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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.

What a VERY GOOD BOY!

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.

Who’s GOT A FACE FOR COMEDY? WHO?

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.

What an ARTFULLY GOOD BOY! Or GIRL!

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.

WHO’S AN ADEQUATE BOY (OR GIRL)?

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.

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Banananana dakry
Banananana dakry
5 years ago

@Handsome Jack

*asplode* WESTIEEEEEES

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

Handsome "Punkle Stan" Jack

@Banananana dakry

My Darby is gonna be 9 in December. Her full name is Darby Carrigan MacGruff. (No relation to McGruff.)

Here’s a pic from the day we brought her home.

http://i.imgur.com/CjfzL7f.jpg

And here’s a more recent pic my mother framed for me on for my b-day last year.

http://i.imgur.com/cN1L3p4.jpg

15/10, as you can see.

gijoel
gijoel
5 years ago

This one cracked me up when I saw it last week.

newbie
newbie
5 years ago

Dogs!

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

Well, yes, art requires sacrifices sometimes.

Frigid Virgin (hey, I'm trying to stop global warming over here, what's your excuse?)
Frigid Virgin (hey, I'm trying to stop global warming over here, what's your excuse?)
5 years ago

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

http://cuteanimalimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ninja-turtle.jpg

Trembling yet? How about now?
comment image

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

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

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”

HawkAtreides
HawkAtreides
5 years ago

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.)

Dalillama
5 years ago

@Axe
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
SQUEEEE!

@WWTH
my fingers itch to give them.

Fishy Goat
Fishy Goat
5 years ago

@gijoel: Remind you of anything? 😉



peached
peached
5 years ago

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.)

Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
5 years ago

@Dali

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 🙂

@Hawk

canine photo-rights movement’s

?

Handsome "Punkle Stan" Jack

@Handsome Jack
SQUEEEE!

Darn tootin’.

dreemr
dreemr
5 years ago

Those turtles/tortoises I SQUOONED!!
(squeed/swooned there’s no word for it…until now!)

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
5 years ago

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

(((VioletBeauregarde))): Social Justice Necromancer
(((VioletBeauregarde))): Social Justice Necromancer
5 years ago

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.

weirwoodtreehugger: communist bonobo

These threads never cooperate with me posting pics but I have a dawgie named Charlie (yes, as in Bucket).

When he whines, do you sing “cheer up, Charlie” to him? I would!

(((VioletBeauregarde))): Crooked Nasty Social Justice Necromancer
(((VioletBeauregarde))): Crooked Nasty Social Justice Necromancer
5 years ago

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

guest
guest
5 years ago

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.

Matt
Matt
5 years ago

They’re good dogs, Bront! 🙂

Cygnia
5 years ago

Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz” was my go-to piece for Humorous Interpretation when I did Speech/Forensics…*good times*

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

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.comment image
And Chiqueta was bigger and older and had white on her face and other parts of her body since she was old.
http://farfl.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/farfl-chihuahua-11.jpg

Cranelady
Cranelady
5 years ago

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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