Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Dorothy Parker and the Maple Grove
Near the house stood a grove of trees, "a clump of sickly, straggly maples" as Dorothy described them, that blocked her view of the meadows. With little thought to the matter, she and Alan [Campbell] had the trees chopped down. When word of the desecration circulated among their writing friends, everyone expressed horror. Fifty years later, the cutting of the trees still had not been forgotten. Writer Joseph Schrank observed, "They weren't content to citify the house, but then they started cutting down trees. It was horrible. Dottie didn't give a damn, but the writers out there were incensed, and I remember how one playwright swore he was going to write a play about it."
Dorothy found the fuss incomprehensible. "Fifty-second Street Thoreaus," she sniffed.
Sid Perelman gazed out over the spot where the offending maples had once stood. "You must have needed the wood pretty bad," he told her.
This was the last straw. Indignant, she banned the Perelmans from Fox House for a time.
Several years later, she got her revenge on Bucks County tree lovers. At a cost of nearly thirty-five thousand dollars, Moss Hart had transformed his New Hope estate practically overnight by planting thousands of pines, elms, and maples, but Dorothy remained unimpressed. When she saw the trees, she said that it only showed what God could do if He had money.Sources (see p. 432) are Meade's interviews with Joseph Schrank and Allen Saalberg, plus Dorothy Parker, "Destructive Decoration," in Mary Jane Pool, ed., 20th Century Decorating, Architecture, and Gardens: 80 Years of Ideas and Pleasure from House and Garden (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980), pp. 178-179 (originally published in the November 1942 issue of House and Garden), which I haven't seen.