A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
“Her technique was simple: aim for the top,” an envious colleague wrote of Clare Boothe Luce. No American woman of the twentieth century aimed so accurately, or rose so far, as this legendary playwright, politician, and social seductress. Born in New York’s Spanish Harlem, with nothing to recommend her but beauty, ferocious intelligence, and dry wit, she transformed herself into the youthful managing editor of Vanity Fair. She married two millionaires and wrote three Broadway hits, including the biting satire, The Women. Her second husband, Henry Luce—the publisher of Time, Fortune, and later at her suggestion Life—was only one of the dozens of men she entranced. Adding politics and power to journalism and drama, Clare used sex, street smarts, acid humor, and money to plot a career more improbable than anything in her own fiction. Not content with mere wealth and the acclaim of transatlantic café society, Clare Boothe Luce confessed to a “rage for fame.” This extraordinary book—the result of more than fifteen years of research by Sylvia Jukes Morris, her chosen biographer—tells how she achieved it.
Praise for Rage for Fame
“A model biography . . . the sort that only real writers can write.”—Gore Vidal, The New Yorker
“[The] riveting first part of a two-volume biography . . . Relentlessly candid, meticulously documented, Morris’s book traces [Clare Boothe] Luce’s rocketing rise from illegitimacy and poverty to wealth, power and fame.”—Hartford Courant
“Powerful and resonant, admiring at times, always critical, at times searing, but ultimately fair.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Crammed with enough drama for several mini-series.”—The New York Times
“An important book about an important figure . . . a stunning feat of biography.”—Forbes
“A dishy biography that is also a formidable work of research.”—Slate
“One of those rare books where the reader dreads the final page.”—Newport News Daily Press
In many ways the regal Clare Boothe Luce was an American parallel to Pamela Ashby Churchill Harriman, a beauty relentlessly on the make for men, money and power. Yet Luce was more brainy and better educated, and perhaps more hungry for celebrity because she came from far lower circumstances. Her father was a violinist who was seldom able to make his living by his bow. Her mother, who never married William Boothe, was a call girl and kept woman. In the first half of what will be a two-volume life, Morris (Edith Kermit Roosevelt) describes how the future congresswoman and second wife of Time magazine founder Henry Luce, bedded her way upward while career-climbing in New York journalism and writing a stage mega-hit, The Women, which was made into a popular film in 1939. By 1942--at age 39--she turned to politics and was elected a Republican representative from Connecticut. Granted exclusive access to Luce's papers--460,000 items--in the Library of Congress before her subject's death in 1987, Morris has mined them for Luce's self-absorbed appetites. Unbewitched by her subject's aura, she describes "the corrosion of a personality denied the power that she felt born, if not qualified, to exercise." In a foreshadowing of the next volume, the author reveals that in later years, Luce's closest soul mate is to be Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Photos not seen by PW.