There are many things to like about "Hands Across The Table," arguably Carole Lombard's best Paramount vehicle, but did you know this sardonic, legendary lady of letters contributed to its dialogue?
She's Dorothy Parker, born 125 years ago today, who didn't get credit for it. Nor was she credited for her help polishing the script to another Lombard film, "Nothing Sacred."
We tend to think of Parker for her many bon mots, such as
* "Brevity is the soul of lingerie."
* "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses."
* "If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end-to-end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised."
* "You can't teach an old dogma new tricks."
* "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
* "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone."
But Parker -- part of the witty Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s -- also was a talented screenwriter, one of the many New Yorkers who headed to Hollywood when sound revolutionized films. Her screenplays included the Jean Harlow film "Suzy" (1936), the first "A Star Is Born" (1937), "Trade Winds" (1938) and Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur" (1942).
Another thing you may not have known about Parker: She was a progressive who deeply believed in social justice. In the 1920's, she was arrested while protesting the murder conviction of Sacco and Vanzetti, a cause celebre in that era. (Above is a demonstration on their behalf in March 1925, two years before the pair was executed in Massachusetts.) She frequently supported striking workers, and was among the many blacklisted after World War II.
And Parker, half Jewish, lived well into the 1960s and the rise of the civil rights movement. Like many fellow Americans of that time, she watched police with dogs and firehoses attack protesters throughout the South on TV, and applauded when federal legislation to ensure the vote for blacks and other minorities was passed.
Widowed, without children and battling alcoholism, Parker decided to will her estate -- which included rights to her books and other works -- to someone she had never met...
...Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shown at the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington. A condition of the will, made before her death in June 1967, was that in the event of his death, the estate would go to the NAACP.
Less than a year after her passing, King was assassinated, and the Parker estate was left in limbo. It didn't help matters that its executor, friend and playwright Lillian Hellman, contested the will (she deemed King arrogant), and matters wouldn't be resolved for several years.
More about Parker, and her civil rights legacy, can be found at https://forward.com/culture/380781/dorothy-parker-naacp-ally/.