Tuesday, August 10, 2010

LUCE, Clare Boothe An Extraordinary Life (c) By Polly Guerin

Dear Clare: Talented, wealthy, beautiful, socialite, a Congresswoman, ambassador and spouse of magazine magnate Henry R. Luce of Time-Life-Fortune, WHEW!, the zeal in which you pursued each one of these careers is nothing short of remarkable, a woman determined to succeed, and indeed you did!!! More astonishing is the fact that you became equally famous in each of the individual careers becoming an icon of woman’s achievement on its highest scale. One of your famous quotes, “Male supremacy had kept women down. It has not knocked her out,” explains in part your remarkable ability to pursue each task vigorously. Although your roles in politics, journalism and diplomacy stand alone as the pinnacle of your diverse careers, many of us know you for the play “The Women”.
It’s a legendary satire on the idleness of wealthy wives and divorcees which opened at the Barrymore Theatre in New York City, December 26, 1936. The play may have been received coolly by the critics, but among the public it was immensely popular and ran for 657 performances, toured the United States and 18 countries. While it is true that most of us do not have servants, this tale about women’s leisure pursuits, excesses of living the high life and for whom blowing money on luxury goods is their main pursuit, seems all too apropos to describe the unfulfilled lifestyle of some women of a certain age.
Where does inspiration come from? To the creative mind it’s in every situation, but you have to listen. Legend has it that some gossip Clare heard in a nightclub powder room inspired her Broadway hit that was wittily adapted for the screen in M-G-M 1939 film, THE WOMEN. This catty, clever all female film centers on a group of high-society women who spend their days at the beauty salon and haunting fashion shows. While some critics may say the play/movie is outdated there are similarities in high society today. The pampered Park Avenue princesses include the venomous Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford) who gets her fangs into the husband of sweet, happily wedded May Haines (Norma Shearer) while scandalmonger Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) lets the cat out of the bag at the beauty salon. Available on DVD, The Women, is really all about men.
After a divorce from George Tuttle Brokaw Clare joined the staff of Vogue, as an editorial assistant and later when Clare became associate editor of Vanity Fair she began writing short sketches satirizing New York society called “Stuffed Shirts.” Clare was not only an able editor but an attractive one and she traveled with the cognoscenti in cafĂ© society and intellectual social circles. She soon met Henry Robinson “Harry Luce, the world renowned publisher, as well as founder of Time magazine and the business periodical Fortune. (He would later found Life magazine and Sports Illustrated). They fell in love, and married in 1935, just one month after Harry divorced his wife of 12 years, with whom he had two sons. Sadly, the union of Harry and Clare, which lasted 32 years, was childless, but Clare did have a daughter Ann Clare Brokaw from her first marriage.
The marriage between Clare and Harry was fortuitous as it linked two formidable personalities in journalism, but less familiar is Clare’s wartime journalism. After the beginning of World War II, Clare traveled to Europe as a journalist for Harry’s publication Life magazine and wrote a vivid account of her four-month visit in her first non-fiction book, Europe in the Spring (1940). Documenting her observations she attributed the war in part to “a world where men have decided to die together because they are unable to find a way to live together.” She and Harry toured China and reported to Life the status of the country and interviewed high ranking generals as well as world leaders including Chiang Kai-Shek and Jawaharlal Nehru. However, Clare considered her war reportage as ‘time off’ from her true vocation as a playwright.
With such a background in international affairs, in 1942 Clare ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives representing the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut, on the Republican ticket. During her tenure she was a strong advocate on military issues. On Christmas Day 1944, she visited American troops in Italy, and returned to Congress advocating immediate aid to Italian war victims. During her second term, Clare was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission. She once said, “They say women talk too much. If you worked in Congress, you know that the filibuster was invented by men.” RETIRING YEARS
In 1947, after her House term expired, Clare wrote a series of articles describing her conversion to Catholicism, which were published in McCall’s. This inspiration stemmed from the death of her daughter Ann, a nineteen-year-old senior at Stanford University, who was killed in an automobile accident. Overwhelmed by this tragedy Clare had gone into a depression and did not want to run for reelection to the House stating she wanted to return to writing. In 1964 she and Harry, who had retired as editor-in-chief of Time would spend most of the next few years at their vacation home in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1981, Clare came into the limelight again when President Ronald Reagan appointed Clare to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, on which she served until 1983.
Clare Boothe Luce's life was chiseled like a brilliant diamond, she had however lived a multifaceted life with equal fame and accomplishment in each facet. Sadly, Clare Boothe Luce died of a brain tumor at the age of 84.

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