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Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in STEM
December 1, 2020 - 2021 competition opens (online portal opens)
March 1, 2021 - Deadline to submit online Information Form (open to all eligible institutions)
Mid-May, 2021 - Institutions selected to submit full proposals notified
August 3, 2021 - Deadline to submit full proposals (by invitation only)
October – November 2021 - Selected institutions notified of grant award
March – June 2022 - Disbursement of first award payment
Summer – Fall 2022 - Grant-supported program activities begin
(1) Clare Boothe Luce, McCall's Magazine (1947)
In the crash and depression years that followed the boom, some of the men and women found that they had abandoned, in moments of bitter revulsion, their very holds on life itself. Men jumped out of windows because they had lost their last or their first million. Some who had kept their millions, lost their minds. Many took to drink, a few to psychoanalyst couches, obsessed with the notion that somehow (they did not know how or why) they were responsible for the bread-lines that had formed in Times Square.
During the depression years, four of my good friends, two of them beautiful and adored women, and two talented men, committed suicide. Nobody knew the real reason. Perhaps life itself had become an "ism" they were tired of.
This flurry of "death by design" was as hard for me as it was for many to understand. It was like the very first leaves that drop from a tree on a still, autumn day.
(2) Wilfrid Sheed, Clare Boothe Luce (1982)
The point about Brokaw is that he is not an anecdote. He just happened. Her marriage to him is not a cute story, and she doesn't try to make it so, any more than she does with her mother, brother, or any hard reality: although once the brute facts of Brokaw are disposed of, there are about two and a half laughs left over, to cover a six-year marriage. Brokaw indeed proved, between bouts of insipidity, to be an ugly, murderously violent drunk, whose only contribution to human betterment was his trick of hiding gin in his golf trophies. On the road to delirium, he occasionally passed through a valley of despond where he talked about how he should have been a Presbyterian missionary (both Clare's husbands had this curious tendency). He even attempted sometimes to play the stirring phrase "The good, the true and the beautiful" on the banjo, with predictably strange results.
Funny now, but a nightmare then. All Clare's dreams of being a great writer, or anything else, dribbled away bit by bit. Her yearbook yearnings joined the other hot air in that volume. Brokaw didn't go to work, although he did occasionally go to golf, and it was impossible to get down to anything ambitious in his gloomy presence. Because when sober he was sodden with remorse, and when drunk he just tootled along until his faithful manservant came rolling up with the straitjacket. Literally, says Clare. In between, he swatted Clare around enough, possibly, to have produced those miscarriages: the school of hard knocks indeed, long before Clare entered public life.
(3) Stephen Shadegg, Clare Boothe Luce (1970)
It has been suggested elsewhere that Stilwell was sympathetic to the Chinese Communists. Mrs. Luce expresses a contrary opinion. She said Stilwell wanted to win the war and to establish China as a first-rate power. This, he believed, could never be achieved until the provincial rulers had been replaced by a tough, well-trained army under the absolute command of the central government.
Stilwell was no diplomat. Clare reported that in private he referred to Chiang as "the peanut" or "that bastard." The Burma campaign had been an ignominious defeat for Stilwell. He blamed the British and the Chinese and was extremely critical of General Claire Chennault.
It was Clare's opinion that Stilwell's insistence on reopening the Burma front was prompted by a desire to erase the memory of the defeat he had suffered in that area. She supported Chiang's contention that if thirty divisions could be equipped, they would be more effectively employed in other theaters. Clare, who was extremely air-minded, agreed with Chennault and Chiang, who were contending that air transport should be employed to supply China and that Stilwell's demand for the construction of the Ledo Burma Road would result in a wasteful undertaking.
(3) Dr. Gregory Mason, The New York Times (17th August, 1942)
Mrs. Luce suffers from two enormous political disadvantages, her connections with Willkie, and her husband, Henry R. Luce. She belongs to the narrow-minded, bitter and fast-dwindling Willkie faction which is determined to blacklist every American who did not agree with the Roosevelt foreign policy before Pearl Harbor. She is bound to be influenced by her husband, whose yellow journals are doing all they can to keep alive the disunity and acrimony which marred American discussion of foreign affairs before Japan's wanton attack on us.
(4) Jonathan P. Herzog, The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle Against Communism in the Early Cold War (2011)
The most visible, and unlikeliest, incarnation of spiritual inoculation was Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce of Connecticut. A playwright, journalist, and onetime sex symbol for New York's literati, she had increased her influence substantially after marrying publishing mogul Henry R. Luce in 1935. Like many writers and intellectuals in the 1930s, she shunned organized religion and flirted with Communism only to reject Marx as the Red Decade waned. In 1942 a local political strategist convinced Luce to run for a Connecticut congressional seat. She won handily as a Republican and built her reputation on routine and sometimes entertaining assaults on Democratic foreign policy.
Her immunization and subsequent crusade against Communism did not begin with international observations or the forceful warnings of J. Edgar Hoover. It flowed instead from personal tragedy. In January 1944, her daughter, Ann, died in a car accident during her senior year at Stanford University. At the time Luce was in San Francisco visiting Ann, and in her initial grief she spontaneously ran to a nearby Catholic church. Kneeling alone and spiritually broken, she began a two-year journey toward conversion, aided by Fulton Sheen. As he had done with Louis Budenz, Elizabeth Bentley, and other wayward souls, Sheen shepherded Luce away from the pitfalls of secularism and Communism into the welcoming arms of Catholicism. Luce had America's foremost anti-Communist teacher, but Sheen quickly realized the potential of his pupil. "She intuits," he wrote. "She sees things all at once." In February 1946, Luce was confirmed at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Following her conversion Luce decided not to seek reelection. Instead, she spent much of her final year in Congress advocating a religious solution to Communism. Separating genuine calls for sacralization from those born of political expediency was difficult in the Cold War, but few could doubt Luce's earnestness. Her rhetoric smoldered with zealous intensity. Following a long line of Catholic argument, she called Communism "the ultimate perfected religion of materialism." Widening her critique beyond card-carrying members of the Communist Party, she defined materialists as people who believed the "common man lives by bread alone." The New Deal had exalted the material over the spiritual. It had weakened America, Luce joked, by convincing men and women that "all will be good and happy when all have two cars in every garage, two chickens in every pot, and two pairs of nylons on every chicken." A citizenry of full bellies and empty souls was already halfway down the path to Communist conversion.
She continued the fight after leaving Congress in magazine articles and convention speeches. In a contest with Communism, Truman acknowledged, religion was part of the solution, but for Luce a Christian revival was the sine qua non of any victory. In her worldview faith was a constant - a requisite need for belief in something beyond reason that all humans shared. Against a burning faith, whether false or true, lukewarm opinions had little chance. "The yawning agnostics," she warned, "the sneering finger-drumming atheists, the drooling, sentimental, misty-eyed humanitarians. will not save us from the fiery sons of Marx." Only men and women who burned with an intense faith could withstand the challenge of Communism.
(5) William E. Kelly, Journalists and JFK: Real Dizinfo Agents At Dealey Plaza (May 2011)
With the new Democratic administration, Luce brought aboard a new publisher, C. D. (Charles Douglas) Jackson, an OSS hand and President Eisenhower&rsquos personal administrative assistant on psychological warfare and Cold War strategy.
While Jackson would remain in the background, devising strategy, Clare Booth Luce wrote a weekly column and an occasional photo feature for Life. The magazine ran articles on the impending invasion of Cuba before the Bay of Pigs, and in one column, a week before the Cuban Missile Crisis, Clare Booth Luce chastised the President for ignoring the evidence of offensive missiles in Cuba. She says she had been told this by "her boys," who ran commando missions in and out of Cuba. But she also apparently saw the U2 photos leaked by the Air Force liaison to the National Photographic Interpretation Center, before they were revealed to the president. The NPIC U2 photos of missiles in Cuba were also shown to Sen. Keating (R. NY) by Col. Philip J. Corso, who later bragged about leaking it in his book The Day After Roswell.
After the Cuban Missile crisis was successfully resolved, Luce began writing stories about Mongoose, the CIA&rsquos covert operations against Castro, which you could have read all about in Life, as they ran photos and stories about Operation Red Cross (aka the Bayo/Pawley Mission), and other anti-Castro missions. Clare was particularly proud of &ldquoher boys,&rdquo the team of anti-Castro commandos who ran maritime missions into Cuba in their speed boat, and she financially backed, though they were also supported by the CIA. They were based out of the CIA&rsquos JMWAVE base in Florida, affiliated with the DRE and led by Julio Fernandez.
On the night of the assassination, Clare Booth Luce says she was awakened from sleep by a phone call by Fernandez. He claimed to have exclusive knowledge of the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, including recordings of him, and other records that appeared to substantiate his pro-Castro leanings i.e. the original Phase One cover-story, Castro did it. Luce told him to call the FBI. But he didn&rsquot, or at least there is no record of him having done so.
(6) Wilfrid Sheed, Clare Boothe Luce (1982)
Clare and Harry got themselves a place in Arizona, a gesture of isolation in itself, although I always pictured Harry summoning Air Force One to whisk him to work. If dull company was a problem for Clare in New York, one imagined a plague-sized epidemic in Phoenix. But my parents who saw them periodically out there reported an unprecedented serenity on Clare's part. She was doing ceramics and painting and a column for McCall's: the usual buzz of hobbies. In fact, she worked very hard at her Art, just in case America needed a great painter in a hurry (actually she doesn't have to excel to enjoy doing something). And she was also at some point taking LSD, which can account for a lot of serenity, if it hits you right.
At that time, LSD was almost unknown, so it is nice to think of the Luces blazing a trail for later hippies to follow. The effects on both were benign, and Harry actually strolled out into the backyard (or back ranch) one night conducting an invisible symphony orchestra. Another time he claimed to have talked to God on the golf course, and found that the Old Boy seemed to be on top of things and knew pretty much what He was doing. The old prickly pear had found the right medicine. Clare was equally euphoric, and characteristically tried to pass on the discovery to others, including my mother, a stately but adventurous woman, who would try anything, or at least think of trying anything. She finally refrained because of the coincidental heart attacks of two previous converts, the afore-mentioned Fathers Murray and Weigel. A courtly little group of acid droppers if there ever was one, out there in the desert.
"LSD saved our marriage" would be putting it too strongly, but it may have made it a little mellower. Harry had gone through a somewhat restless, tossing-and-turning mid-life, in the course of which in 1959 he had made marrying noises in the direction of one Lady Jean Campbell, the granddaughter of Lord Beaverbrook, the British press baron. Clare knew she herself had few wifely claims on Harry, and has always been very understanding in sexual matters, but she was embarrassed to tears over Harry, who appeared to be making an ass of himself, and tangentially herself. (Harry's other wife, Time Inc., felt roughly the same way.)
The best name for her feeling is probably simple confusion. Lady Jean was the least likely suspect, a young girl they'd befriended as a favor to the Beaver, and who had stayed with both of them in the Bahamas a couple of years before, practically a ward of the family, and by the Luces' standards a bit of a toper. Clare had never guessed (and she guessed many things) that anything like this was even possible. Her public response was a superb example of grace under pressure (which is actually the definition of wit, not courage at all). She said, "If Jean marries Henry and I marry Lord Beaverbrook, then I'll be Harry's grandmother."
(7) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
One of the first leads Schweiker asked me to check came from a source he considered impeccable: Clare Boothe Luce. One of the wealthiest women in the world, widow of the founder of the Time, Inc. publishing empire, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former Ambassador to Italy, successful Broadway playwright, international socialite and longtime civic activist, Clare Boothe Luce was the last person in the world Schweiker would have suspected of leading him on a wild goose chase.
Yet the chase began almost immediately. Right after Schweiker announced the formation of his Kennedy Assassination Subcommittee, he was visited by Vera Glaser, a syndicated Washington columnist. Glaser told him she had just interviewed Clare Boothe Luce and that Luce had given her some information relating to the assassination. Schweiker immediately called Luce and she, quite cooperatively and in detail, confirmed the story she had told Glaser.
Luce said that some time after the Bay of Pigs she received a call from her "great friend" William Pawley, who lived in Miami. A man of immense wealth-he had made his millions in oil-during World War II Pawley had gained fame setting up the Flying Tigers with General Claire Chennault. Pawley had also owned major sugar interests in Cuba, as well as Havana's bus, trolley and gas systems and he was close to both pre-Castro Cuban rulers, President Carlos Prio and General Fulgencio Batista. (Pawley was one of the dispossessed American investors in Cuba who early tried to convince Eisenhower that Castro was a Communist and urged him to arm the exiles in Miami.)
Luce said that Pawley had gotten the idea of putting together a fleet of speedboats-sea-going "Flying Tigers" as it were-which would be used by the exiles to dart in and out of Cuba on "intelligence gathering" missions. He asked her to sponsor one of these boats and she agreed. As a result of her sponsorship, Luce got to know the three-man crew of the boat "fairly well," as she said. She called them "my boys" and said they visited her a few times in her New York townhouse. It was one of these boat crews, Luce said, that originally brought back the news of Russian missiles in Cuba. Because Kennedy didn't react to it, she said she helped feed it to Senator Kenneth Keating, who made it public. She then wrote an article for Life magazine predicting the missile crisis. "Well, then came the nuclear showdown and the President made his deal with Khrushchev and I never saw my young Cubans again," she said. The boat operations were stopped, she said, shortly afterwards when Pawley was notified that the U.S. was invoking the Neutrality Act and would prevent any further exile missions into Cuba.
Luce said she hadn't thought about her boat crew until the day that President Kennedy was killed. That evening she received a telephone call from one of the crew members. She told Schweiker his name was "something like" Julio Fernandez, and he said he was calling her from New Orleans. Julio Fernandez told her that he and the other crew members had been forced out of Miami after the Cuban missile crisis and that they had started a "Free Cuba" cell in New Orleans. Luce said that Fernandez told her that Oswald had approached his group and offered his services as a potential Castro assassin. He said his group didn't believe Oswald, suspected he was really a Communist and decided to keep tabs on him. Fernandez said they found that Oswald was, indeed, a Communist, and they eventually penetrated his "cell" and tape-recorded his talks, including his bragging that he could shoot anyone because he was "the greatest shot in the world with a telescopic lens." Fernandez said that Oswald then suddenly came into money and went to Mexico City and then Dallas. According to Luce, Fernandez also told her that his group had photographs of Oswald and copies of handbills Oswald had been distributing on the streets of New Orleans. Fernandez asked Luce what he should do with this information and material.
(8) John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (1986)
The nature of Arbenz's government, however, meant that Operation Success launched both the CIA and the United States on a new path. Mussadegh in Iran was left-wing and had indulged in talks with Russian diplomats about possible alliances and treaties. Arbenz, on the other hand, had simply been trying to reform his country and had not sought foreign help in this. Thus by overthrowing him, America was in effect making a new decision in the cold war. No longer would the Monroe Doctrine, which was directed against foreign imperial ambitions in the Americas from across the Atlantic or the Pacific, suffice. Now internal subversion communism from within - was an additional cause for direct action. What was not said, but what was already clear after the events in East Germany the previous year, was that the exercise of American power, even clandestinely through the CIA, would not be undertaken where Soviet power was already established. In addition, regardless of the principles being professed, when direct action was taken (whether clandestine or not), the interests of American business would be a consideration: if the flag was to follow, it would quite definitely follow trade.
The whole arrangement of American power in the world from the nineteenth century was based on commercial concerns and methods of operation his had given America a material empire through the ownership of foreign transport systems, oil fields, stocks, and shares. It had also given America resources and experience (concentrated in private hands) with the world outside the Americas, used effectively by the OSS during World War II American government, however, had stayed in America, lending its influence to business but never trying to overthrow other governments for commercial purposes. After World War II, American governments were more willing to use their influence and strength all over the world for the first time and to see an ideological implication in the "persecution" of U.S. business interests.
(9) Lisa Pease, Probe Magazine (March-April, 1996)
During the Church committee hearings, Senator Richard Schweiker's independent investigator Gaeton Fonzi stumbled onto a vital lead in the Kennedy assassination. An anti-Castro Cuban exile leader named Antonio Veciana was bitter about what he felt had been a government setup leading to his recent imprisonment, and he wanted to talk. Fonzi asked him about his activities, and without any prompting from Fonzi, Veciana volunteered the fact that his CIA handler, known to him only as "Maurice Bishop," had been with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas not long before the assassination of Kennedy. Veciana gave a description of Bishop to a police artist, who drew a sketch. One notable characteristic Veciana mentioned were the dark patches on the skin under the eyes. When Senator Schweiker first saw the picture, he thought it strongly resembled the CIA's former Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division-one of the highest positions in the Agency - and the head of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO): David Atlee Phillips.
The CBL Program awards grants in three categories:
The CBL program supports two types of undergraduate awards:
- Undergraduate Scholarships cover educational expenses, enabling students to focus on their studies during the final two undergraduate years. In general, undergraduate scholarships support up to four students for their last two academic years.
- Undergraduate Research Awards support research projects with faculty mentors, motivating and preparing recipients to apply for graduate study. In general, undergraduate research awards support up to 24 students (up to 8 per year) in the course of a two- to three-year grant period.
- Graduate Fellowships benefit recipients at the beginning of their graduate studies, when funds for independent research are rarely available. In general, these awards support two graduate fellowships for the first two years of a Ph.D. program.
In general, professorship support is provided for the first five years of a beginning tenure-track faculty appointment.
- Recognition and prestige: A CBL Professor asserted, "The prestige associated with the Clare Boothe Luce Professorship has been the single most important factor in helping me to establish myself as a respected member of my department and among colleagues in my field."
- Professional development support: The substantial professional development funds associated with each professorship provide flexibility and support rarely available to new faculty members.
Fast and Luce
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On one of the last nights that Clare Boothe Luce went out in her life, her friend Marvin Liebman took her to a fine Chinese restaurant in her beloved Washington. Mrs. Luce ordered velvet chicken, which she said reminded her of the hundreds of meals she had shared with the “Gimo,” as Time, one of her late husband’s many magazines, had so often styled its pet crusader, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The “Gimo” was now long dead, and Clare Luce was eighty-four years old, weeks away from death, yet her appearance was remarkable. Her skin remained translucent as a pearl, her eyes, despite her near blindness, the cold blue of an aquamarine. She was dressed exquisitely in pastel silks. Though she could hardly walk and her legendary Great Lady brittleness and acuity—fodder for the four biographies already written about her—had been eroded by cancer and loneliness, that night she was “on,” talking constantly, telling stories of SALT and NATO, Burma and London, Joe McCarthy and Ike, the “Gimo” and his wife, the “Missimo,” with herself at the very center of each anecdote, dazzling for ever and absolutely a young man from the Federal Trade Commission whom Liebman had invited along to meet the legend before it was too late.
The stories were not new, and part of her mystique was her tireless and ruthless ability to perform them, no interruptions permitted. Her friends speculated that her incessant talking was a form of self-protection: See how smart I am. In public, she was indisputably actressy, a woman of theater, calling everyone “darling” her voice was pure Bette Davis, husky and tough, with a few Connecticut-lady trills thrown in for effect: “tomahtoes,” “my deah gahdener.” But somewhere in the middle of dinner, she seemed to tire of talking of “darling Douglas—MacArthur, you know” and “Franklin and that dreadful Eleanor,” and her voice lost the toughness which had always marked her social persona. She retreated into the realm of the private Clare, a woman of considerable vulnerability, alone at the end of her life without a web of friends to buoy her spirit, without children, without her husband to enhance her Washington status. She was an angry woman with a brain tumor, powerless and near death, contemplating the end. “You know, I have had a terrible life,” she finally said. “I married two men I really didn’t like. My only daughter was killed in a car accident. My brother committed suicide. Has my life been a life for anyone to envy?”
Clare Boothe Luce invented herself completely and absolutely, as all Great Ladies who start with nothing but brains, ambition, and the required sublime looks inevitably do. Mrs. Luce, however, did it better and longer than her peers—if she had any—and created an image based on glamour, brains, flint, and the ability to make people believe that every word she said was true.
“You know,” she would tell friends, “once I was at the White House with Franklin—Roosevelt, you know—and he said to me, ‘Clare, if only I could think of a way to try to explain to our great country what I am doing, if only I could think of some phrase which would sum it all up!’ I said to Franklin, ‘My dear Mr. President, what about using the term “a new deal”?’ ” This anecdote had endless variations: “I was in London during the blitz with dear Winston—Churchill, you know—and the bombs started falling, and Winston and I were at the Savoy. Winston said, ‘The British people have such guts, Clare—if only I could think of a way to describe their struggle,’ and I said, ‘How about “blood, sweat, and tears”?’”
She would also tell friends that Jock Whitney, David Rockefeller, Averell Harriman, and George Bernard Shaw had wanted to marry her, and that Strom Thurmond had goosed her—all untrue. Once, when People magazine, part of her late husband’s Time-Life empire, was doing a profile of her, a researcher called Clare’s friend Shirley Clurman in a panic. “Mrs. Clurman,” the researcher said, “not one word that Mrs. Luce has told our reporter checks out!”
There was hardly need for her to make anything up. By the time she was thirty-four years old, she had been an understudy for Mary Pickford a suffragette flying gliders for her patron, Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont a socialite married to a rich Newport dipsomaniac named George Brokaw, by whom she had one daughter a divorcée with a ton of alimony at the beginning of the Depression and, as Clare Boothe Brokaw, the cheeky managing editor of Vanity Fair. “I don’t think my position unusual for a woman. I’m following a perfectly natural urge to do what I like,” she disingenuously told a World-Telegram reporter in 1933, when she was thirty. She was rumored to have had affairs with Buckminster Fuller and Bernard Baruch, and had written a best-selling collection of satirical essays called Stuffed Shirts. After marrying Henry Luce, the publishing tycoon, in 1935, she wrote plays, including one Broadway classic, served as a correspondent during World War II, became a Republican congress woman, and in 1953 was the first woman to be made American ambassador to a major country. It was only at the end of her life, when she was stuck in an apartment at the Watergate and seemed hardly at peace, that some of her friends began to wonder if, for all her ambition and power, it might have occurred to Clare that she had got things slightly wrong.
When she died last October, *Time,*her late husband’s most influential magazine, called her “the pre-eminent Renaissance woman of the century.” There were memorial services in New York and Washington, attended by friends and associates that included Richard Nixon, Patrick Buchanan, former secretary of state William Rogers, Vernon Walters, and William Buckley, whom she had cajoled to prevail upon Cardinal O’Connor to allow her service to be held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
If, in her long and eventful life, Mrs. Luce had her share of detractors, and she did, even the most vehement of them, such as Helen Lawrenson and Dorothy Parker, always believed that their bête noire got everything she ever wanted.
‘Things happened to her that didn’t happen to other people,” a priest who was close to Clare Luce late in life said. But when she talked of her earliest years, she could never seem to recall the facts the same way twice. Her father was like a character in a dream. In her biographies, he is described variously as a fiddler, a Memphis Coca-Cola bottler, the proprietor of the Boothe Piano Company—sometimes the time frame is so distorted that he appears to have had all these professions simultaneously. There is no debate on one overwhelming fact: William Booth, a descendant of John Wilkes Booth, abandoned Clare and her brother in their early childhood. (The e was added to Booth—again sources differ—either by Clare’s grandfather, to distance his family from Lincoln’s assassin, or by Clare herself, for effect.) Clare’s mother, a woman of such beauty that her daughter was said to pale by comparison, was left to fend for herself, and the Booth family, without Mr. Booth, wound up in a boardinghouse. Anyway, that is what Clare Luce would tell interviewers. “Mother always cooked fried eggs by opening the gas jet over the radiator and keeping the window open so the landlord wouldn’t smell her cooking and throw us out,” she said. Mrs. Booth’s maternal efforts were focused completely on young Clare, perhaps because she realized that a blonde, curly-headed daughter could be peddled more successfully than a son. One probable reason why Clare as an adult rarely entertained any doubt about her self-worth was that she had had such unreserved mother love as a child. Much of Clare’s childhood frustration centered on her search for her father, and she later told friends that she once met him in a subway long after her mother had assured her he was dead. Although he had abandoned the family for a common showgirl, Clare’s mother informed her dramatically that he had left them for Mary Garden, a famous opera star of the era. “Keeping up the bella figura ran in Clare’s family,” a friend said.
By age ten, Clare was making the rounds at the Biograph studio, trying to fulfill her mother’s ambitions for her to be the new Mary Pickford. In one movie, she actually understudied Pickford. Mrs. Booth made every effort to shield her from other children, thereby nurturing the complete self-absorption that she would always be noted for. “When I was a child, I was so lonely I became a compulsive eater,” Clare said. “My mother’s tendency, because of the boardinghouse, was to cook very little and to buy everything at the bakery.” Although Clare would lose her baby fat, she never lost her primal devotion to sweets, and as a rich, autocratic old lady running a great household, she used to insist that her houseguests conform to her lunch menu: naked lettuce leaves followed by a great wedge of apple pie or chocolate cake.
When Clare was still small, Mrs. Booth had the luck to take up with a married Jewish tire merchant named Joseph Jacobs, who advised her to gamble every penny she had from her divorce settlement on a single stock. She did, and made enough to take Clare out of the boardinghouse and off to the small hotels of Paris, where she could give her “culture” and a patina of the education she lacked. Clare perfected her French while her brother was parked in an American military school. Several years later, Clare was returning from another sojourn abroad when luck struck again, in the form of the daffy suffragette-socialite Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont. Clare and Mrs. Belmont struck up an acquaintance, and Mrs. Belmont was so impressed with her that she confided to Elsa Maxwell, according to Maxwell’s autobiography, “I met a girl on the boat who has all the earmarks of talent and success. She’s only seventeen and she’s poor, but she has beauty and brains to go as far as her ambition will take her. . . . I’m going to give her a push in the right direction.”
Eventually Clare would marry Mrs. Belmont’s candidate for her, George Brokaw, the Newport millionaire alcoholic, who at age forty-three had never attempted matrimony and whose mother, upon meeting Clare, no doubt begged her to marry him. She was all of nineteen. Their daughter, Ann, was born almost immediately, but Clare was hardly maternal. “Rich women are not too put upon by their children,” she later said. “You don’t have to do all the things for a child that those women who had to stay at home did. My Ann had a French governess who took care of her until she was twelve years old and went off to boarding school.” Brokaw’s Newport world, which Clare would spike in Stuffed Shirts, always shunned Clare as a penniless social climber, but as Mrs. Brokaw she was nevertheless able to move into a limestone-and-marble mansion on the corner of Seventy-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue. The union, however, was doomed. Years later, she would tell the writer Dominick Dunne, whom she met at a luncheon in Newport, “I know all about violence and physical abuse because my first husband used to beat me severely when he got drunk. Once, I can remember coming home from a party and walking up our vast marble staircase at the Fifth Avenue house while he was striking me. I thought, If I just gave him one shove down the staircase I would be rid of him forever.” Instead, she paid a call on old Mrs. Brokaw and begged her to permit a divorce. Mrs. Brokaw did, and in 1929 Clare found herself with a settlement of $425,000 plus $30,000 a year for living expenses and her five-year-old daughter, whom she had been forced, in an unusually ugly custody battle, to give up to her former husband for six months each year.
Imagine Clare Boothe Brokaw that autumn of 1929. She was twenty-six years old, released from the confines of a vile Newport marriage, a nervy glamour girl who claimed that Cecil Beaton had pronounced her “drenchingly lovely.” (Beaton had made the remark about someone else, according to Helen Lawrenson, and Clare “just pinched it.”) She was breathtaking, however she had had her nose fixed, and had lightened her hair since her Newport days, and although her clothes were often too fussy and her figure was imperfect, she radiated an aura of fragility which camouflaged her brazen intentions and seemed to reduce every man she ever met to a stuttering fool. “That poor little kid,” Bernard Baruch used to call her.
As the stock market crashed, Clare moved to a large apartment on East Fifty-second Street and hired for her painter the father of fifteen-year-old Leo Lerman of Brooklyn, who is now editorial adviser of Condé Nast Publications. “My father was determined to show me what a magnificent New York apartment was,” he recalled, “and I can remember driving up on Fifty-second Street in my father’s truck and seeing this exquisite blonde standing on the corner with her dog. I think she was wearing the first Chanel suit I ever saw. It was black with a saw-toothed hem, and with it she had on the most beautiful blouse. When I was introduced to her, however, she was surprisingly cold, almost charmless. I can remember thinking that she had no interest in children at all. There was no sign of her daughter in the apartment.”
At this stage Clare Boothe Brokaw clearly placed immense value on being known for her style. Her dining room, which overlooked the city, Lerman remembered, “was covered with silver tea paper painted over with a panorama of the New York skyline in Matisse colors.” The table, which seated twenty, was smoky mirror glass, reflecting the mural of New York and Clare’s own skyscraper ambitions. Her living room was also very much à la mode, a study in Chinese red, black, and white. It was the era when publisher Condé Nast and editor Frank Crowninshield, with his cane and endless charm, presided over New York, defining who was elegant and who was not through the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair. Great Ladies of the era were immaculate, impeccable, able to make smart chat at smart clubs. Janet Rhinelander Stewart and Mona Williams were considered the arbiters of style, but Clare probably modeled herself more on the irrepressible Alice Roosevelt Long worth, whose feistiness she certainly must have admired. Clare had the money and nerve to prop up her ambitions she met Condé Nast at a party and demanded a job. When he said no, she showed up anyway—she just sat down at a desk at Vogue and wrote captions until he relented.
She was quickly moved to Vanity Fair, a man’s world editorially and more her style than the frivolous world of Vogue in 1930. In those days Vanity Fair was quartered in three semi-partitioned rooms between the elevators and the airy, scented suites of Vogue. Clare started off writing captions for the Hall of Fame. One of her first was about Henry Luce, the founder of Time, whom she had loathed on first sight. “He claims that he has no other interest outside of his work, and that his work fills his waking hours,” she wrote. Soon she was promoted to writing short, tart pieces, and with a facility that never left her she wrote dozens of essays about the world of privilege and pretense: “Hollywood Is Not So Bad,” “Portrait of a Fashionable Painter,” “Life Among the Snobs,” “The Great Garbo,” “Talking Up—and Thinking Down,” this last a social climber’s guide to making sparkling conversation. “The cardinal rule to be remembered is that all contemporary conversation must be limned or suggested against a sparkling background of sex . . . the multitudinous shades of which can be a polite pink at the lobster course to a passionate purple at the grapes,” she advised. Wilfrid Sheed, in his biography of Clare Luce, observed that her pieces were remarkable because they depended “entirely on flourishes of wit and style,” as if the essayist were winging it “on virtuosity and press clippings: not a report but a performance.”
The Vanity Fair of that era was an aesthetic and intellectual paradise, ruled over by Crowninshield, whom everyone called “Crowny,” and his managing editor, Donald Freeman (Clare was rumored to have been involved with him too). The magazine was required reading for the smart set, and the best writers and photographers, as well as the nobs they chronicled, would wander in and out of the office all day. Hey wood Broun, John O’Hara (another rumored lover), Robert Sherwood, George Jean Nathan, Edward Steichen, George Arliss (who often arrived carrying a snake), Dorothy Parker, Walter Lippmann, and Elsa Maxwell showed up frequently. It became part of Clare’s legend that each morning before she appeared she would already have been attended to by a hairdresser and manicurist, and, according to her former copy editor, Jeanne Ballot Winham, she “would be wearing a perfect little suit with lots of frills at the collar and cuffs.” Despite Clare’s blond fragility, she was, Winham recalled, “a female who had male ideas.” Helen Lawrenson, who as Helen Brown Norden worked at Vanity Fair then as well as later, once wrote of Clare’s ability to social climb: she would call a star such as Constance Bennett to invite her to a dinner for Maurice Chevalier and then ask Chevalier for Connie Bennett. If Clare invented that well-worn trick, she was rewarded with a constant parade of celebrities, who attended her parties and marveled at her style. On her office desk was a sign that read, “Down to Gehenna or up to the throne, / He travels the fastest who travels alone.” When Donald Freeman was killed in a car accident in 1932, it was Clare Boothe Brokaw, not “Brownie,” as she called the future Helen Lawrenson, who was made the new managing editor of Vanity Fair.
Each morning, Jeanne Winham remembered, “Clare would sit in her office poring over hundreds of news photos that had been taken the day before, analyzing what we should cover.” One of her most popular features was “Ike and Mike—They Look Alike,” the clever pairing of photos in which mismatched people resembled each other, and perhaps the inspiration for Spy magazine’s “Separated at Birth.” As managing editor, Clare Brokaw determined who was renowned and accomplished enough for the magazine’s Hall of Fame or outré enough for the opposite distinction: “We Nominate for Oblivion.” (After Clare left Vanity Fair, she made the 1934 Hall of Fame herself, along with Shirley Temple and Robert Moses.) Even as she helped introduce the newest French painters to America, she realized the obvious—that with a depression raging, Vanity Fair had better forget the froth and turn to politics if it wanted to stay afloat. Once, Condé Nast proposed a satirical cover on “the Forgotten Man.” Clare gave her boss a cold stare, according to one of her biographers, and said, “I don’t see anything even remotely funny about people being hungry.” (Helen Lawrenson later took credit for this remark.) She enjoyed taking jabs at world leaders, and she mercilessly attacked the Roosevelts. F.D.R., for his part, loathed her, and much later at the White House said to an aide within her earshot, “Will you get that woman out of here.” Bernard Baruch took her with him to the Democratic convention of 1932. (“Mr. Baruch, I would like you to teach me all about business policy,” she had said coyly to the elder statesman when she first met him through Condé Nast, and he was charmed for life.) The reporter Arthur Krock called her “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” but despite her money and fame Clare had her insecurities. “The Algonquin crowd was too much for me,” she once said. “I couldn’t compete with them.” Instead, Clare presided at the weekly Vanity Fair lunches in the Graybar Building, where eggs Benedict were catered by the Savarin Restaurant downstairs.
It became clear during the Vanity Fair days that Clare Luce had made a grave miscalculation in her quest to go the distance as a Great Lady: she dismissed most women and relied on men for her ascent. Women quickly learned not to trust her, and she failed to foresee that at the end of every Great Lady’s life, when the powerful husbands are dead, the looks are gone, and sex is but a memory, it is the companionship and goodwill of other women that she needs. Empathy, compassion, and generosity are the strong suits of female friendship, and Clare was not known for an abundance of any of these qualities.
A well-known Helen Lawrenson story had Clare inviting the women at Vanity Fair to one of her parties. “Just wear what you have on at the office,” she said, and then greeted them at the door wearing a dazzling gown of gold lamé. What is less well known is that Lawrenson published that anecdote in Esquire in a famous hatchet job on her former friend just months after Clare had given her $3,000 because she was down-and-out. Clare did have close friends, such as Colleen Moore, the actress, and the socialite Buffy Cobb, although Buffy and Clare once had a falling-out over a man and were not on good terms for ten years.
Clare, of course, was capable of kindnesses: she invited Wilfrid Sheed, at age eighteen, to spend the summer at her home in Connecticut. “Watch out for envy,” she advised him. “I don’t see why anyone would envy a guy with polio,” he told her. “Yes, I guess that might slow them down some. But they’ll find a way,” she said. Often impulsively, she would paint pictures for friends or take them on trips. But female friends to go the distance with eluded Clare, perhaps because few women wanted to be subjected for hours to hearing Clare on the necessity of the China lobby or on her perceptions of U Thant. Yet on first meeting, the uninitiated were always stunned by the quality of her mind.
Clare was known for her sense of humor, and her humor was very Broadway, a bit weary and angry, not fast and bright like Dorothy Parker’s. Clare’s style was cynical: “No good turn goes unpunished” “Home is where you hang your architect” “I can’t avoid writing. It’s a sort of nervous tic I have developed since I gave up needlepoint.” When Clare was young, she loved playing good-natured and girlish practical jokes. Once, in the early 1930s, when she was traveling through Europe with a friend from Vanity Fair, a concierge switched her passport with that of a man who was incredibly handsome and well traveled, as Clare discovered when she studied his passport. Unbelievably, the next day Clare found herself sitting next to this suave stranger on a train. “Let me read your palm,” she said, fixing him with her cerulean gaze. “You have been in Morocco, Russia, and Ceylon. You were born in June of 1905 . . . ” The stranger was mesmerized, and Clare never confessed it was a gag. “This led to the most wonderful affair,” she confided to a friend years later. At times her plays could have an equal note of farce. In Kiss the Boys Goodbye, a radical columnist remarks to a maid, “I’ll bet the pool’s full of scum.” The maid replies, “Nawsuh, comrade, you ain’t been in yet.”
In 1935 Clare captivated Henry Luce, who influenced about 40 million readers and viewers—one-third of America—with his Lucepress, consisting of Time, Fortune, and the March of Time newsreels, which interpreted the week’s events for moviegoers all over the globe. She snagged Luce with facility and speed, causing him to leave his lovely wife. Lila, after merely being introduced to him on three public occasions. The last of these was a ball Elsa Maxwell gave for Cole Porter, where Luce took Clare from her escort while his wife was dancing, and walked her through the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria to announce without sentiment or fanfare, and much to her astonishment, that he would marry her as soon as he could obtain a divorce.
She did not say no. Certainly, an often observed maxim about Clare was how much she wanted power. She loved men with “big heads,” she used to say, “the Gary Cooper type.” She was as gorgeous as a courtesan, but her appeal was more “a head thing than a body thing,” as one of her friends said. She now finally had her dream man, and somewhere in the relentless and self-made Harry Luce she must also have seen her secret self. “A woman’s best protection is—the right man,” a character observes in The Women, which Clare wrote the year after she married Harry.
She wrote the first draft in three days, while perched in bed with a blue bow in her hair, waited on by her four maids. Tactlessly, she announced that fact to the world, thereby alienating all those writers who were not quite as facile and certainly not as rich at the height of the Depression. But The Women ran more than six hundred performances, and by 1941 had played in twenty-five countries and ten languages, and made the author $200,000. Her women were “dirty little trollops,” “double-crossing little squirts,” or “Park Avenue pushovers,” and her odd attitude toward her sex permeated this, the most famous of her six plays: “She doesn’t want to be a woman . . . ” “Who does?” “Oh, Mother, what fun is there to be a lady?” “One more piece of motherly advice: Don’t confide in your girl friends!” Her bevy of females spoke their minds, and in all of them there was a bit of Clare—in Crystal, the trashy opportunist in Mary, the longsuffering wife who opines to her daughter, “These days, darling, ladies do all the things men do. They fly aeroplanes across the ocean, they go into politics and business.” But perhaps Clare’s vulnerabilities were most visible in her martyred Edith, who says, “If a woman’s got any instincts, she feels when her husband’s off the reservation.”
“Harry did not like show business people,” Clare Luce once confided to her biographer Wilfrid Sheed as a means of explaining why she stopped writing for the theater, which had been her true passion. Harry Luce didn’t think much of liberal Democrats either. “You couldn’t be married to Harry and not be a Republican,” Clare told Sheed. And so Clare became a war correspondent—the “Body by Fisher of the campaign,” the columnist Dorothy Thompson sneered—an ardent conservative, a Republican congress woman from Connecticut, a speaker at Republican conventions, and finally the ambassador to Italy, a stint that was notable for her belief that she was being poisoned by paint at the official residence.
As Mrs. Luce, Clare was protected from ever worrying about money or status again. She presided over an immense aerie in Manhattan Sugar Hill, her twenty-one-room mansion in Ridgefield, Connecticut and a vast plantation in South Carolina called Mepkin, with thirty black servants who, when Clare was in residence, would float thousands of freshly cut azaleas on the muddy river that fed the Mepkin rice paddies. “Clare did not like to walk in her gardens and see silty water,” a friend said. Cabinet officers and prime ministers found their way to her table. Politicians, military men, and movie stars perpetually courted the Luces, hoping to be rewarded with the cover of Time. With all this splendor, the Luce houses were astonishing for their utter conventionality: lots of glass (even a Steuben collection), pastels, and such coldness, a friend remarked, that it seemed as if the Luces were so consumed with their need for power that cozy domesticity could play no part in their lives. “Gentiles don’t re-cover,” she once remarked to the producer Allan Carr when he noticed the stuffing coming out of one of her chairs. And yet, in her Connecticut house every towel, sheet, and pillowcase was emblazoned with her monogram, CBL, as if new money were running amok in the mansion. Even so, she was a mediocre and often reluctant hostess, sometimes taking to her bed if she didn’t feel like entertaining, although in one amazing breach of taste the dignitary she neglected in this way was Greece’s Princess Sophia. Clare was given to black moods, when she would vanish into her bedroom for days on end, terrifying her houseguests and especially her stepson. Hank Luce. The mood swings could have been a performance, and her lack of graciousness a sign that Clare ultimately felt she no longer had to try so hard—she could now afford to be cavalier. “They”— the supplicants and the climbers—needed her and her husband’s magazines more than she needed them. And for a long time that was true.
In the beginning they were a supreme couple. Harry was “star-struck,” according to a longtime friend, and he loved “displaying Clare.” For her part, Clare was dazzled by Harry, whose originality of thought matched her own. Here at last was not a society drunk but a man of stature. Harry Luce was a journalistic genius who believed so much in his own thoughts that he would publish a four-hundred-page book called The Ideas of Henry Luce. Even better, Harry had the power and the money to protect Clare from her frequent critics. A famous story has Harry querying a lingerie bill for $7,000 and Clare responding, “Well, Harry, are we wealthy or aren’t we?” Even if Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin wits and most theater critics sniped at Clare, as the wife of Time-Life she could be impervious. With Harry behind her, Clare could continue her childhood pattern of never entertaining a moment of selfdoubt. Often she and Harry would stay up until dawn, their heads locked together, talking incessantly about world events. They were an intellectual match both revered power but lacked time for anyone who wasn’t useful. “Clare would be nice to her inferiors if she could find any,” Dorothy Parker once cracked. But Clare had gone beyond “Dottie” to become Harry’s “idea person,” a friend said. Perhaps to flatter her husband, Clare often spoke in Timespeak, saying things like “No nitwit he.” Harry’s nickname for Clare was Mike. The Luces traveled constantly, and they would play complicated word games for hours. (Q: I know Mr. and Mrs. Pen and their son, a flower. A: John Quill.) Above all, Harry was powerful and serious enough to be a father figure for Clare, and in the early photographs of the Luces, she is radiant.
It is fashionable to say about Clare Luce that she was a liar, but she was really more of a fabulist, who happened to be married to a brilliant propagandist. Like her husband, the son of a Presbyterian missionary based in China, she believed that she understood the notion of truth from the creation, and her obligation, like his, was to advance that truth. Clare was not the kind of woman who was going to criticize her husband for his penchant for twisting journalism to serve his political views. “The weekly fiction magazine,” other reporters would call Luce’s Time—in private, of course. “Time today is the gratuitous sneer and the open mouth of shocked belief . . . the clasped hands of Presbyterian piety,” a pre-Murdoch New York Post once declared. Harry told Clare, according to one of his biographers, that he could fancy no one who was his superior intellectually. “What about Einstein and John Kieran?” Clare responded archly. (Kieran was a famous sportswriter and the star of the popular radio program Information, Please.) Certainly, like Harry, she was convinced that her version of history was definitive. And she was not shy about discussing her role in world affairs. Her war reportage was equally solipsistic: “I had a talk with handsome, blueeyed, crisp-moustached General Alexander” “Madame Chiang read me a bitter article that she had written” “I ate dinner with the Gissimo, Hollington Tong, and Madame.”
Sex went out of the Luce marriage very quickly, according to Clare’s friends. Harry wanted a wife who would stay at home, and he had chosen Clare. Just before they married, according to Henry Luce’s biographer W. A. Swanberg, Daniel Longwell, a Time executive, went to see Clare in Salzburg and took it upon himself to say that the best thing she could do would be to settle down and have lots of babies and stay out of the magazines. Clare reportedly burst into tears and said she couldn’t have any more children. Despite the editor’s warning, Clare for years tried to influence the magazines, but Luce’s top men always fought her, and Luce would not override them. For her part, Clare was extraordinarily condescending to the Time-Life staff, whom she called “Harry’s little people.” She always took credit for thinking up Life.
Later, Clare was even more competitive with Harry, and he didn’t like to be beaten. Everything was a challenge to her she loved jigsaw puzzles and word games and trained herself to be a superb shot and horsewoman. She often entertained guests by performing an Olympic-quality swan dive off her high board—she was still diving at seventy—and she prided herself on mastering everything she took up, including needlepoint. She would rarely defer to Harry, and at dinners she would regale one end of the table while he held forth at the other, reportedly glaring viciously at her every so often. “Clare and Harry were like circles that intersected but did not overlap,” Hank Luce explained. “Clare did not care a hoot about China, she didn’t understand Presbyterianism, she was ignorant of all the charities and institutions that my father supported.”
Clare Luce was of course far wittier and better company than her husband, which was not exactly guaranteed to do much for his competitive ego or their pleasure in bed. “Harry is serially impotent,” Clare once told a friend, by which she meant that he could not conduct affairs with other women and keep up a sexual pretense with her at the same time. However Presbyterian Harry was, he had his share of worldly desires. At one point he almost left Clare for Lady Jeanne Campbell, Lord Beaverbrook’s daughter, and Clare remarked, “If Harry marries Jeannie and I marry Beaverbrook, then I will be my husband’s grandmother.” Lady Jeanne married Norman Mailer instead. There was at times a feeling among those who knew Clare well that she was relieved to have the sexual pressure lifted, but she once confided to Wilfrid Sheed that this was absolutely not the case. She was tremendously bothered by the lack of intimacy in her marriage, and, worse than that, her female vanity was hurt. “I could tell you an incident that would prove this,” Sheed told me, “but I would not betray the confidence. I believe it should die with her.” When Clare decided to run for Congress in 1942, Harry was delighted. “I am convinced that Harry just wants me out of the house,” she told friends.
Of course, she was aided immensely in her quest for glory by the hype she received from her husband’s magazines, a hype that reached such astonishing proportions that when she left for Europe to cover the war for Life, Dorothy Parker referred to her dispatches as “All Clare on the Western Front.”
‘Did you manage to see your daughter, Ann, as much as you wanted to?” a friend once asked Clare Luce in a taped interview that has never been released. There was a pause as Clare, then an old woman, readied her answer. “No,” she said. “When I started to do war reporting and run for Congress, with Ann’s vacations from boarding school and college, things didn’t always fit together properly.” Mrs. Luce, speaking thirty years after the fact, sounded remarkably dispassionate, but perhaps that too was part of the theatrical persona she had developed to camouflage her emotions about the central tragedy of her life.
It happened in January of 1944. Clare, Ann, and Harry had spent the month of December, as always, at Mepkin, their South Carolina plantation. Mepkin meant family to Clare it was the first real dirt she had ever owned as a Great Lady, and a symbol that she was now a woman of property. Her friend Bernard Baruch, who owned Hobcaw Barony, the plantation just down the road, had told her about Mepkin’s availability, and when Clare saw the immense acreage in the South Carolina low country for the first time, she said to Harry, “This is the most beautiful property I have ever seen in my life.” And so, in 1936, Harry bought the seven-thousand-acre plantation for his bride. It was truly magnificent: sunlight dappled the live-oak trees with their veils of Spanish moss, and the soft South Carolina air gave the place a haunting beauty, which Clare always spoke of as “melancholy.” Harry and Clare stocked their plantation with quail and other game for their frequent shooting parties and hired the architect Edward Durell Stone to design several modern brick-and-glass houses, which she named Strawberry, Tartleberry, Washington, and Claremont. She used the acquisition of Mepkin as an opportunity for more press, by writing about her new passion for the South in Vogue: “Let me say that I am one of Dixie’s latest enthusiastic converts. . . . Ah, shades of the Ravenels and Lees and Carters, I blush. . . . I can only plead this extenuating circumstance: we bought [Mepkin] from a Northerner who got it from another Northerner and none of us got it terribly cheap.” Later she wrote, “I wasn’t going to build a vast plantation house, because that would have been fraudulent. After all, I was a newcomer.” In the 1930s there were no decent roads to get to Mepkin, which was deep in rural South Carolina— Ku Klux Klan country. Every year the Luces would take the long train ride from New York to Charleston, where a boat would take them up the Carolina coast and onto the Cooper River, which flowed past their property. Ann adored Mepkin, so for Clare the month of December, when Ann was home from boarding school and later Stanford University, was a cherished and special family time.
It had been especially so that Christmas of 1943, while the war was raging. Ann was then a senior at Stanford, and Clare had long since published her book Europe in the Spring, in which she warned America of the danger of Hitler. As Ann had got older, she had grown closer to her mother and, as Hank Luce, her stepbrother, remembered, “just as opinionated.” She was tall and sharp-featured, not as pretty as Clare but attractive and very smart, and Harry Luce adored her. He frequently wrote her letters when she was still at Foxcroft, which she would answer by telling him how she had defended the family honor when her snobby classmates made awful remarks about Time. Clare often felt guilty about her absences from Ann. When she left for Europe as a reporter in 1940, she sent her daughter a long, falsely cheerful, and guilt-ridden letter about leaving her yet again. The letter says much about their relationship, which has been portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as consistently distant. Clare loved her daughter, but she was already a famous magazine editor without a husband when her child was growing up, and then she was Mrs. Luce, a social eminence, a hit play-wright, and a celebrity journalist in an era when rich women routinely parked their children with governesses and in fancy schools.
Annie my darling—You were a grand little trouper about my going and I really loved you better at that moment, for the swell way you took it, more than I ever did perhaps before! . . . Hdya like the new clothes? Do you look adoreable in that little frilled bathing suit? . . . Is the green tea gown with the frills flattering or isn’t it? Please send me lots of news in your first letter. . . . You’d think perhaps that I’d be the one with the news, seeing as how I’m travelling to Europe on a big boat. . . . I send you millions, BUT millions of kisses my sweetheart. Your Mother.
Just after New Year’s of 1944, Ann Brokaw left Mepkin with her mother. Ann was on her way west to go back to Stanford Clare was heading for Los Angeles to give a speech. The trip was special for both of them. They would have two weeks of traveling and seeing friends together before Ann was due back at school. “We had such a beautiful time together on that trip,” Clare recalled in the last years of her life. “We took a train, and Annie took the upper berth and I took the lower berth, and I can still see her funny little face sticking out. She said to me, ‘Mother, I know the strangest thing. I know all of a sudden that I will never be married.’ And I said to her, ‘What a funny idea! You’re beautiful—of course you’ll be married. Don’t you want to be?’ And she said, ‘Yes, I do. Of course. But I never will be.’
“When we got to San Francisco, it was decided that I would drive her down to Stanford very early. The night before, she came into my room at the Mark Hopkins and said, ‘Mother, you don’t have to drive me down early, because a friend will take me in her car, and you can come down later for lunch.’ ”
And so Clare Boothe Luce slept late, a decision she no doubt regretted bitterly for the rest of her life. “That morning a terrible woman who had been traveling with us as a secretary for me came into my bedroom and began to shake me. ‘Wake up! Wake up! Your daughter’s been killed. Ann is dead!’ She screamed at me that Ann and her friend had been hit by a man who had gone through a light and sideswiped the convertible. She was shaking me by the shoulders, saying Ann had been thrown from the open car and hit a tree and broken her neck. It was so strange. . . . I called up Harry. I remember the first words he said: ‘Not that beautiful girl. Not that beautiful girl. I’ll be right out to take care of everything.’ I had to get away from that terrible secretary who brought me the bad news. . . . I called a friend of mine who was one of the officers I had met in that slit trench in Burma and I said, ‘I need you terribly badly. . . . ’ We just walked and walked through San Francisco. . . . I couldn’t cry, for some odd reason. And when Harry got there, we took Ann back to Mepkin, because we had all had such marvelous times together there. . . . I buried her in the churchyard on the next plantation.”
Ann’s death changed Clare Boothe Luce’s life irrevocably. She blamed herself completely for neglecting her only child, for missing the small moments, and the large ones, of a girl’s life that elude a mother building a stellar career. She began to tell friends that everything she had done as a young woman on the make had been a “complete waste” her years of brittle cleverness mortified her now. She no doubt believed she was being punished for her precocity with the loss of her child. For months, Harry Luce could not pull her out of her depression. Then, slowly, she emerged from her profound grief and sadness into the predictable next stage of reacting to the loss of Ann: she became filled with rage. “What kind of God would take my child?” she asked a priest. Consumed with anger, Clare at first tried to lose herself in the secular world. Some months after Ann’s death, she entered the most vicious congressional race of her career, lashing out at the ailing Franklin Roosevelt, who was running for a fourth term, as she might have wished to lash out against the fates that had taken her daughter away from her. She announced to the world, as she barnstormed through Connecticut, that Roosevelt was so ill that it was doubtful if he could survive four more years. Even worse, Harry Luce had just acquired a large percentage of the NBC Blue radio network, and Clare used this new acquisition as a forum for her attacks. It was often difficult to feel sympathetic with her, because her anger seemingly knew no bounds. At the 1944 Republican convention, she excoriated F.D.R. by practically accusing him of murdering “G.I. Joe and G.I. Jim,” her term for the dead American soldiers that she said Roosevelt had promised never to send overseas. Coming, as her speech did, just as Hitler’s death camps were being liberated—and after she and Harry Luce had lobbied for years for America’s intervention in Europe—her speech was considered a shocking aberration from a political sharpie. The New Yorker commented that the speech “made it difficult to keep anything on our stomach for twenty-four hours.” However grief-stricken and beautiful Clare Luce was, she was sternly and rightly criticized for this smear. Even the Bridgeport Post, which had always supported her, said that “at times she is positively cruel.”
She was spread too thin to write. Shredding F.D.R. and Eleanor on any dais that she could obtain took up the time she might better have spent at her typewriter. Like her husband, she was a shrill ideologue. When she campaigned for Congress in 1944, Dorothy Parker, Clifton Fadiman, and Tallulah Bank-head showed up to speak out against her—a fact which may have inadvertently ensured her victory.
It is difficult to know exactly when Clare began to turn away from the secular world and toward the comforts of the church. At the end of the war she was in Europe, and perhaps what she saw on that gruesome voyage eroded her personal rage and caused her to seek a spiritual cure. Soon after Buchenwald was liberated, she asked an American general to take her in, and no human being who saw the bodies stacked up there like firewood in 1945 ever got over it. To survive a world gone crazy, Clare, like many others after the war, reached out to a religion that was pure and uncut by modernity. Harry’s Presbyterianism was not sufficient for her she would need the centuries-old ritual, the imperial purple, the incense, and the fine intellectual ballast of Thomas Aquinas and the church fathers. When she came home to America, she began to take instruction from a friend of hers, a simple Polish priest, but he quickly passed her on to the big gun, Monsignor Fulton Sheen, understanding full well that Clare Luce would need a priest—as she herself later said—“who had seen the rise and fall of empires.”
However pious she could appear, there were strill flashes of the old Clare. When she addressed the Republican National Convention of 1948, Dorothy Kilgallen wrote of her, “Clare was a sight to see as she stood on tiptoe in her black suede flatties and railed against the ‘troubadors of trouble’ and ‘the crooners of catastrophe.’ ” She called the former vice president Henry Wallace “Stalin’s Mortimer Snerd” and Wallace’s notions “globaloney.” But, like Harry, she was terrified of Communists and believed as fervently as he did in the notion of the American Century, the anthem and the flag, Manifest Destiny, Significant Ideas.
Clare had always thought in terms of absolute good and evil, and perhaps the church, with its belief in divine absolution, saved her life. Later she would write in McCall’s that she had become Catholic “in order to rid myself of my burden of sin.” She became convinced that she would meet Ann in the beauty of the afterlife, but, however religious she became, the loss of Ann remained a persistent and tragic wound. In her last years, as she was moving from her retreat in Hawaii back to Washington, her friend Cobey Black discovered her in a studio on the grounds of her Kahala estate sobbing uncontrollably. “Never move at this stage in your life, Cobey,” she told her. “Throwing away a lifetime of possessions will cause you such pain it will undo you.” Nearby, in a trash can, was a small pair of Dutch wooden shoes a servant had thoughtlessly discarded. On the back, in a small, childish hand, was the message “To Mommy, I love you so much, Ann.”
But the real loneliness was yet to come. In the 1950s Harry was still alive, chasing Communists and reigning over his empire, and Clare’s becoming a devout Catholic had the additional and unexpected benefit of releasing her from feeling sexually rejected by him. She now had a psychological loophole to save her female vanity as Harry sought the comforts of other women—a fact which was known to their intimates. Clare had been, after all, a divorced woman when she married Harry, and the church did not recognize her second marriage. If she slept with Harry Luce, as a Catholic convert, she would be committing a mortal sin. And so, she confided to friends, once she became Catholic she and Harry lived together as “brother and sister.” Ironically, with the sexual pressure lifted, the Luce marriage went into high gear. They became terrific allies, Man and Superman, stronger together than they had ever been in the past. Clare was soon back in action, campaigning for Eisenhower, who repaid the compliment by naming her the first woman ambassador to a major country, in this case Italy. “I won’t go without Harry,” she told him, and Harry agreed to being in Rome with her six months a year. Harry soon grew used to his wife affecting a huge cross with every outfit she wore, and he tolerated all the priests who now surrounded her. But neither Clare nor Harry could ever go back to Mepkin with a clear heart, and soon after her conversion Clare turned her beloved plantation over to a community of Trappist monks, who to this day happily give visitors a tour of the Luce azalea beds.
She created an image and she stuck with it, surviving a long life with the same desires which had driven her as a child: she wanted to be taken seriously and she wanted to be a factor in society, even after Harry had retired from Time and the Luces had retreated to Phoenix. A marvelous picture of Clare Luce was taken a few years ago. Her face is serene, sheathed with the tiniest lines, and in one hand is a rose of such perfection Redouté might have created it. A print shawl is wrapped around her shoulders. “That is how Clare should have been as an old lady and never was,” her friend Marvin Liebman said.
Harry Luce surprised everyone who knew him in that he actually retired from Time when he turned the magazine over to his successor, Hedley Donovan, in 1964. Clare was less able to slow down and move into another phase of her life. She continued to call Richard Clurman, who was then one of the top editors of Time, to suggest story ideas. “Clare used to be fascinated by U.F.O.’s, and wanted all kinds of antivivisection stories assigned,” he said. It was impossible for her to sit still. In retirement, Clare campaigned for Barry Goldwater, wrote articles for National Review, and followed the minutiae of politics to such a degree that she could recite the voting records of key Republican senators and congressmen. At night, while Harry read, she would sit with him, surrounded by boxes of glue, Styrofoam, velvet, sequins, and ribbons, making Christmas ornaments of such professionalism that she sold them at Henri Bendel and donated the money to charity. But in Arizona, surrounded by retirees and shopping malls, Clare began to sag in spirit. She lost interest in her looks, stopped wearing makeup and cut her hair in a Buster Brown style. She told friends that the worst thing about getting old was that men “no longer want you.” “Oh, Harry, you are married to an old, old woman,” she once said to her husband, according to Shirley Clurman. “Yes,” Luce replied, “but I am married to a beautiful old woman.”
Clare continued to grow depressed in the desert and longed for the sea. She had fallen in love with Hawaii in 1938, when she had vacationed there with Harry and Ann. She had published her experiences in Vogue, with photos of her with her surfing instructor, Captain Hale, and of Ann “surf-riding” at Waikiki. “Here’s another secret about Hawaii,” she wrote breathlessly, “how you’ll miss it, miss it all, when three thousand miles of the calm Pacific is between it and you! Hawaii, someone once said, is a state of mind.”
Harry and Clare made elaborate plans to build a Kahala retreat on the beach on fashionable Diamond Head Road, and once again they chose Edward Durell Stone as their designer. It would be the most expensive house ever constructed in Hawaii up to that time, with a dining room that could accommodate thirty, separate studies for Harry and Clare, and several studios on the grounds for servants and guests—all facing the ocean. They no doubt imagined that a stream of journalists and politicians would make this place a necessary stop on the way to the Far East. Additionally, Harry would be much closer to his beloved China. “This was to be their last house,” a friend said, and they were making plans to entertain the local bankers and mayors. “They were so happy,” Cobey Black said. “It was to be a new life.”
But it was not to be. In Phoenix, a few months before they were to move, Harry Luce began to cough violently. He was hospitalized, but he seemed fine, reading his Bible and watching Perry Mason on TV. That night he woke up and screamed, “Oh, Jesus!” Nurses came running, but Luce had died instantly of a coronary occlusion. He died so unexpectedly that he had left no burial instructions with either his son, Hank, or Clare, but Hank remembered that he had once mentioned he would like to be buried at Mepkin next to his adored stepdaughter, Ann. A simple stone marked the site in a grove of live oaks, and the monks carved Clare’s name on it too. After the funeral, the Trappists approached Mrs. Luce. “We have some marble left over that we are planning to use for your tomb,” they told her. “Would you like to see it?” “God, no!” she said.
Curiously, for all their closeness, Harry Luce left Clare “the absolute minimum he could get away with without having the will challenged,” according to a close associate. Clare would receive the interest from a trust he set up for her—and nothing else. Upon Clare’s death, the trust would revert to the Henry Luce Foundation, which was to be administered not by Clare but by Hank. And so, at age sixty-four, Clare Boothe Luce could not properly enjoy the spoils of power, as Brooke Astor, for example, was able to when her husband Vincent willed her control of the Vincent Astor Foundation, which gave her the fun of being not only a Great Lady but also a philanthropist to be courted and admired. Clare became a widow on a fixed income, admittedly an extremely high fixed income. “Why wouldn’t Harry Luce have given his wife that power?” I asked a close friend of hers. “In the end, maybe Harry didn’t like Clare that much,” the friend said. But perhaps the explanation was more complicated: in death, Harry Luce was finally able to score one on Clare. She might be a better shot, a wittier host, a more sought-after speaker, the one chosen as ambassador, but he was after all the boss, and he knew that his son would carry on his tradition in a manner more to his liking.
Clair Booth Luce - History
Clare Boothe Luce at a congressional hearing - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
A resident of Greenwich, Clare Boothe Luce won election to the United States Congress in 1942 as a representative from Connecticut. Her entrance into politics was not her first foray into the public eye, however. By the time of her election, she was already an established author, editor, and playwright. Recognized for her efforts to reshape perceptions of women in the realms of politics and society, Luce later became the United States Ambassador to Italy—the first woman to hold such an appointment to a major European country.
Clare Boothe, born in New York City in 1903, was the daughter of Anna Clara Snyder and William Franklin Boothe, a concert violinist who abandoned his family when Clare was only eight. Despite the family’s challenges, Boothe’s mother ensured that both she and her elder brother, David, received a proper education.
Clare Boothe Luce, David Boothe, and “Buff” Elizabeth Cobbs, posed on lawn, with bicycles, Sound Beach, Connecticut, ca. 1916 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
In 1923, Boothe married millionaire clothing heir George Brokaw, who was 23 years her senior. After six turbulent years of marriage and the birth of a daughter, the couple divorced in 1929. Following the divorce, Boothe pursued a career in writing, penning articles for Vogue and later, Vanity Fair (the latter of which she became the managing editor of in 1934).
Second Marriage and Success as a Playwright
In the autumn of 1935, Clare married Henry Luce, the founder and publisher of Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune magazines. It was also during this period that she came into her own as a successful playwright. Although her earlier dramatic efforts did not meet with success, the production of her play The Women in 1936 was a Broadway hit, ran for over 657 performances, and became a feature film in 1939. Luce’s talents reached beyond the realm of theater and popular culture, however. At the outset of World War II, she drew upon her earlier journalistic experience to provide Life readers with in-depth first-hand accounts of her travels across the different theaters of war.
Her wartime writings presented a marked criticism of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s handling of the war effort. Furthermore, she caught the eye of influential political figures when she enthusiastically endorsed Republican nominee Wendell Wilkie in his failed 1940 presidential campaign.
With support from leading Connecticut Republicans, Luce announced her congressional candidacy (to represent Fairfield County, the 4th Congressional District) in 1942. Easily winning the seat, she became the first woman to represent Connecticut in the US House of Representatives.
After two terms in office, a grieving Luce chose not to seek re-election, following the death of her only child in a motor vehicle accident. She reemerged in the world of politics in time to lend her support to Republican candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election, however. In recognition of her contribution to his campaign, Eisenhower appointed her United States Ambassador to Italy, a post she held until 1957.
Although Luce retired from public life in 1964, she remained involved in politics in an unofficial capacity, serving as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and later under Ronald Reagan. In honor of her lifelong contributions to many areas of American life, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan in 1983. Of her role as a pioneer in advancing the role of women in politics and society, Luce reflected, “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’”
Patrick J. Mahoney is a Research Fellow in History & Culture at Drew University and former Fulbright scholar at the National University of Ireland Galway
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The Analysis of the Clare Boothe Luce's Speech to the Women's National Press
In our society today everything is based on media which is something that is becoming more and more about what the people want to hear rather than what they need to be told. American people love hearing a good story whether it’s true or not. The media is something that supposes to brings out the truth and facts to the citizens that watch it but now they are just becoming opinionated and that’s where they are going wrong. With this speech given by Clare Booth Luce to the women’s national press, club occurs she addresses this problem. To prepare the audience for the message she uses contradictory language and metaphors”.
Luce first begins her speech by telling the audience how honor she is to be in their present then she flips her original statement of how happy and flattered she is to “I am less happy than you might think and more challenged than could know ” with this line luce gives off the vibe to her audience that everything that she is about to say to them isn’t going to be all positive things. But with following that line she makes sure to remind the people that they were the ones that asked for her opinion on the American press. Overall the first paragraph is mainly focused on her making sure to explain to her audience about her intentions and what to expect from her. Clare Boothe Luce declares to her audience how she will be criticizing them, and their lack of honesty to the people who watch them as she says “directly to her audience, she tells them you have asked me to tell you what’s wrong with you the American press”.
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Luce again continues her mind games when she tells the audience the” delicate art of giving an audience hell is always one best left to the Billy Grahams and the Billy sheens”. It prepares them for how the speech would be by naming celebrities that were well known at that time and by the looks of it these people were well known for giving powerful speeches to their audiences. This should have relaxed the audience as she says that she isn’t the one who gives an audience hell that its left to Billy Grahams and the billy sheens. Overall she says that she isn’t going to be telling them anything that she knows that tell take hard or will affect them badly.
Luce then continues her charade and tells the audience but “you are an audience of journalists. there is no audience anywhere who should be more bored—indeed more revolted—by a speaker who tried to fawn on it butter it up exaggerate its virtues play down its faults and who would more quickly see through any attempt to do so”. She says this to express her knowledge about how the journalist in the room are too intelligent to expect people to just fill their heads up with how wonderful they are she is using her audience pride to manipulate them to always be open-minded on what she is about to say to them.
However, at the end of her introduction, she says that “for the plain fact that u.s. daily press today is not inspiringly good its just far and away the best press in the world”. Her saying this contradicts her whole purpose of talking to the press because she says that knowing that they have many flaws but in the end, the press is still considered superior to the others. this however also helps prepare the audience because it reminds them that even though they might have flaws and faults they are still successful and have a reason to be proud of themselves. overall Luce knew what she was entering when she decided to give this speech she knew that there will be some disagreement after her speech and that was why she used the introduction to build her defense. she makes sure that she prepared the audience for what she is about to say to them that they can understand her contradictions. this preparation makes sure that she is protected form disagreement that breaks out in argument to the what she said.
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On December 26, 1936, a satiric comedy, The Women, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on Broadway, before a capacity audience and an astonishing array of some 50 critics and 10 talent scouts. Among the usual contingent of New York society figures was a battery of theatrical elite: the celebrated Miss Barrymore herself, Irving Berlin, Gloria Swanson, Billy Rose and his wife, Fanny Brice, Clifton Webb squiring Libby Holman, Max Gordon, the show’s producer, and Moss Hart, who, with George S. Kaufman, was rumored to have helped polish the play out of town.
Mysteriously absent from this assemblage of regular first-nighters was the diaphanous, blonde wife of Time publisher Henry Luce. She was missed in particular because she was the evening’s playwright. Having dined with family and friends, Clare Boothe Luce had ascended to—of all places—the top of the Empire State Building, in order to brace herself in solitude and reflect not only on the performance about to begin 13 blocks north but also on the real-life drama that had brought her to this point.
Just a year before, her play Abide with Me had flopped disastrously. It was based on her first marriage, at 20, to George Tuttle Brokaw, an alcoholic millionaire more than twice her age. A sheaf of negative reviews—one even in Time—not to mention boos in the audience, had made Clare swear never again to attend her own opening nights.
All the 40 -carat diamonds of the American theater seemed to be sparkling that winter evening. Within a few blocks John Gielgud was playing Hamlet, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were in Robert Sherwood’s Idiot’s Delight, and Margaret Sullavan was in Stage Door, by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber. You Can’t Take It with You, by Kaufman and Hart, had just opened at the Booth. Katharine Cornell was starring in Maxwell Anderson’s The Wingless Victory, Tallulah Bankhead in George Kelly’s Reflected Glory, Helen Hayes in Gilbert Miller’s presentation of Victoria Regina, and Ruth Gordon in William Wycherley’s The Country Wife. A rotating series of short plays by Noël Coward, entitled Tonight at Eight Thirty, was at the National, with the author and Gertrude Lawrence in the leading roles. George Abbott’s production of the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes featured Ray Bolger, and Beatrice Lillie and Bert Lahr were billed in Vincente Minnelli’s revue The Show Is On.
The night was unseasonably warm. Fog curling off the Hudson River blotted out lights on the George Washington Bridge and veiled the upper reaches of Manhattan. There, on the fringes of Spanish Harlem, Clare had been born 33 years earlier, the illegitimate daughter of a traveling salesman and a beautiful 20-year-old typist.
Friends knew little about Clare’s childhood, but memories of its squalor and mendacities were painfully vivid to her, try though she always had to surmount them. As she stood now in her 102nd-floor aerie, looking out over the glittering metropolis to 47th Street, where her name was up in lights, it struck her that “none of the ants on the street had ever heard of me.” Unless they could be made as sure as she was of her own worth, fame, so ardently sought, might be fleeting.
Clare’s beautiful and ambitious mother—who for years during her daughter’s schooldays had been a kept woman—had encouraged her drive and taught her how to dissemble and manipulate men. “Let them all tell you how blue the eyes are and golden the hair. But never let them see what makes the wheels go round.” Anna Clara Schneider’s fantasies of a theatrical career had been dashed after her teenage seduction by William Franklin Boothe. She had then pursued them vicariously, wangling Clare a job as understudy to Mary Pickford on Broadway when the child was nine and later a part in an Edison movie.
Pretty as Clare had been, she was not a natural actress. Professionals consistently beat her at auditions. Upon graduation from high school, she had been undecided whether to become an actress or a dramatist. “I simply was certain I’d be one or the other.”
Ambitions notwithstanding, she had allowed herself to be distracted by marriage, motherhood, and divorce, then by a brief but heady career in journalism. In just three years, Clare Boothe Brokaw had risen from caption writer at Vogue to managing editor of Vanity Fair.
At a dinner party in the summer of 1929, Clare encountered Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and House & Garden. Emboldened by his southern courtesy, she said she had been feeling empty and directionless since her divorce from George Brokaw, and asked if he could find her a position on one of his magazines. Nast had heard this request before from bored society women and usually paid little heed. But Clare’s obvious seriousness, not to mention her beauty, brought an invitation to visit his headquarters.
The Condé Nast Publications Inc. was housed in the Graybar Building on Lexington Avenue at 44th Street. The Art Deco structure was then the largest office complex in the world. On its 19th floor Clare was interviewed by *Vogue’*s editor, Edna Woolman Chase, who had worked on the magazine for 34 of her 52 years.
Wasting no time, Mrs. Chase set the job seeker a test: to write the kind of detailed picture captions for which Vogue was noted. Clare’s efforts showed promise, and she was told to return in a few days. But by then Mrs. Chase had left for Paris to see the fall collections.
Clare had to resign herself to a summer of suspense before the editor returned. She decided to spend it on the breezy shores of Long Island while her five-year-old daughter, Ann, stayed with George. Bronzed and rested, she moved back to Manhattan in September and rented an apartment in the Stanhope Hotel, at 995 Fifth Avenue.
Though Clare had not heard from Mrs. Chase, she was still determined to work at Vogue. So after Labor Day she put on a gray dress with white collar and cuffs, went back to the Graybar Building, and convinced an assistant that she was a new employee. She took a seat at an empty desk and waited for some work to arrive. After a while, it did. “I kind of oozed on,” she recalled. “Nobody knew anything about me, not even the accountant.” As a result, almost a month would go by before she received her first $35 weekly paycheck. When Mrs. Chase returned and found Clare in place, she assumed Condé Nast had hired her. He, in turn, thought she had.
The newcomer’s manner struck Mrs. Chase as being “a little grand.” At breakfast, Clare would spread a cloth across her desk and pour coffee from a silver pot. She was accordingly kept busy on a strict diet of captions. There were plenty of them to write, since Vogue was then published twice a month. Ambitious to write at greater length, she welcomed the opportunity to do an article on the well-dressed baby. Her manuscript, entitled “Chic for the Newly Arrived,” warned that a standard christening robe, made of the finest batiste edged with Valenciennes lace and worn over a slip of crêpe de Chine, could cost “a great deal more than mother’s latest from Chanel.” Clare went on in dead-pan style to describe other extravagant garments and excesses, such as a lapin-lined perambulator. She recommended edible toys, because “babies have a passion for playing with their food and eating their playthings.”
Far from objecting to her archness, Mrs. Chase spread the piece over five pages, illustrated with bonnets, bibs, and bassinets. Three years after its publication (without her byline), Clare boasted to an interviewer that her maiden article in Vogue was “still pointed to as a classic by merchants of the Wee Garment trade.”
Just down the corridor from Vogue stood the offices of Vanity Fair, Condé Nast’s prize gift to the haut monde. Since its launch in 1914, the periodical’s circulation had not advanced beyond 90,000. Time disparaged it as a “glossy ‘smartchart’ ” and said that “no magazine prides itself more on the chic modernity of its readers.” To Clare, still scribbling service copy at Vogue, the famous monthly was simply the most desirable and sophisticated next step she could imagine.
Between *Vanity Fair’*s strikingly original covers were found such stellar writers as Colette, D. H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Benchley, and Walter Lippmann. Among the painters and photographers were Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, the Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias, Man Ray, and Edward Steichen.
The editor was Francis Welch Crowninshield, a lean, silver-haired bachelor with the elaborate manners of an Edwardian gentleman. In spite of his Brooks Brothers suits, “Frank,” or “Crowny,” had avant-garde tastes. Yet his office was as baroque as his personal appearance was austere. Beyond a door decorated with green figures on silver leaf, he sat at a lacquered desk against a background of shimmering Chinese wallpaper. He was assumed to be homosexual, although he vaguely informed Edmund Wilson that he had “a girl who came to see him once a week.” No doubt existed of his nose for talent, and he frequently prowled through Edna Chase’s adjacent domain, sniffing it out. Earlier in the decade, the scent had led to Dorothy Parker. Now it brought him to the fragrant Clare Boothe Brokaw.
“She was, altogether, a bibelot of the most enchanting order,” he wrote. “Her skin possessed a curious kind of translucence, as if some shining light beneath it were causing the faint, pearl-like aura which seemed to surround her.”
The Wall Street crash of October 1929 was still reverberating in the world’s ears when a telegraph sent to the Stanhope Hotel invited Mrs. Brokaw to see *Vanity Fair’*s managing editor, Donald Freeman, at 11:30 on the morning of October 31.
Clare knew the 25-year-old Freeman by reputation. He was a Columbia graduate who had studied in Vienna and spoke German and French fluently. For transatlantic promotion of the work of such writers as André Maurois and Paul Valéry, he had been made a member of France’s Légion d’honneur. In person he was unprepossessing, with a receding hairline and a shape that revealed a weakness for sherry-laced soup, beer, and banana splits. Nevertheless, though he was eight months her junior, Clare recognized Freeman’s educational superiority and editorial flair.
He, in turn, had been aware of Clare’s fine looks and candid gaze from the time of her arrival in the Nast organization. As they talked, he was dazzled by her ready wit, originality, and intellect. More important, he sensed her creative potential and relished the chance to play Pygmalion.
All that remained was for Freeman and Crowninshield to persuade Edna Woolman Chase to part with her latest editorial assistant. This did not prove difficult, since Mrs. Chase, along with millions of other Americans, was preoccupied with disastrous personal losses on the stock market. Clare suffered little, thanks to George Brokaw’s canny foresight. Her $25,000 annual income dropped by only $1,200, leaving her $425,000 trust fund virtually intact.
Clare moved to Vanity Fair as a junior editor in December 1929, at an annual salary of $1,820. She shared a large, sunny office with the drama critic Margaret Case Morgan. Donald Freeman worked right next door. Under his tutelage, Clare honed her natural literary skills on incoming manuscripts.
The already captivated Freeman encouraged her to start writing articles of her own. She worked on them in the early-morning hours and utilized Saturday afternoons for library research. What leisure time remained she spent with her mentor. Predictably, his role expanded from that of dinner, movie, and theater escort to that of lover. “As soon as he got me on my feet,” Clare later cracked, “he wanted me on my back.”
So long as it suited her, she concealed an abhorrence for Donald’s protuberant belly and grubby fingernails, as she had once hidden her contempt for George Brokaw’s childishness and drinking. Marriage had given her access to money and high society. An affair with her managing editor promised contacts more pertinent to present purposes. Yet she did not see herself in what she humorously called a “jungle” job, the “kind you hang on to with your tail.”
Vanity Fair published the first of Clare’s extracurricular pieces in August 1930. It was a lampoon of upper-crust chat, called “Talking Up—and Thinking Down” and subtitled “How to be a success in society without saying a single word of much importance at any time.” The opening paragraph heralded its theme:
Too much has already been written about the dead or dying art of conversation. Drawing room cynics and critics of society assert that the fine art of persiflage and repartee, of making epigrams and bons mots, of Pope’s “feast of reason and flow of soul,” which flourished until Nineteen Hundred in the salons of France and England, received its death blow at the dinner tables of the modern capitals.
Clare’s long-sentence style was marred by an excess of adverbs, and she petered out of original ideas midway through her essay. But “Talking Up” was a creditable debut, even though its skeptical tone was stronger than *Vanity Fair’*s customarily cool, urbane voice.
That same month she published her first contribution to “We Nominate for the Hall of Fame.” This was a regular among *Vanity Fair’*s miscellaneous features. The format called for laudatory biographical paragraphs beneath portraits of notable people in the arts, sciences, sports, and business spheres. Clare’s assigned subject was Henry Robinson Luce.
She had not met the wunderkind publisher and knew little about his private life. “Does he save string or raise fish?” she asked his colleagues and friends. No, they said, Luce did nothing but work. What a dreary man, she thought as she struggled to write a convincing citation.
Because he originated the news-magazine idea because at the age of thirty-two he is the successful editor and publisher of Time and Fortune magazines because he was born in China because he was once a humble newspaper reporter on the Chicago Daily News and lastly because he claims that he has no other interests outside of his work, and that this work fills his waking hours.
The following month, the name of Clare Boothe Brokaw joined those of Ogden Nash and P. G. Wodehouse on the list of top contributors to Vanity Fair. In her essay “The Dear Divorced,” she wrote approvingly of “good lovers” who, “lacking the energy to become good haters, part in the nick of time, hopeful of becoming good friends.” In an age when divorce was considered mostly destructive, this wry idea of parting in order to salvage a relationship was distinctly new.
The October issue of Vanity Fair featured Clare’s “Ananias Preferred,” a tongue-in- cheek paean to the well-told lie. Without deception, she argued, diplomacy might fail, governments fall, and social structures atrophy. Lying “increases the creative faculties” in man, lessens friction, and, effectively done, buttresses the ego. Writing as an unacknowledged expert, she cautioned that successful prevarication requires a faultless memory, in order to keep track of untruths told.
“Your article on Ananias has created quite a furor in the office,” Donald Freeman informed Clare. “We all agree that this is the best piece of writing you have ever done. Mr. Crowninshield is more than enthusiastic.” Indeed, Crowninshield was so impressed that he immediately promoted his 27-year-old discovery to associate editor.
Every day Clare felt more confident of her powers. Margaret Case Morgan came to work one morning and “found that she was employing my secretary and I was employing hers.” Clare had lured the former away by paying twice the usual salary out of her own pocket. On another occasion Morgan left a pair of complimentary first-night tickets on her desk while she went to lunch.
When I looked for them around five-thirty, they were gone. After a frantic and vain search, I called up the press agent, who agreed to have duplicates for me at the box office that night.
When my date and I walked down the theater aisle with my duplicate tickets, guess who had the real tickets and who was occupying my seats? Right. None other than Clare Boothe and escort. I was so mad that I merely said to her, “Enjoy the play, dear,” and stalked back up the aisle. . . .
Next morning in the office Clare said, “But you left the tickets on your desk, so of course I thought you didn’t want them!”
It was becoming evident that whatever Clare desired she simply took, or tried to take. Condé Nast told Morgan that she had even offered to buy a controlling interest in the company.
Ironically, only Donald Freeman stood between her and the job she now lusted for: that of managing editor.
In the fall of 1930, Clare moved into a $555-a-month penthouse at 444 East 52nd Street. She hired four servants, including a personal maid to run her bath and help her dress. After furnishing her living room with an eclectic mix of old and new pieces, she lined one wall with books and hung a Foujita sketch of two catlike nudes on another. Her plans for the bedroom betrayed a compulsive tidiness, with drawers compartmentalized even for her stockings.
Freeman also moved that fall, one convenient block south of her, to 425 East 51st Street. He coyly dubbed his brownstone apartment their “love nest.” In the evenings and on weekends Clare made good use not only of his bed but also of a handsome desk and high-powered Underwood, installed mainly for her. The Graybar Building was an easy 10-minute walk away.
Crowninshield’s secretary recalled half a century later that Clare had a “translucent glow about her” in those days. She could be seated at her desk, in a tailored suit with “big horn-rimmed goggles on her nose, her hair a bit straggly . . . but if a man came into the room an astonishing thing would happen: her hair would gleam her teeth would shine her whole person would light up.”
Part of Clare’s new job was to see that the magazine reflected changing times and aired the latest philosophies. Crowninshield’s belief that it should “cover the things people talk about at parties” was still valid, in her opinion. What he did not realize was that contemporary cocktail conversation had begun to concern itself with economic and social needs rather than fashionable gossip.
With Nast’s approval, Clare cultivated writers and artists who best understood this new seriousness. John Franklin Carter, an employee of the State Department, became her Washington source. Writing under the pen name Jay Franklin, he published an early forecast that “dangerous racial and national animosities” in Europe would lead to war. Clare also encouraged the crankier side of the humorist Corey Ford. Incensed about government interference in personal morality, he campaigned in *Vanity Fair’*s pages for the repeal of Prohibition.
Clare maintained some balance by introducing “Who’s Zoo?,” a feature in which human faces were juxtaposed with look-alike animals and lines of doggerel. One of the best compared Einstein to a gentle canine. Mussolini’s profile was matched to that of a monkey, and Herbert Hoover was paired with a bulldog.
Donald Freeman assigned her to accompany Edward Steichen on a Hollywood celebrity shoot in August 1931. They photographed Josef von Sternberg and his protégée Marlene Dietrich. The actress kept them waiting for 25 minutes in a Deco mansion with rainbow-colored geometric designs etched across the walls. Clare passed the time playing with Dietrich’s six-year-old daughter, Maria. She had an unusual ability to understand the fantasies and miseries of children. When Dietrich, wearing a purple gown, staged her delayed entrance and interrupted them, the girl screamed with disappointment. Surprisingly, the scene-stealing star of The Blue Angel proved to be stiff and listless in front of a still camera. Clare reported that she managed only two expressions: “mysterious languor and parched passion.”
In the meantime, back in New York, Donald Freeman was proofreading her first book, a collection of stories called Stuffed Shirts. It was published on November 5. The New York Times Book Review said that the malice in Clare’s stories had “a felinity that is the purest Angoran.” Scribner’s compared the book to Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. The Galveston Tribune bracketed her with Edith Wharton. But in spite of its reception, Stuffed Shirts sold only 2,600 copies in seven months, gaining Clare a mere $600. “Now hereafter, Herr Freeman,” she wrote disgustedly to her lover, “I devote my . . . extra-working hours, not to literature, which pays neither dividends in fame, nor in ducats, but to seeing if I can’t bat off an agreeable play.”
By the summer of 1932, Clare had begun an affair with the Wall Street speculator Bernard Baruch. Rumored to be the fourth-richest man in America, he was a perennial adviser to presidents and an admirer of intelligent women. Unfortunately for her, he was 61 years old and married, with three children. His wife shared neither his Jewish faith nor—Clare assumed—his bed, yet he remained faithful to the ideal if not the practice of conventional family life. Clare therefore had to settle for the belief that “Bernie” cared for her as much as it was possible for “one of his vintage to care for one of mine.”
Gossip about Mrs. Brokaw and her famous multimillionaire grew apace. Eventually, even Franklin Roosevelt began referring to her as “Barney Baruch’s girl.” Through Baruch’s stellar connections, Clare found herself circulating among the foremost practitioners of finance, science, and communications. On July 12, 1932, for example, he invited her to his apartment to watch a demonstration of a new broadcasting medium, in company with David Sarnoff, the president of the Radio Corporation of America. They sat watching “a small flickering visual apparatus,” she wrote that night in her diary. Television reminded her of “the early days of the movies,” except that it had “perfect sound.”
If Clare nurtured any illusion about Bernie’s leaving his wife and starting a new family with her, she was soon disabused of it. Baruch told friends that she was just “a poor little kid,” who had to be kept happy with gifts. Clare deflected this rejection by scattering her talents and social energy in as many directions as possible. That fall she posed for a Vogue fashion shot by Edward Steichen, considered taking $20,000 to help former mayor Jimmie Walker write his autobiography, and started collaborating with Paul Gallico on a play. Dashing from work to lunches, teas, cocktails, dinners, theaters, speakeasies, and nightclubs, she often ended her days in one assignation or another.
Donald Freeman’s jealousy grew to open fury. Vanity Fair staff were privy to loud arguments between him and Mrs. Brokaw. He hoped that Clare would be embarrassed by a published rumor that Condé Nast intended to divorce his wife and marry her. But she was not, infuriating him further. During a climactic spat in September 1932, she accused him of using her talents for his own professional advancement.
On September 30, Clare stayed home nursing a cold. That evening, with extraordinary sangfroid, she dined in the company of four individuals who all lusted after her—Baruch William Harlan Hale, a young assistant with whom she had recently had a fling Condé Nast and Nast’s sapphic spouse, Leslie.
She was in bed the following morning when her telephone rang. It was Leslie Nast with bad news. Donald had been seriously injured the night before in an automobile accident upstate and was in a hospital in Mount Kisco. Clare drove north at once to find him unconscious, eyes black-and-blue under a swathe of bandages. At five o’clock, while she held his hand, he died. He was not quite 29 years old.
Over dinner a week later, Nast formally offered Clare the position of managing editor. He had hesitated, he explained, because he was wondering if she would “allow” him to replace Frank Crowninshield as editor in chief at the same time. It was clear to them both that Crowninshield was a spent force. *Vanity Fair’*s financial troubles grew worse each month, and his old-fashioned editorial values were irrelevant to the young, politically aware readers Clare needed to attract. Even so, it suited her not to have him replaced: his weakness would give her more control.
Most colleagues looked favorably on her appointment in the weeks that followed. Some were outright dazzled by the speed with which she established herself. Crowninshield praised her for boldly combining the capacities of “a superfortress, a battleship and a tank.” Awed though most observers of the new managing editor may have been, at least one associate found her professionally and personally wanting. Helen Brown Norden, a dark-haired, adventurous Vassar dropout, was already an experienced writer and an astute judge of character. Four decades later, as Helen Lawrenson, she would write the most devastating of all indictments of Clare Boothe Luce in her book Stranger at the Party.
Clare’s fourth issue as managing editor carried *Vanity Fair’*s first photoengraved color cover. It anticipated by nine months the end of Prohibition in December 1933 and, in its exuberant vulgarity, announced the age of the common man. Pretzels spelling the magazine’s logo floated above a row of foaming beer mugs on a red-and-white checked tablecloth.
“The ‘beer’ cover,” gushed one reader, “has caused more comment and elicited more praise than any . . . I ever heard of.” Condé Nast went further, declaring the March number altogether “grand.” But its success was immediately followed by a slump in *Vanity Fair’*s advertising, which dropped to its lowest level since 1919. For the frustrated publisher, this decline in revenue coincided with an impoverishment of his emotional life. Having recently divorced Leslie, Nast was now a single man, and he resented Clare’s indifference to his sexual overtures. Perhaps as a result, he became less tolerant of her unorthodox work habits and management style. “I do not think you can do your job effectively with such a combined absence and lateness as the sheets show for you during the past three months,” he wrote on March 27, adding dryly, “I am not asking you to observe the established nine o’clock arrival hour, but an hour . . . between quarter of ten and ten.”
From then on, Clare’s commitment to Vanity Fair started to evaporate. In February 1934 she resigned, and briefly wrote a column for the Hearst papers. That August, the magazine featured Clare Boothe Brokaw in its “Hall of Fame.”
Because she has written a play . . . because her book, Stuffed Shirts, was an authentic and merciless satire on New York society because she is now writing a syndicated newspaper column because she was formerly managing editor of Vanity Fair and because she combines a fragile blondness with a will of steel.
At a party in November 1934 given by Thayer Hobson, vice president of the William Morrow publishing house, and his wife, Laura, the future author of Gentleman’s Agreement, Clare arrived late and made a dramatic entrance, which Laura never forgot.
She came through the arch that led from the hall to the living room, and paused, waiting for Thayer or me to come and introduce her. She stood there with her blond head slightly tilted to one side she was wearing a black evening dress with lovely jewels, but instead of the usual corsage at her shoulder, she was carrying a small nosegay of white flowers in both her hands.
After dinner Clare’s attention was drawn to a tall, sandy-haired man whose copious eyebrows arched over narrow eyes. She recognized him as the subject of her first profile in Vanity Fair, four years earlier—none other than the co-founder of Time magazine Henry Luce.
Fame : Spotlight on Super Woman Clare Boothe Luce
Although I attended her funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, I never knew Clare Boothe Luce in life. Through Sylvia Jukes Morris' twin works, Rage For Fame and the most recent Price of Fame, I feel I have come to know Clare in all her complexity far more intimately.
Sylvia Jukes Morris' twin works, Rage For Fame and the most recent Price of Fame,
describe Clare Boothe Luce in all her complexity. Photo courtesy of the author.
Growing up, I had heard of the wife of Henry Luce, Jr. -- "Harry" -- as a socialite, book editor, playwright, journalist, actor, magazine editor - as well as Congressmember from Connecticut and American Ambassador to Italy. Through Sylvia's book set, I can now better imagine Clare's "ready smile and infectious laugh." Harry Luce, of course, was the co-founder and publisher of Time-Life.
Recently, I met Sylvia Jukes Morris speaking on her two books at New York City's University Club. There, the audio-visual presentation crashed for a few minutes and I was asked to stand and speak about my distant relationship to Clare.
Although a true Renaissance woman, Clare was not necessarily dedicated to liberating all women to follow in her footsteps. She believed women were biologically ordained to nurture children and raise families and Clare wanted to support them in those efforts, not competing for jobs at Time-Life. She had no qualms about using her feminine allure to get what she needed out of men, and left many a man in the wake of her affairs.
Clare Boothe Luce met regularly with world leaders, here with Winston Churchill.
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris.
Once she was complimented as having a 'masculine mind.' She declined the compliment, replying, "Thought has no sex. One either thinks, or one does not." According to Sylvia, Clare suggested the idea of Life magazine to her husband before it was developed internally in his company. Clare was famous for her acid wit that included the lines, "No good deed goes unpunished," "Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage," and, "A hospital is no place to be sick." She wrote the widening conflict of WWII was "a world where men have decided to die together because they are unable to find a way to live together."
According to Sylvia, her second husband, Harry, known for his physical awkwardness and lack of humor, was proud of Clare's many successes. He believed "her canny political instincts and oratorical skills, combined with beauty and a mind able to penetrate to the core of the most complex issues, would take her to great heights," and allow their joint political interests to not only be published from New York but also advance their own ideological goals in Washington.
Harry's son, Henry Luce III -- "Hank" -- mentored me when I first came to New York, introducing me to such titans as Rupert Murdoch and Malcolm Forbes. As Rockefeller Republicans, father and son were socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Clare, too, was often more liberal than imagined -- until Harry's death when she became increasingly conservative. Early on, she supported FDR in his desire to support our Allies before Pearl Harbor, a time when America was exceedingly isolationist.
Clare Boothe Luce scuba diving. Photo courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris.
Although a socialite, Sylvia reminds us that Clare had come from humble roots and hated the "vanity, stupidity, hypocrisy, and decadence of the so-called elite." One of her first books, Stuffed Shirts, lampooned the rich, as did her highly successful 1936 all-female play and movie The Women, "A stinging satire of naïve, vacuous, and malicious Park Avenue gossips." Sylvia writes:
Harry had marveled at his wife's physical bravery in war zones, and relished her fearlessness in attacking not only populist Democrats, but the Old Guard snobs of the G.O.P. Speaking at a dinner in her honor given by her bejeweled supporters, she said "One of the troubles with the Republican party is that it contains too many prehistoric millionaires who wear too many orchids."
Clare was hugely popular, swept into the House of Representatives after her first play The Women was filmed which grossed only less than Gone with the Wind upon its release in 1939. One newspaper reported that tourists arriving in our nation's capital wanted to see three things: "the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and Clare Boothe Luce." In 1943, Clare was tied with the Duchess of Windsor as "the best dressed woman in the world."
With second husband Harry Luce, co-founder and publisher of Time-Life.
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris.
Ambition and drive were two of Clare's greatest allies. She reported for Life magazine from the Sino-Japanese front. In 1943, the author notes, Clare had flown 75,000 miles in pre-jet times, reporting from several fronts. Sylvia writes, "Her favorite preoccupations were spying, warfare, and romance.
As Sylvia writes about the Congresswoman who yearned to play a pivotal role in U.S. foreign policy:
What other member of Congress had dodged bullets in France, and bombs in Belgium and Indochina? Who else on Capital Hill had reported on desert battles against Field Marshall Rommel in North Africa, stood in trenches in Burma on assignment to interview General Joseph Stilwell, or struck up a friendship with Nehru in India?
Clare liked to eat men and spit them out. "She was an accomplished seductress, having married once, if not twice, for money, social position, and power." Harry, it seems, felt emasculated by her. She had a particularly interesting affair with the Supreme Commander's mysterious intelligence chief, General Charles Willoughby, who planned General McArthur's return to the Philippines. Others included Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy and financier Bernard Baruch.
The author writes, "Her favorite preoccupations were spying,
warfare, and romance." Photo courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris.
Like Harry who had been raised by Presbyterian missionary parents in China, Clare mistook Chinese Communism for a grave threat, not realizing it would one day moderate into a form of Capitalism that would give the U.S. a run for our money. Thus, perhaps won over by the persuasive Presbyterianism of Madam Chiang Kai-shek (who you can get to know intimately through the fantastic work of Hannah Pakula), she and Harry mistakenly backed Madam's husband, the gangster General.
I found it interesting to learn that although she backed FDR's strategy for supporting the Allies, she did not share his concern of saving the British Empire. On the contrary, Sylvia informs us, Clare hoped to see all colonies disbanded after the Fascists were defeated. She called upon the British to release Independence heroes Gandhi and Nehru from prison in India. She accused Great Britain of holding on to India for economic rather than altruistic reasons. The Brits maintained that until the Hindu-Moslem issue could be settled, leaving India would result in civil war and bloodshed. With extremely dry wit, Clare responded that whites should not have a "monopoly on murder." Clare also advocated that Palestinian Arabs have their own homeland along with the Jews.
Clare was an early advocate of our nation's immigrants, calling for the repeal of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that created quotas Clare equated to "the whole Hitler doctrine of race theology." In 1946, she co-authored the Luce-Celler Act that increased the numbers of Indians and Filipinos permitted to immigrate to the U.S., allowing them to become American citizens.
In another liberal, albeit humorous political maneuver, Clare slammed the WWII "Wayward Wives Bill" which promoted the idea of cutting benefits to any American woman found cheating on their soldier-husbands abroad. Clare proposed an amendment, Sylvia writes, that if a serviceman was unfaithful to his wife, the wife's allowance be doubled.
Clare's first play The Women was filmed, grossing only less than
Gone with the Wind upon its release in 1939. Photo courtesy of the author.
Clare's star rose so high that people begin to speak of her possible V.P. candidacy in 1944 with either General Douglas McArthur or Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York.
Clare was enormously complex and went through several downward spirals of depression, one from the death of her beautiful and talented daughter and Harry's step-daughter, a senior at Stanford University, in a car crash at the age of nineteen in 1944. This accident, which reminded Clare of her own mother's death, sent Clare into grief counseling with right-wing radio priest Fulton Sheen. She then converted to Roman Catholicism and was soon thereafter appointed under President Eisenhower as America's first female Ambassador - to Italy.
She fell seriously ill in Italy with arsenic poisoning in 1956. Rumors circulated that she had been targeted for extermination by agents of the Soviet Union because of her strident anti-Communism. However, medical analysis eventually showed the poisoning was caused by paint dust in her Roman bedroom. Clare was physically and mentally done in and resigned her post. She and Harry retired to the desert in Arizona, where reportedly both Clare and Henry tried LSD and Claire went on to use it several more times.
Anti-Communism continued to consume them both and in the early 1960's she supported Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona as the Republican candidate for president. Harry's death in 1967 drove Clare further to the right. After retiring to Hawaii, which eventually bored her, she moved back to Washington. In 1973, Richard Nixon named Clare to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and she was re-appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1977, and again by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
In 1987, Clare died of brain cancer at 84, ironically in her Watergate apartment in Washington. Clare left $50 million to found an academic program, The Clare Boothe Luce Program, designed to encourage the entry of women into technological fields traditionally dominated by men.
Clare Boothe Luce had a "ready smile and infectious laugh."
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Jukes Morris.
I compliment Sylvia Jukes Morris on her two volumes that keep the complicated legacy of Clare Boothe Luce alive. British by birth, Sylvia brings Clare back to life with the use of the most fascinating prose. I highly recommend this book, as well as its precursor.
It is easy to think that Clare Boothe Luce cared more for herself than humanity. But, because of her wit, drive, and brilliance, her impact was enormous. Clare was a thought leader and global citizen extraordinaire. Her aspirations, strategic thinking, and ultimate philanthropic efforts, can serve as an inspiration to future generations.