Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce

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Random House, 1997 - Ambassadors - 561 pages
7 Reviews
Born illegitimate on New York's Upper West Side, with nothing to recommend her but blonde good looks and a ferocious intelligence, she used sex, street smarts, acid humor, and money to plot a career more improbable than anything in her own fiction and drama. At ten, Clare Boothe understudied Mary Pickford on Broadway. At twenty, she was both a suffragette and a siren to well-placed men on both sides of the Atlantic. She spurned the handsomest to marry the richest: George Tuttle Brokaw, an alcoholic Fifth Avenue millionaire more than twice her age. At twenty-six, she was free of him, financially secure, in the full flower of her beauty, and ambitious enough to scorch silk. Clare Boothe set about transforming herself into a caption writer at Vogue, staff writer and managing editor of Vanity Fair (glossiest of the Deco-era magazines), and author of Stuffed Shirts, a satiric short-story collection brilliant enough to arouse the envy of Andre Maurois. Then, in three days at age thirty-three, she wrote The Women, the hit play whose dry-martini dialogue ("I'm a virgin - a frozen asset") still elicits gasps from audiences around the world. By then Clare Boothe was married again, this time to a man who was her equal in force of character: Henry Luce, the youthful publisher of Time and Fortune. On their honeymoon, she helped plant the seed of his greatest success, Life. For Luce, meeting Clare was a "coup de foudre", a lightning stroke that transformed him overnight into the most ardent and generous of lovers. To Clare, whom a French artist once described as "a beautiful facade without central heating", Henry was only the latest, and by no means the last, of the men she cruelly disillusioned. Although the marriage endured, this clear-eyed biography chronicles its deterioration from passion to partnerships. Other admirers, including Max Reinhardt, Conde Nast, Joseph P. Kennedy, Randolph Churchill, Noel Coward, Bernard Baruch, Paul Gallico, Isamu Noguchi, and Jawaharlal Nehru, crowd the pages of Rage for Fame - even Gertrude Stein, in one hilarious episode. All testify to Clare Boothe Luce's extraordinary charm and guile. However, she had powerful detractors, notably Franklin D. Roosevelt, David O. Selznick, Frida Kahlo, and Dorothy Parker. Copious quotations from her own diaries, as well as from those of her daughter, Ann, and the letters of her doomed literary mentor Donald Freeman, reveal dark undercurrents of deceit, ruthlessness, and narcissism in her personality. Behind the blue eyes and flirtatious manner, she was, in Irwin Shaw's words, "feminine as a meat axe". By the time she was thirty-seven, Clare Boothe Luce had written two more Broadway hits (the opening of her anti-Nazi play Margin for Error attracted not only Albert Einstein but Thomas Mann), a bestselling book on the 1940 fall of France, and numerous articles for Life, which employed her as a roving correspondent in the early days of World War II. Always fascinated with military strategy and intelligence, she was an ardent advocate of U.S. intervention in both hemispheres. After Pearl Harbor, her rage for fame became a rage for power that only politics would satisfy.

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Review: Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce

User Review  - Tamara Willems - Goodreads

Brilliantly researched, in-depth portrait of an intelligent, enigmatic driven woman's carefully calculated rise in American society and indeed a place in it's history. Very much looking forward to the second volume by Sylvia Jukes Morris. Read full review

Review: Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce

User Review  - Ann Holland - Goodreads

Wow, what a woman was our Clare! Had no idea she had such a "romantic" history. Fascinating story of this brilliant, beautiful, and bewitching woman who was tough as nails. can't wait for volume 2. Read full review


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About the author (1997)

Sylvia Jukes Morris lives with her husband, Edmund Morris, in New York City and Washington, D.C.

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