How many people, I wonder, know that when she died Dorothy Parker left her small estate to Martin Luther King Jr.? Those who hung in and read the rolling post-scripts at the end of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle may remember; otherwise you might be forgiven for thinking all she ever cared about was booze, men who broke her heart, and honing her sarcasm.
In fact, Parker became a political activist in 1927, protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti executions in Boston, for which she was arrested, and she remained poltiically active until she died 40 years later.
She reported on the Loyalist cause in Spain. She was chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Resuce Committee, organized transport of Loyalist vets to Mexico, and headed the Spanish Children’s Relief Project. During WWII she founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which grew to 4000 members and which the FBI suspected of being Communist. She spoke out on segregation and supported the civil rights movement.
In addition to short stories, reportage, and poetry, Parker wrote Hollywood scripts, including the iconic Judy Garland vehicle A Star is Born. Naturally, she landed on Hoover’s Hollywood blacklist and was knocked out of the movie business for a number of years.
Despite her constant drinking, she outlived almost all the members of her famous Algonquin Round Table: she was 73 when she died of a heart attack. I can’t help thinking what an asset she’d be today, writing caustic poetry about the goings-on in Washington.