dawgies off topic

Dorothy Parker Reviews Dogs

Dorothy Parker and dog

Dorothy Parker was one of the funniest goddamn writers of the twentieth century, in print and in person. She was also a great fan of dogs, so much so that during her brief stint as a theater critic in the teens and early twenties she frequently offered assessments of any dogs that happened to appear in the theatrical productions she was reviewing.

And so, as a kind of break from the regular misogyny and/or election coverage here on WHTM, let’s take ourselves back to that more innocent (but not really) age for a look at Dorothy Parker’s reviews of dogs.

Just so we’re clear: this is not “what Dorothy Parker might have sounded like if she had reviewed dogs instead of plays.” These are actual snippets from her published reviews, which are helpfully collected in the lovely and frequently hilarious book Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918-1923.

The heart of a dog:

Reviewing what seems to have been a rather mawkishly sentimental melodrama called The Mountebank in July of 1923, Parker admitted that there was one scene in the production that

will just tear the heart right out of you, throw it on the floor, and walk up and down over it with hobnailed boots on.

Naturally, a dog was involved — and a very good boy indeed!

That scene has to do with the death of a dog, and the Parker emotions, always lying around loose where dogs are concerned, are still in such a state over it that the typewriter sticks and jams, and its keys melt into a blurred mist at the very memory. The dog who plays the important rôle is a self-possessed actor, but a most engaging one, and gets everything possible out of the part.

I’m not crying! I just have something in my eye.

Also, he proved himself to be the owner of a very kind heart, for, during a tender scene in the last act, he voiced a loud and healthy bark, offstage, as if to prove to the audience that he wasn’t dead at all, that it was all just a play, and he really never felt better in his life. There was not a dry eye in the house at this assurance.


Parker was not quite so enamored with the non-dog portions of the play.

Aside from the dog’s scene, The Mountebank is—oh, well, all right—not so good, but then, on the other main, not so bad.

Aside from the dog, it was definitely not better than CATS.

Face of a dog

In a gushing review of an unexpectedly solid comedy called Kempy in August 1922, Parker singles out one of the actors for special praise:

Particularly intelligent work in a character part is done by a dog … who though small and somewhat shabby, has a splendid face for comedy.


The Artful Talker

Writing about an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink revue at the Hippodrome called Get Together in December of 1921, Parker deemed the production “great,” maybe even too much so.

There is overmuch generosity in the allowance of ice ballet, the Fokine ballet, and an act in which five people in Dutch costumes play accordions. But the elephants, God bless them, are more winning and talented than ever, and there are a talking dog and a trained crow which reach the heights of art.


The Real Hero

Reviewing what she felt was a rather dreary and predictable returning-soldier drama titled The Hero in June of 1921, Parker managed to end the review on a bit of a high note. Well, maybe a slightly elevated note. Ok, a note.

A dog which figures in the company, while rather self-conscious, is adequate.


Girl Michael

After praising the performance of Laurette Taylor in a 1921 revival of Peg o’ My Heart for being “as spontaneous and charming as it was the very first time she played the rôle; even a trifle more so, if it is possible,” Parker went on to note that

the only member of the company who seems at all bored by so many performances of the same part is the dog cast in the rôle of Michael. She is a male impersonator, by the way, for in private life she is an enthusiastic and capable mother. Michael has become so upstage from prolonged success that she takes her curtain calls with her back to the audience.

But Parker was sympathetic, noting that

it must be remembered that she has played the part almost twelve hundred times. She ranks, really, as the Mrs. Thomas Whiffen of canine actresses.

The helpful notes in Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway inform us that Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, aka Blanche Galton, was a popular actress who was, when Parker was writing, nearing the end of an exceedingly long acting career, which had begun in 1867 and wouldn’t end until until 1927, four years after Parker moved on from theater criticism.

As for the dog? Another GOOD BOY (who is actually a GOOD GIRL).

Masters of disguise

Summing up a season’s worth of theater in August 1921, Parker listed some of “the performances which stand out in highest relief.” After paying homage to such theatrical wonders as “the lady who stood against a curtain and had magic lantern slides thrown upon her, in The Midnight Rounders of 1921” and “Margot Kelly’s hair, in Deburau,” Parker ended her list with a nod to

[t]he two small dogs, one of whom impersonated a camel and the other an elephant, in the Winter Garden Show.

GOOD BOYS. Or girls. Again, impossible to tell.

49 replies on “Dorothy Parker Reviews Dogs”

Can you imagine a revue in which the presence of elephants is not the most noteworthy thing? “Oh, the elephants? They were pretty good, I guess”.

I’m fascinated by the casting process that resulted in the elephant and camel parts going to two small dogs. In all of New York City, there were no Weimaraners?

Thanks for the change of pace, David. 🙂

And tonight, it’s opening night for our burlesque show. 🙂 No elephants, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), nor dogs, but we do have one Monkey Boy*. 😉

*”It’s a guy in a suit!” (…well, ok a speedo and a little pill box hat.)

Ahh, Dorothy….

There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.

One of my fave Dorothy Parker quotes

This is so great? This is just, I can’t, this is the best thing that’s ever happened, what’s going on, I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Interesting that there was an accent circonflexe on role less than a century ago.

In high school my eccentric English teacher (it was rumored that she drank) heard that I had read Dorothy Parker. She asked that I repeat a bon mot for the class.

I was damned if I was going to say, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Not only was it sexist, it was a cliche. And I wore glasses.

But I could think of only one other witticism — and it was risque. That’s what I told her, and she said, that’s okay. Go ahead.

So I recounted how (allegedly), upon hearing that an actress friend had broken her leg while appearing in London, Dorothy Parker said, “She must have broken it sliding down a barrister.”

It got a laugh.

And then my teacher said, “That wasn’t risque!”

I didn’t say it out loud, but really, W.T.F.

Dorothy Parker was a gem. I wish she had been happier, but at least she was an excellent writer.

Are you guys aware of the webcomic Robot Hugs? It’s amazing, but also the Robot Hugs Twitter says nice things about photos of people’s pets. Reminded me of that. Now excuse me while I go read loads of Dorothy Parker :D.

@Axe, I know, it’s heartbreaking. Good on the owners for taking in senior dogs and giving them a great last few years, even though they may not stay too long. It must be really hard.

My girl has outlived her brother and her nephew. She’s got quite a few years left, but she ain’t quite as spry as she used to be

Yooo! He’s an exact spitting image of Gaea when she was a baby. With those errant whiskers and the ears all up and… *squeeeee*

@Handsome Jack


I grew up with a Westie in my family from second grade to postgrad. I still miss the monster, twenty years after he passed. Big soft spot for Westies. *squee*

It’s the black marshmallow, I tell ya. <3


two small dogs, one of whom impersonated a camel and the other an elephant

Well, yes, art requires sacrifices sometimes.

I’m feeling rebellious. The furrocracy shall fall! Tremble at the mighty power of cute!

Trembling yet? How about now?

(Ehm, I don’t actually have any pets, I just think turtles/tortoises are adorable, okay? Don’t judge me!)

two small dogs, one of whom impersonated a camel and the other an elephant

The only way that sentence could be any better is if it was followed by;

“before making off with jewellery valued in excess of £50,000”

As a 36-year-old felinist, I can appreciate the canine photo-rights movement’s position.

(Translation: I’m a cat guy, but YAY PUPPERS too.)

Spunky is a chihuahua, so he’s as big as he’s gonna get at this point. (I assume Gaea is the picture you posted?)

@Handsome Jack

my fingers itch to give them.

Awww, doggies and Dorothy Parker. Very nice.

No pictures of mine, but Adele is right next to me, tired out from the hard work of ripping a cardboard box to pieces. (I’ll sweep up the pieces later. It’s important that we give her things she can destroy. We’ve already lost one chair.)


I assume Gaea is the picture you posted?

Yep! She’s a pit, terrier… thing. Dunno exactly. She’s not growing taller anymore, but her tummy’s been expanding as of late. She ain’t complaining 🙂


canine photo-rights movement’s


My avatar is my beloved dog Anniekins. I also have a tattoo of her pawprint, so she can always be with me.

These threads never cooperate with me posting pics but I have a dawgie named Charlie (yes, as in Bucket). He’s a blond Chihuahua-Terrier (probably Jack Russell) mix and yes, he’s a much of a handful as he sounds, but he’s lovable and sweet once he gets used to you.

When I first saw him at Animal Control, his name was Sebastian and his description card said “I’m a little nervous”. I said “Oh honey, so am I”.

Anyway, I’ve had him for two years now and he’s settling down nicely–not such a scaredy pup anymore. He does burrow under a blanket during thunderstorms though.

I do…and when he’s freaking out I sing “Chill Out, Charlie”

Was very disappointed last year when I went to a play about Samuel Johnson and Hodge was played by a small dog. She was pretty talented, though; she’ll go far in her stage career.

I can’t post pics of my dogs Maxx and Chiqueta who died in Feburary so here are some who closely resembles them.
Maxx was slightly thinner than this pic but still hits the nail on the head.
And Chiqueta was bigger and older and had white on her face and other parts of her body since she was old.

Pardoxical intention forgot to mention the Lesbian Feminists who are Obsessed with Dogs and will Die Alone because they are often Irritable, Emotionally-Distant and have Narrow Interests. Many of the fun(ner) lesbians are also decidedly in the dog camp; it’s kind of a thing.

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