BIRTH DATE: April 10, 1903.
BIRTHPLACE: New York City.
EDUCATION: Attended St. Mary's School in Garden City, N.Y. and Miss Mason's School, "The Castle," in Tarrytown, N.Y., graduating in 1919. Briefly attended Clare Tree Major's School of Theatre in New York City.
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Father was a businessman and violinist, mother was a dancer. She spent her childhood in Chicago, Memphis, and after her parents separated, with her mother in France.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Rarely does one public figure become equally famous in each of the individual careers that he or she pursues; however, Clare Boothe Luce did so to the maximum. In her public life spanning several decades she gained equal as an editor, playwright, politician, journalist, and diplomat. In addition, the zeal in which she pursued each one of these careers resulted in her epitomizing the "talk-of-the-town."
Clare Boothe's original ambition was to become an actress and she understudied Mary Pickford before enrolling in Clare Tree Major's School of the Theatre. She lost interest, however, and dropped out to go on a European tour with her parents. Through this she met Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont, a New York society matron and an advocate of women's suffrage. From Mrs. Belmont, Clare herself became interested in women's rights. It was also Mrs. Belmont who introduced her to George Tuttle Brokaw, a New York clothing manufacturer 24 years Clare's senior. On Aug. 10, 1923, Clare and George were married. On Aug. 25, 1924, Clare gave birth to a daughter Ann Clare Brokaw. Sadly, George was an abusive alcoholic and the marriage ended in divorce in 1929.
Clare resumed her maiden name and in 1930 she joined the staff of the fashion magazine Vogue, as an editorial assistant. Having found direction in her life in the wake of a tragedy, Clare developed a serious interest in writing. In 1931, she became associate editor of Vanity Fair magazine, and began writing short sketches satirizing New York society and its figures. These were compiled and published under the title Stuffed Shirts in 1933, the same year that Clare became managing editor of Vanity Fair. In pursuit of a career as a playwright, Clare resigned from Vanity Fair in 1934.
On Nov. 23, 1935, Clare Boothe, now 32 years old, was married to Henry Robinson "Harry" Luce, who was 37 years old. World-renowned as the publisher, as well as the founder, of Time magazine and the business periodical Fortune (he would later found Life magazine and Sports Illustrated), they had met a party in New York. They soon fell in love, and married just one month after Harry divorced his wife of 12 years, with whom he had two sons. The union of Harry and Clare, which lasted 32 years, was childless.
In the same month as her marriage, Clare's play Abide With Me opened on Broadway. A somber psychological drama about an abusive husband on a collision course with his terrified wife, it was panned by the critics. Her second play The Women, which opened on Broadway in 1936, was a satire on the idleness of wealthy wives and divorcees. It also was received coolly by the critics. However, among the public, it was immensely popular and ran for 657 performances, toured the United States and 18 countries, and was adapted to the screen. In 1938, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, a play Clare said was a political allegory about American Fascism, but was viewed as a comedy about Hollywood's highly publicized search for an actress to portray Scarlett O'Hara in the film Gone With the Wind, became one of the ten best plays of the year. In Margin of Error in 1939, Clare treated the murder of a Nazi agent as both a comedy and a melodrama. It too proved popular and, along with the latter two plays, confirmed Clare Boothe Luce's status as a leading American playwright.
After the beginning of World War II, Clare traveled to Europe in 1940 as a journalist for Harry's publication Life magazine. Her observations of Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England in the midst of the German offensive were published in Europe in the Spring (1940). In 1941, she and Harry toured China (where Harry had been born to American missionaries) and reported to Life the status of the country--in particular its war with Japan. After the United States entered World War II, Clare went on a tour through Africa, India, China, and Burma for Life. During this tour she would interview General Harold R.L.G. Alexander, commander of British troops in the Middle East; Jawaharlal Nehru; Chiang Kai-Shek; and General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, commander of American troops in the China-Burma-India theater.
Claiming these travels as firsthand experience with international affairs, 1942 Clare ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives representing the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut, on the Republican ticket. Campaigning on a platform that alleged President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the United States into World War II unprepared, she won the election with ease. Once in the House, in her maiden speech, Clare assailed Vice President Henry A. Wallace's freedom-of-the-air policy to insure international peace, calling it "globaloney." Clare won the respect of the ultraconservative isolationists in Congress and received an appointment to the Military Affairs Committee. She consistently spoke on behalf of American troops fighting the war and addressed the issues concerning their eventual return to civilian life. On Christmas Day, 1944, she visited American troops in Italy, and returned to Congress advocating immediate aid to Italian war victims. She won reelection to a second term in the House in 1944. Beginning in 1945, Clare began warning against what she asserted was a growing threat of Communism internationally--with particular emphasis on Harry's native China--and a soft approach to the problem by the Democratic presidency. Additionally, during her second term, Clare was instrumental in the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission, which brought civilian control over atomic energy. For all her outspoken criticism of the Democratic presidency's foreign policy, during her two terms in the House of Representatives (1943-1947), Clare ironically voted on its behalf most of the time.
This period of Clare Boothe Luce's life would see tragedy, however. On Jan. 11, 1944, her daughter Ann, a nineteen-year-old senior at Stanford University, was killed in an automobile accident. Clare was so devastated by the loss of her only child that she suffered a nervous breakdown. She would undergo psychotherapy but eventually found solace in religious spiritualism, believing that only through God could she find a reason to live on. In 1946, Clare was received into the Roman Catholic Church. That year she did not run for reelection to the House, stating she wanted to return to writing.
In 1947, after her House term expired, Clare wrote a series of articles describing her conversion to Catholicism, which were published in McCall's magazine. In 1949, she wrote the screenplay for the film Come to the Stable, a drama about two nuns trying to raise money to build a children's hospital, and received an Academy Award nomination. Clare rediscovered her former profession as a playwright in 1951 with Child of the Morning. In 1952, she edited the book Saints for Now, a compilation of essays about various saints written by such authors as Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, and Whittaker Chambers.
Clare returned to politics during the 1952 presidential election, when she campaigned on behalf of Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower. He won the election and rewarded Clare for her support with an appointment as ambassador of Italy, which became effective in March 1953 after senate confirmation. Clare pursued her diplomatic task vigorously. She readdressed the issue of anticommunism, with emphasis toward the Italian labor movement, whose leftist forces she feared would interfere with American aid to industry in Italy. Perhaps the most notable event of her tenure was in October 1954, when she helped to settle the dispute between Italy and what was then Yugoslavia over the United Nations territorial lines in Trieste. The resolution gave the city of Trieste to Italy and the surrounding territory to Yugoslavia. Not long afterward, Clare fell seriously ill with arsenic poisoning caused by paint chips falling from the stucco roses that decorated her bedroom ceiling, and was forced to resign in 1956.
Clare took life slowly for the next few years, occupying her time with painting and creating mosaics. Then in 1959, President Eisenhower appointed her ambassador to Brazil. In the senate her appointment encountered strident Democratic opposition from Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, but was nonetheless confirmed by a 79 to 11 vote. In response to the bitter debate, Clare quipped that Senator Morse's actions were the result of him being "kicked in the head by a horse." This remark proved so controversial that Clare resigned the ambassadorship a few days later on Harry's urging.
Clare maintained her political activity and, for several years, was associated with the ultraconservative wing of the Republican party. In 1964, she supported Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president, and announced her own candidacy for the United States Senate from New York on the the Conservative party ticket. However, Republican party leaders expressed their strong disapproval and Clare withdrew. In the same year, Harry retired as editor-in-chief of Time and Clare joined him by retiring from public life herself. They would spend most of the next few years at their vacation home in Phoenix, Arizona.
On Feb. 28, 1967, Henry Robinson Luce was stricken with a sudden heart attack and died in a Phoenix hospital. He was 68 years old. Clare had a house built in Honolulu, Hawaii, and lived there quietly for many years. While maintaining her political contacts, she stayed out of the limelight. In 1970, she resumed writing plays with Slam the Door Softly, however, it attracted little attention.
In 1981, newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan appointed Clare to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. With that, she moved from Honolulu to an apartment in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. She served on the board until 1983, the year President Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
At her Watergate apartment on Oct. 9, 1987, Clare Boothe Luce died of a brain tumor at the age of 84. She had lived a multifaceted life with equal fame in each facet.
DATE OF DEATH: Oct. 9, 1987, age 84 (of a brain tumor).
PLACE OF DEATH: Washington, D.C.
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