Overlooked Film: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)

This week’s pick for my overlooked film is 1994’s Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as writer Dorothy Park and her cohort, also known as the Algonquin Round Table.

For those who do not know much about Dorothy Parker, I suggest you look her up. Parker was a poet, writer, critic and satirist, best known for her witty wisecracks, writing for publications such as The New Yorker. (Source: Wikipedia)

Her talents eventually caught the attention of Hollywood and she headed west to pursue a career as a screenwriter. Her writing credits include: A Star is Born (1937), Saboteur (1942), and my personal fave The Little Foxes (1941).

Her successes included a couple of Academy Award nods. But this success was halted in its tracks when she found herself on the infamous Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s. At the time of her death in 1967, she bequeathed her estate to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation. At the time of King’s death, the estate was turned over to the NAACP. Fascinating woman indeed.


I think I first saw this film at a time when I was quite fascinated with this collective of writers, thespians and other critical minds who would gather at Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel during the heyday of the Roaring Twenties.

The film was a critical success, even earning a nomination for the 1994 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, the events highest honor. Unfortunately these plaudits did not translate into commercial box office success.

The cast was top shelf and featured Matthew Broderick (Charles MacArthur), Campbell Scott (Robert Benchley), Peter Gallagher (Alan Campbell), Jennifer Beals (Gertrude Benchley), 
Andrew McCarthy (Eddie Parker), 
Wallace Shawn (Horatio Byrd), … I really could just go on. Needless to say there are a lot more!

Be sure to check out other selections from our own Overlooked Film collective, fearlessly led by Todd @ Sweet Freedom!


  1. And she was “discovered” for national audiences by the first (or, arguably, second!) version of VANITY FAIR magazine…and among her other late activities was a sterling review in THE SATURDAY REVIEW (then an important or at least prominent magazine) of Harlan Ellison’s short story collection GENTLEMAN JUNKIE, which helped give him an emotional boost and a leg up, in the early years of his Hwood career.

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  2. Hi, Iluv and company:

    An excellent choice for a blustery Tuesday!

    Jenifer Jason Lee quietly, though absolutely rocks in a well cast, written and detailed period piece on the morals and culture of the 1920s and beyond.

  3. I love this film and sometimes use it in my Writers in Motion course (films about writers). Campbell Scott just hits the Benchley role very well. I heard Leigh’s method for deriving her accent, but it takes some getting used to. The rest of her portrayal is superb.
    K. A. Laity recently posted..DC, PCA and Miss WendyMy Profile

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