One of the highlights of Dorothy Parker’s career were days and nights as a New York drama critic. The tales of her reporting and reviewing the theatre scene are the stuff of legends, and very few critics have surpassed her in the 80 years since she first took up the aisle seat. The Cort Theater is one of the places where she plied her craft (and sharpened her knives).
Parker’s tenure as a drama critic, first at Vanity Fair where she made her reputation as the only female theatre critic on Broadway, and later at Ainslee’s and The New Yorker, provides some of the most colorful chapters in her life. She and her friends from the Algonquin Round Table where all intimate with the theatre scene and for 20 years she was wrapped up in it.
In the fall of 1918, Parker was sent to The Cort to review a musical for Vanity Fair:
Fiddlers Three is one of those comic operas of the sort they used to take you to on Saturday afternoons during the Christmas holidays. They’re all there—the merry villagers, the peasant costumes, the comic English nobleman, the rich lady from Pittsburgh—why does the word “Pittsburgh” always bring down the house? —and all the rest of them. Only the music and the lines aren’t as good as they used to be—or maybe it’s just that age has made me over-particular.
There was one thing about Fiddlers Three, though, that held my attention all through the evening: Try as I might I could only discern two fiddlers.
Possibly one didn’t have his registration card.
The Cort, at 138-146 West 48th Street is among the oldest and most beautiful of the Broadway theaters. It was built in 1912 by Thomas W. Lamb for producer John Cort. The small, elegant interior is decorated with French neoclassical detail and mural depicting the gardens of Versailles. Among the famous shows that have been housed at the Cort are The Diary of Anne Frank, Sarafina, and The Heiress. It was the home to The Blue Room starring Nicole Kidman in the buff.
The Cort is open for business today and is a city landmark.