Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker
Pretty, petite Dorothy Parker, a drama critic for Vanity Fair, did not look poisonous. But at the Round Table, she was the acknowledged master of the put-down. "Age before beauty," Clare Boothe Luce once remarked as she invited Parker to proceed her; "pearls before swine," the latter supposedly retorted as she swept through the doorway. Alexander Woollcott called her an odd "combination of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth."

Although Parker's acerbic reviews soon cost her her job, her short stories, volumes of light verse, and New Yorker book reviews established her reputation as the wittiest woman in the country. Not far beneath this glittering celebrity was a depressed and nearly suicidal alcoholic who arrived at Algonquin lunches with a hangover that she insisted "ought to be in the Smithsonian under glass." With relatively little distortion, caricaturist Peggy Bacon achieved a haunted look that hints at Parker's decadent behavior but also her alert intelligence and vulnerability.

Dorothy Parker 1893-1967
Peggy Bacon (1895-1987)
Charcoal on paper for Off with Their Heads, 1934
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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