The Woman: The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times:

DOWD-master675-v2Clare Boothe Luce has a lot to answer for. As the grande dame of the Republican Party, she introduced Richard Nixon to Henry Kissinger at her 1967 Christmas cocktail party. As la belle dame sans merci of Manhattan’s smart set, she took whatever she wanted from life without regard to moral consequences, even after showily converting to Catholicism. As a glamorous World War II correspondent, she wrote a book so self-­regarding that Dorothy Parker titled her review “All Clare on the Western Front.” Her colleague at Vanity Fair in the 1930s, Helen Lawrenson, wrote about the author of the venomous 1936 play “The Women”: “I can think of no one who aroused so much venom in members of her own sex.” “Throughout her life she had aimed for the best of everything and usually gotten it,” Sylvia Jukes Morris writes in the second volume of her exhaustive biography of the relentless enchantress who had more hyphens in her résumé than Barbra Streisand. Clare Boothe Luce was an actress-editrix-playwright-screenwriter-­congresswoman-ambassador-presidential adviser. And as the wife of Henry Luce, father of the Time empire, she was the clever half of the predominant power couple of the mid-20th century, even giving Luce many ideas for Life magazine, though she was barred from its masthead. She was “an accomplished seductress” who married once, if not twice, for money and position, Morris writes. Yet Luce always asserted that “in every marriage there are two marriages. His and hers. His is better. . . . What man now calls woman’s natural feminine mentality is the unnatural slave mentality he forced on her.”

In Morris’s first volume, “Rage for Fame,” Luce — the illegitimate daughter of a violet-eyed, conniving Upper West Side beauty who urged her daughter to use her blue eyes, blond hair and luminous skin to ensnare wealthy men — is on the ascent, driven by “her perpetual hunger for power in yet more spheres.” She had few real friends, as Lawrenson wrote, because “she seemed to trust no one, love no one.” Yet, Lawrenson said, Luce “could enter a room where there were other women, more beautiful, ­better dressed with better figures, and they faded into the background, foils for her radiance.” Luce flourished as a coquette and courtesan in bows and ruffles, but she once told male diplomats at a well-lubricated dinner: “Women are not interested in sex. All they want is babies and security from men. Men are just too stupid to know it.” Her sometime escort, the French artist Raymond Bret-Koch, appraised her this way: “It’s a beautiful, well-constructed facade but without central heating.”

More here.