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'Vultures, Vipers'

September 30, 1990

In reviewing Peter Kurth's "American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson" (Aug. 19), Chris Goodrich writes: "Her eclipse is due in some measure to her conclusion--following an interview with Hitler in the mid-'30s--that he would never come to power." Is this a gaffe on the part of Kurth or Goodrich? As we all know, Hitler was already firmly in power by January/February/March 1933.

Whatever, the fact is that Thompson's star dimmed not just because of one wrong prediction but because as the years passed she lost all semblance of objectivity regarding both world events and personal contacts. A perfect example took place during a speech she gave in Chicago on Thanksgiving Eve, 1941:

Determined to get us into the war, hawkish to the point of fanaticism, she whipped her stadium audience up to stress point, then mentioned a telegram she'd just received from a group of mothers opposed to her views. "If we do go to war again only 23 years after the end of the last one," they'd asked her, "do you realize the loss of life that will be involved, how many of our sons will die?" Instead of merely answering in the lucid/forceful manner for which she'd once been famous, Thompson dramatically flung the telegram to the floor and stood there screeching at the top of her lungs, "Vultures, crows, vipers, these mothers are parasites." On and on.

Newspaper reports next day were very calm, gave almost no details of Thompson's hysterical outburst. But as the years passed and she faded from the international scene, I often wondered how many other such outbursts she'd staged, both here and abroad. Probably no one who'd followed the course of her career was surprised by her swift demise.

DAVID R. MOSS

LOS ANGELES

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