

Literary

Apr 11, 1931:

Dorothy Parker resigns as drama critic for The New Yorker

The witty and caustic Dorothy Parker resigns her job as drama critic for The New Yorker. However, she continues to write book reviews until 1933, which are published in 1971 as A Month of Saturdays.

The funny, sophisticated Parker symbolized the Roaring Twenties in New York for many readers. Parker was born in New Jersey and lost her mother as an infant. Shortly after she finished high school, her father died, and she struck out on her own for New York, where she took a job writing captions for fashion photos for Vogue for $10 a week. She supplemented her income by playing piano at nights at a dancing school.

In 1917, she was transferred to the stylish Vanity Fair, where she became close friends with Robert Benchley, the managing editor, and Robert Sherwood, the drama critic. The three became the core of the famous Algonquin Round Table, an ad hoc group of newspaper and magazine writers, playwrights, and performers who lunched regularly at the Algonquin Hotel and tried to outshine each other in brilliant conversation and witty wisecracks. Parker, known as the quickest tongue among them, became the frequent subject of gossip columns as a prototypical young New Yorker enjoying the freedom of the 1920s.

Parker lost her job at Vanity Fair in 1919 because her reviews were too harsh. She began writing reviews for The New Yorker, as well as publishing her own work. Her 1926 poetry collection, Enough Rope, became a bestseller, and her short story collection Big Blonde won the prestigious O. Henry Award. Despite her carefree reputation, Parker was cynical and depressed, and tried to kill herself twice.

In 1933, she married actor Alan Campbell, moved to Hollywood, and became a screenwriter. Parker collaborated on more than 20 screenplays, including A Star Is Born (1937) and its remake in 1954. She and Campbell divorced in 1947 but remarried in 1950. The outspoken Parker embraced radical politics, taking a stand against fascism and supporting communism. Although she never joined the Communist Party, she and Campbell were blacklisted from Hollywood during the McCarthy-era House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and never worked in film again. Parker died in 1967.

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