BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Sylvia Jukes Morris, your book, "Rage For Fame: The Ascent of Clare
Boothe Luce"--where did you get the title?
MRS. SYLVIA JUKES MORRIS, AUTHOR, "RAGE FOR FAME: THE ASCENT OF CLARE BOOTHE LUCE" Well, you know, sometimes, as--as with chapter
headings, I didn't know what to call a chapter until I'd written it.
And one day I was reading Clare's yearbook when she was a child at St.
Mary's School in Garden City, and she was about 14 years old, and in
the yearbook, there was a picture of her, and underneath she had
written, `A rage for fame attends both great and small.'
I thought, `Well, that's pretty smart for a 14-year-old.' But then I
thought, `Well, maybe she got it from somewhere,' so I did some
research and I found it was from an 18th century English poet. It was
an ode, and the last two lines were, `A rage for fame attends both
great and small; better be damned than not be named at all.' And I
realized that from a small girl, she had realized she wanted to be
famous. So I thought that "Rage For Fame" is just a perfect title
because her whole life after that was to that end.
LAMB: When was this picture taken?
MRS. MORRIS: That picture was taken about 1942, just after she'd
been elected to Congress by the famous Canadian photographer
LAMB: How old was she here?
MRS. MORRIS: She was only about 39.
LAMB: And how long did she serve in Congress?
MRS. MORRIS: She served in Congress for two terms--four years
LAMB: When did you first meet her?
MRS. MORRIS: I first met her in the fall of 1980 at her house in
Washington, but it was really a strange meeting because I had already
conceived the idea of doing a biography of her. When I--just out of
the blue, this invitation came from a hostess in Washington, and I was
in New York at the time. And I said, `Well, it's a long way to come
for a dinner party. Who's coming?' I think you might ask. She said,
`Oh, Clare Luce.' And I had just had the idea of the biography, so I
thought, `Well, should I go and meet this person because I may not
like her or I may like her too much and'--either way, it's not a good
frame of mind to write a biography. You have to be somewhat--you have
to like but not to be in love with and you certainly, like, have not
to hate. But anyway, I went there, and the hostess said, `Well, she
won't take any notice of you because she's only interested in men.'
So she sat me at ma--at her table and I was across from her, and she
sat next to the military historian, actually, Alistair Horne, who's
just come out with a new book, I--I see. And sh--all the whole
evening, she just concentrated on talking to him about the m--about
military things because that was her--one of her loves. But then at
the end of the evening, I was standing at the top of the staircase
where she had to--to leave, and she put her hands on my shoulder and I
thought she'd mistaken me for the hostess because, you know--and she
said, `Oh, good night, you sweet thing,' and then just swept out. And
it was shortly after that that I wrote to her and asked her if I could
do the book.
LAMB: Where did you first get the idea to do a book about her?
MRS. MORRIS: I was reading a file that I keep on people that
interest me and a--a--some papers fell out, and it was an article, a
New York Times piece that was written in 1973 when "The Women"--her
play "The Women" was revived on Broadway. And it was an extremely
good interview with her, and it made her sound just totally
fascinating. And I thought, `Wow, this is a very'--and, of course, I
am an English immigrant, so I'm not as familiar with Clare Boothe
Luce--I wasn't then--as--as you are. And I thought, `This would be a
great subject,' and took it from there.
LAMB: Give us a brief overview of what things she did in her life.
MRS. MORRIS: Well, she had very little education, as you probably
have discovered, and she left school at 16 and married, at 20, a very
wealthy Fifth Avenue millionaire and found that he--he drank a lot.
They had one child. And after six years of marriage, she was
divorced. And then she found herself extremely restless and bored and
even depressed--went to a psychiatrist for a while. That didn't seem
to fix it. So she deci--she met Conde Nast at a dinner party one
night and asked him for a job on Vogue or Vanity Fair or one of his
magazines, and he said, `Oh, no, you society women--I'll give you a
job and then come winter you'll be off to Palm Beach.'
But she wouldn't take no for an answer, so she simply took herself
down to the Grabar Building, where--which housed Vogue in those days,
found an empty desk and sat down and began to write captions for Vogue
articles. At the end of the week, when the pay man came around with
the paychecks, there wasn't anything for her. So she said, `Oh, well,
you know, when the editor gets back from Europe'--she was seeing
the--the--the--the French collections in Paris--`I'm sure I'll be put
on the list.' So when the editor came back and saw her sitting there,
she thought Conde Nast had hired her, and he saw her there, he thought
the editor had hired her. And that's how she got the job on Vogue.
LAMB: What was next?
MRS. MORRIS: Then she became a feature writer. And right next door
to Vogue was th--were the offices of Vanity Fair, and the editor
then--editor in chief was a man called Frank Crowninshield, extremely
cultivated Bostonian, and he used to go snooping in the Vogue offices
looking for talent for his own magazine, and that's how he found
Dorothy Parker. And then he quickly sniffed out Clare Luce and
he--Clare Brokaw in those days--and lured her away. And she
g--she--she started to work for him, and she learned a great deal from
her--the then-managing editor, a man called Donald Freeman, who was
just a little younger than she was, and he fell madly in love with
her, but he taught her all he knew. And she began to write stories of
her own, as well as doing editing chores. And then when he was killed
in a car crash--maybe a suicide over love for her, we're not quite
sure--she we--she became managing editor. So really, she got the job
in Vogue late 1930 and--early--sorry, late 1929 and the move to Vanity
Fair at the end of that year, and by 19--late 1932, she was managing
LAMB: How long did she keep the job?
MRS. MORRIS: It's extraordinary. Well, i--in her usual way, you
know, she mastered a job very quickly and then got quickly bored and
wanted to move on to something new. She loved to learn. So after a
couple of years--less, actually--about 18 months as managing
editor--she took a leave of absence and said she wanted to try her
hand at writing plays. So she went south and stayed at a resort which
you may know called The Cloister in Georgia, and Eugene O'Neill lived
just along the beach from the hotel. She got herself a dinner
invitation so she could compare herself with the great dramatist to
see if he really was smarter or--than she was, and I don't think she
found herself wanting, and so stayed down there for about three months
And then when she went back to New York, still didn't have a finished
work, so she took a job as a foreign correspondent on a--not a foreign
correspondent, but a--really more of a travel writer with Hearst and
other syndicated newspapers, and worked on that for a few months until
she met Henry Luce.
LAMB: How did she meet Henry Luce, and who was he?
MRS. MORRIS: Henry Luce was the publisher then of Time and Fortune
magazines, and they met at a dinner party, and he was extremely rude
to her on their first encounter. He had a very quick conversation
about picture magazines, which were still not really a big thing here
but they--they were in Europe, and he was thinking of emulating them.
And she, while she was at Vanity Fair, had tried to make Vanity Fair
into a picture magazine, but Conde Nast had lost a lot of money in the
crash and he didn't have the finances. But she still had the idea
that it would be a great thing to do. She talked to Luce about that,
and then suddenly he took out his pocket watch, looked at it and said
it was time to go, snapped it shut and clicked his heels and walked
away. And she thought he was the rudest man. He picked her brains
and just left her standing.
But when they met the next time, which was at a birthday party for
Cole Porter--it was actually not his birthday, it was the opening
night of "Anything Goes," I think. It was to celebrate "Anything
Goes," his new musical that--Elsa Maxwell gave his party. Elsa
remembered it as being his birthday, but I found that it wasn't.
And--and again, she saw him coming across the room carrying champagne
glasses--one was for his wife. And she said, `Oh, Mr. Luce, is o--is
one of those for me?' And at that mo--moment, the lights went down
because the floor show was coming on, and so she said, `Why don't you
sit down.' So he sat down, and they talked and talked and talked very
intensely. And then he invited her down to the lobby--this was the
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel--and he just admitted that he'd fallen in
love--it was a coup de foudre, it was like a stroke of lightning--and
that she was now the one woman in his life and that he would call on
her next Thursday afternoon to see what they were going to do about
LAMB: And he was married at the time.
MRS. MORRIS: He was married with two small children, yes.
LAMB: You talked with the son of Henry Luce, Henry Luce III. Is he
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. Yes, he's still alive and was most cooperative.
LAMB: How old a man is he?
MRS. MORRIS: And he's now about 71, 72 years old.
LAMB: Has he been active in the magazines at all?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes, he worked on the magazines. He's now on the board
because he now runs the Henry Luce Foundation. But he headed the
London bureau for a while and he helped build the new Rockefeller
Center offices and so on.
LAMB: What did he think of his father?
MRS. MORRIS: Oh, I think he loved him dearly and admired him greatly
but felt--they weren't close because he was so busy. His father was
always so busy and traveling so much. And, of course, after the
divorce, he stayed with his mother and he didn't see very much of his
father and--which I think was a great pity because he admired him so
LAMB: At the time that Henry Luce told Clare Boothe--Brokaw, I guess,
at the time...
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: ...that he was in love with her and--did he say he was going to
MRS. MORRIS: Well, at first, he wanted to have a little experiment,
that they would see each other quietly for a year, but--he didn't want
any scandal because he didn't want to disturb his little menage, you
know. He didn't want any kind of--and, of course, he didn't want
scandals attached to his magazines either. But Clare didn't want
that, and she said, `You know, I don't think that's appropriate for
us. We're both well-known figures in New York society, and
we--there's no way we could keep it secret anyway. I think you should
go away and take care of your affairs, and meanwhile, I'll go to
Europe for several months. And then if you then resolve that you
still want to marry, then come to me.'
LAMB: How important was--I guess he was called Harry Luce...
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: ...at that time in this country. And what--what--again, what
year are we talking about?
MRS. MORRIS: We're talking now about 1934-'35. They actually
married at the end of '35. He was not yet quite as powerful as he
later became in the--in the '50s, but certainly was getting that way
where what was said in Time magazine was almost more important than
what was said in Washington and in the White House even because the
magazine was so widely circulated and widely read and was a real
LAMB: And they married--what date?
MRS. MORRIS: They married in November of 1935, and it was just after
the opening of her first Broadway play, which was roundly panned, even
by Time magazine, and f--and folded very quickly. And it was based
vaguely on her first marriage to the alcoholic husband George Brokaw.
But it was too much of a melodrama. If she had really dealt with it
as the semitragedy that it was, I think she would have had a powerful
play, but she wasn't quite expert enough yet and not quite ready to, I
think, expose her own life in--in literature and fiction.
LAMB: How was the marriage between the two viewed in this country?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, his magazine editors didn't care for it because
they were very possessive of him, and he'd always been very
hard-working and very collegial with them--rolling up his sleeves with
them to put the magazines to bed--and suddenly he's married to this
enchanting woman, brilliant woman, with whom he was totally besotted.
And so he would want to take the 5:00 train home to Connecticut every
night so he could be with her and take long vacations with her. And
at one point two of his editors took them both out to dinner and said,
`Harry, you know, you used to be here till 10:00 at night on the
magazines. Now you want to be home on the 5:00 train. There's no way
you can run your magazines this way.' And she very--who had hoped that
they were going to offer her a job on one of the magazines at this
dinner party, in tears, fled the room saying, you know, `He could edit
all his magazines with one hand tied behind his back,' and rushed off,
and then decided she was going to be a playwright, took herself off to
the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia and wrote "The Women" in three
days, which was her biggest Broadway hit. Yeah.
LAMB: You were saying the book "The Woman"--"The Women" is still
MRS. MORRIS: "The Women" was made into a very successful movie
by--directed by George Cukor, you know, who was first on "Gone With
the Wind" and many other--"Philadelphia Story," many other hit films.
And it's still shown on television quite often, that film, and in
art--art movie houses, and the play has never made her, she said at
the end of her life, less than $7,000 a year ever since she wrote it
over 50 years ago. Whe--funny, when I went with her to London for the
50th anniversary of production of "The Women," they put it on at the
old Vic Theater and we went there together for the rehearsals before
it--opening night. And one night we were having dinner at Carriages
and--after the rehearsal and she said, `You know, there are very few
plays that are put on after 50 years,' and then there was a pause, and
she said, `Well, possibly Shakespeare.' But it's true. I...
LAMB: Let me read the last line of your acknowledgements. `Finally,
I wish to thank my husband, Edmund Morris, for whipping me,
figuratively speaking, whenever I got overwhelmed, discouraged or just
plain tired during the many years I have spent on this project.' The
total number of years on this project for you?
MRS. MORRIS: Fifteen altogether, because the book turned actually
into two volumes, and I have to write a second book now, for which all
the work is done. But while she was alive, it was very distracting
because I traveled a lot with her. I went to Hawaii to stay with her.
I looked through her personal papers there, and then after she died
more papers came to light, and I had to wait for the will to be
probated for them to be released. It was a very long business. And
then they didn't have room at the Library of Congress to house them
and they weren't catalogued, and it just dragged on and on. That's why
it took so long, really.
LAMB: We talked to your husband about his book that he's been working
on on the biography of Ronald Reagan and--but he talked about you. I
want to--this is only 30 seconds. I want you to see this and tell us
more about what he's talking about in this.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
Mr. EDMUND MORRIS (Author): (From videotape) I once thought of
showing it to him when he came here, but my wife learned that that's
not a good idea. She's done exactly the same thing for Clare Boothe
Luce, who lived 84 years, and she once made the mistake of showing
Clare the complete sequence of her life, with all these little tabs
popping up. And I remember Mrs. Luce reacting with shock and she
turned away from it. She didn't like to see the physical totality of
her life spaced out in cards. And when you think about it, you can
LAMB: Why would we understand if we saw it?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, it was vast, you know, and a--a life in--when
it's laid out in cards, it--it sort of waxes and wanes. It starts
small, then in the fullness of her career the cards got, you know,
longer and longer and spa--taking up more and more space; and then, of
course, toward the end, a diminishment in old age. But she went
almost by instinct and picked out the card--the set of cards labeled,
`Relationship with H.R.L.,' Henry Robinson Luce. It was very uncanny.
LAMB: Wait, wait, how old is she in this picture in the back of the
MRS. MORRIS: There she's 20 years old, just married to--about to
marry Geor--George Brokaw.
LAMB: Go back to the--also in the acknowledgements, you--you talk
about that the Library of Congress has 462,000 items, 312 linear feet.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: How did they get her papers, and what's a part of all those
papers at the Library of Congress?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. Her--her--her collection at the library of
Congress turned out to be larger than most presidential collections
that the library holds because, I think, as we said, "Rage For
Fame"--she knew she was going to be famous from--from childhood. And
so she kept every scrap of paper that was sent to her and copies of
all the letters that she sent out. So it's prodigious, this
collection. And at the time, where they first--when it first went to
the library, it went there, really, as a result of a flood. While she
was ambassador to Italy, her Ridgefield, Connecticut, house had a
flood in the basement where her papers were kept, and her secretary
said, `You know, we've learned from this. It's not safe because we've
lost a few valuable things.'
So it was then decided that since she'd been a former congresswoman,
her papers should go on deposit to the Library of Congress. So the
public part of her papers then went there, not including the
diplomatic papers, because they were at the State Department. But
her--she kept her personal papers until I came along, and finally, she
did agree to give those to the library as well.
LAMB: What year did she die?
MRS. MORRIS: She died in 1987.
LAMB: Where was she when she died?
MRS. MORRIS: At the Watergate apartments, where she--where she had
actually two or three apartments. She had--she had two apartments
that she knocked together for her living quarters. She rented
apartment across the hall for her own personal office, and she had
another office there for her secretaries.
LAMB: Did she and Harry Luce stay together for their entire life?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. He died m--much earlier than she did, of course.
He died almost 20 years earlier. And they stayed together even though
their marriage, in terms of the physical intimacy of it, came to an
end after the first couple of years. He put her on such a pedestal
that he lost his potency vis-a-vis her after the first two years
because he just idolized her t--so much. She was a goddess.
LAMB: How many times did she get elected to Congress?
MRS. MORRIS: Twice.
LAMB: From where?
MRS. MORRIS: From Fairfield County, Connecticut.
LAMB: What party?
MRS. MORRIS: The Republican Party.
LAMB: And did she have an ideology that she was known for?
MRS. MORRIS: At that time, of course, it was wartime and she was a
good deal more liberal in her voting than people now give her credit
for. You know, she was very pro the GI Bill, she was very pro
liberalizing the immigration laws. And she was much more Democratic
in her way of thin--Democratic Party, I mean, in her way of thinking
in those days than I think she subsequently became before she became,
you know, the great anti-communist that she's now known for and a big
fiscal conservative that sh...
LAMB: After she was a member of Congress--and I know this goes beyond
where--this book ends in 1942...
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: What other jobs did she have in politics?
MRS. MORRIS: In politics, really, none; in diplomacy, yes. She was
appointed by Eisenhower as ambassador to Italy, to Rome, in 1953, and
she was the first woman to have a major diplomatic post of that kind.
There had been women ambassadors but only to minor posts--Luxembourg,
Norway, things like that.
LAMB: When was she--did she have any other jobs besides the
ambassadorship to Rome?
MRS. MORRIS: She always kept up her journalistic career. She was a
war correspondent for Life magazine before she went to Congress and
then she always kept her hand in at writing political columns for the
rest of her life, actually. Even in the end, she...
LAMB: When was she the best known in the United States?
MRS. MORRIS: When?
MRS. MORRIS: Why, when she was ambassador, I think. She was, I
think, the most admired woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt and
the most admired in the world, I think, next to Eleanor and the queen
LAMB: One of the notes, by the way, in the book is that you say your
greatest debt is to Daniel Boorstin, who is the former librarian of
Congress, and his wife, Ruth. And in piece I was--I read in The
Washington Times, it says that n--he's not commented on this book and
that the parties they had for you, he never came to any of those
parties. Is there anything to that story?
MRS. MORRIS: No, he...
LAMB: Is he not--does he not like this?
MRS. MORRIS: He--he hadn't read the book because he hadn't yet
received the complimentary copy that I'd sent. In fact, I had a note
from Ruth just yesterday saying the book did come and thank you very
much. They couldn't make the parties because they travel a great deal
and they just simply couldn't come to them. So--and some of them were
in New York, too, so...
LAMB: So the impression that he didn't like the book wasn't accurate?
MRS. MORRIS: No, because he hasn't read it yet. He only received it
a couple of days ago, so...
LAMB: Le--let me ask you about...
MRS. MORRIS: I think he will like it, actually...
MRS. MORRIS: ...because it's very--it's based on the papers of--you
know, it's not very much there that's my own views. It's mainly from
her diaries, from her letters and so on.
LAMB: How--how many days of her life did you spend with her, do you
MRS. MORRIS: How many days of her life?
LAMB: Did you spend with her?
MRS. MORRIS: Oh, well, in terms of years, I met in--I met her in
1980. She died in '87. So for those seven years we were together
very, very often, particularly after she moved back to Washington,
after she sold the house in Hawaii in about '84.
LAMB: But did you see her every day, every week?
MRS. MORRIS: Oh, every week at least, yes.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. I would go over, she would come to my house for
dinner, I would go to her house. We went together--we spent time
in--one summer in Newport. We traveled through Canada, London.
LAMB: How close were you?
MRS. MORRIS: We were extremely close. In fact, we were getting too
close at one point and I had to sort of step back a little because I
was in danger of losing my objectivity, I think. You know, when you
know so much about someone that you can complete their
sentences--she'd say, `Oh, that ye--was the year I went to London and
I stayed at the'--and I would say, `Oh, the Victoria Hotel?' `Yes, the
Victoria Hotel.' And I got to know more than she could remember
herself a lot of the time because I had researched her more recently.
And at the end, when we were at Carriages in that same trip to London,
we were having dinner, she suddenly out of the blue asked me who I
felt closest to. And before I could reply she said, `Because I feel
closest to you because you know everything.'
LAMB: Did you like her?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. I had--I liked her a lot and I admired her very
much. She had this incredible sense of humor, that no matter--you
know, sometimes she would be a bit of a monologuist--at dinner parties
she'd get a little boring with her political views, but she was so
funny that whatever she did, you know, she had this redeeming humor.
LAMB: As you know, you keep reading in your book of the many affairs
that she had.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: And what I did was write down every person that I came across
in the book that she had an affair with and I thought it might be an
interesting way to talk about that kind of relationship and why. And
the first one on the list--and there's no reason or rhyme to this--Dr.
MRS. MORRIS: That was not actually an affair. Dr. Rosenbleuth,
like many men wh--on first meeting her, were thoroughly enchanted by
her. She was--and that's very hard for me, too, because I only knew
her as an old woman. So I had to struggle constantly to imagine what
the impact was of this glorious creature who was not only
stunning-looking, but also a superior intelligence and charm and wit.
So men were totally taken with her. And the doctor that she consulted
in the early '30s was no exception. And he, too, was married, with
young children and there was no question, I think, of divorce. But he
did love her, I think, till the day he died, but there was no affair,
not to my knowledge.
LAMB: Randolph Churchill.
MRS. MORRIS: Randolph Churchill was a sh--a small fling; he was much
younger than she was. They met when she went to stay one weekend at
his father's country house in Kent, when she was then having an affair
with the financier Bernard Baruch, and he called her in Paris and
said, `Mr. Churchill invites you to join us for the weekend.' And the
person who met her at the ai--at the station was Randolph Churchill.
And he then was about 22 years old and like an Adonis; he was a--a
stunning man and also a romantic turn of mind, as she was.
And there's one funny story. Do we have time for it? When I was in
Hawaii researching the book--her personal papers with her, she had
invited my husband to come, too. And he said, `Well, I can't come
because I have to work on my volume two--two of Theodore Roosevelt.'
So she said, `Well, I'll give you a room to work in. You won't be
disturbed.' So he said, `All right.' So he came. But it turned out
that that house was right on the ocean, and all of the doors were
louver doors and all the windows were slatted. So even though he was
in his own little room, when we were in the library and the winds were
blowing through and all the windows were open, he could hear us
And one day she came in and started to tell me about that weekend
at--at Churchill's country house. When she went to bed that night,
as--she was just on the point of falling asleep when her bedroom door
opened and somebody came in in the dark, and she heard them crossing
the room, and they tripped over the coal scuttle. And she put on the
light quickly and she said, `Well, it was Bernard Baruch, and I was
expecting Randolph.' My poor husband next door--he was trying to write
about the Interstate Commerce Act of 1906, and he just could not
concentrate. It was like that for the whole three weeks when we were
LAMB: You mentioned Bernard Baruch. That went on longer than the
Randolph Churchill affair.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. The Bernard Baruch affair, as such, didn't go on;
the li--the friendship was lifelong until he died in his 90s. They
were always friends.
LAMB: Stop--let me just--I'll mention--who was Bernard Baruch?
MRS. MORRIS: Oh, I'm sorry. Bernard Baruch was c--a so-called
speculator. He's a man who knew Wall Street who became something of
an--of an adviser on economics to presidents--Presidents Wilson and
President Roosevelt and Hoover and various others. But she fell in
love with him because he was much older. She'd h--she'd lost her
father when she was very young, so he was something of a father figure
as well as a mentor. He taught her about politics and economics. And
also he was not obtainable. So anybody who was not attainable for
Clare became the one that wa--was most desired. So although they had
a small fling in the--in the early '30s, it didn't go on for very long
because he was so much older than she was.
LAMB: And he was married.
MRS. MORRIS: And he was married, and he had grown children. And he
was not in love with her either. He said to a friend--a mutual friend
who passed the word on that although he was fond of Clare his heart
was not involved.
LAMB: Joseph Kennedy.
MRS. MORRIS: So--so that was devastating to her. I think there's no
actual documentary evidence of an affair, but since he had so many
with other women--and she did, in one of her diary entries
in--in--when she was staying in a Paris hotel once say that he was in
her room all morning, and she kept meeting him on trans-Atlantic
crossings when she was alone without Harry. And she saw him in Rome
and in London many, many times when Harry wasn't there. I think that
it's probably correct to say that there was something of a--a short
LAMB: In the middle of all that, though, you also say that she met
John F. Kennedy, the son of Joseph Kennedy, and it had something to
do with her daughter.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. Her daughter was not actually a debutante, but
she came out at the time that John Kennedy was making the rounds, you
know, escorting young ladies about New York and, in fact, took out her
daughter on several occasions. But Ann always got the feeling that
her beaus were really more interested in her mother, who was--just had
so much more charm and was better looking, too.
LAMB: Who was Sir Charles?
MRS. MORRIS: Sir Charles was General Charles Willoughby, who was
intelligence chief to General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines.
And Clare was always interested in military men and particularly if
they had anything to do with spying. And since he was the
intelligence chief, she was incredibly drawn to him. He was also
rather taciturn--the strong, silent type and tall and striking
looking, and she said to me that he was the mo--one man that she might
have liked to run away with. But it turned out that Willoughby never
came back after the end of the war. He elected to go to Japan to
bring democracy to the Japanese with--with MacArthur.
LAMB: How did they meet?
MRS. MORRIS: They met when she went as a correspondent for Life to
LAMB: And was she married at the time?
MRS. MORRIS: She was married to Harry at the time. This was in the
early '40s before she became a congresswoman.
LAMB: And how much of a relationship did she have with the
colonel--or the general?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, you see, they were apart for most of the war.
She went back to--she met him with Harry on her first visit. After
coming back from China, they stopped off in the Philippines; that's
when they met. And then she got an assignment from Life to go back,
and that's where the affair really got under way. And then it was an
affair mainly by mail until he came back Stateside to report on
something to the ad--the administration during the war in the
mid-'40s. And they saw each other a couple of times only. And it
was--so it was mainly an affair by mail.
LAMB: David Sarnoff.
MRS. MORRIS: David Sarnoff was not a consummated affair I don't
think. It was just some--some--some--he expressed a little interest,
made a little pass at her at some point.
LAMB: Who was he?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, he was then, of course, the head of RCA.
LAMB: And how did they meet?
MRS. MORRIS: And they met when Baruch took her to his apartment one
night where David Sarnoff was going to show an a--early experiment in
television. So she was one of the first people to see one of the
first televisions and Bernard Baruch.
LAMB: So someone she was having an affair with, Bernard Baruch, took
her to another man who got interested in her. And did--did he let her
MRS. MORRIS: Sarnoff?
MRS. MORRIS: Oh, I think he took her home and probably made a pass,
you know, but it didn't go very far. I don't think it was an affair.
LAMB: And then you say both--Conde Nast and his wife both had an
interest in her.
MRS. MORRIS: Conde Nast, according to another character in the book
called Mark Sullivan, who is a historian columnist--he said that Nast
was in love with her--with Clare. And Clare said that, in fact, Nast
wanted to divorce his wife and marry her, but she was not interested
in Conde Nast.
LAMB: What about it...
MRS. MORRIS: She was not attracted to him at all.
LAMB: What was--who was Conde Nast?
MRS. MORRIS: Conde Nast, of course, owned Vogue, Vanity Fair and
House & Garden magazines. And he was her boss, of course, in both
those magazines, Vogue and Vanity Fair. And she saw him frequently
and socialized with him a lot. And he was madly attracted to her, but
she--she just simply wasn't attracted to--to him.
LAMB: What about--d--was there a pass made by his wife Leslie?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes, his wife was apparently sapphic, and she went both
ways. And she did make a--a pass at Clare, yeah.
LAMB: Bill Gaston.
MRS. MORRIS: Bill Gaston was the husband of a woman who's probably
not remembered too well now but was well-known at the time because she
starred in one of the most successful theatrical extravaganzas of all
time, a play called "The Miracle," which was directed by the Austrian
producer Max Reinhardt. And this "Miracle" went on tour for six or
seven years in Europe and America. And the two stars of it were a
woman called Rosamund Pinchot and a woman called Lady Diana Cooper.
And Clare always said that she was offered the part that eventually
went to Diana Cooper in that play. And the other part went to
Rosamund Pinchot, whose husband, Bill Gaston, was a tremendous
womanizer. And Clare rented his house on--Guess what?--Crotch Island
one summer, and he kept coming and going, and he wouldn't let her--he
wouldn't let her have any peace.
LAMB: You said in that summer on Crotch Island, there were a lot of
affairs, a lot of different men.
MRS. MORRIS: A lot of different men...
LAMB: How did you find all this out, by the way?
MRS. MORRIS: I found--well, she kept a diary of that summer. So it
was all documented that first of all came William Harlan Hale, one of
her young recruits on the magazine who was going to be one of those
young promising writers of the early '30s who knew Katherine Anne
Porter and had written.
LAMB: And she was, like--What?--30 and he was, like, 22.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. Clare in 1932 was 29, and he was about 22 years
old. And he was the first arrival on Crotch Island. They all stayed
four or five days. And then when he left, Mark Sullivan, the much
older man who was more Baruch's age, came to stay. I don't think that
was necessarily a consummated relationship but certainly not for one
to--trying on his part. And then came a--a young major in the Army, a
young man called Cary Skerritt. And then, of course, Bill Gaston was
in and out, because it was his house that she'd rented. And when she
got back to town, of course, it was Bernard Baruch and her mentor of
Vanity Fair, Donald Freeman, who was the man who taught her everything
LAMB: Now did you ever sit down with her and ask her about all this
and--and how she kept it--how she k--kept the lines drawn and kept
track of it all?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. She was actually much more interesting talking
about Harry's peccadillos than about her own. But some of them she
would admit to, and the major ones were Baruch and, of course, Harry
and Hale and G--General Willoughby. Those were the f--the major ones.
I think the others she thought were just trivial relationships,
LAMB: Well, you know, related to today, I mean, that's--you--we--we
can't pick up a paper today without reading about these today as
people are still here and alive.
MRS. MORRIS: Mm.
LAMB: Did anybody know about all these back in those days?
MRS. MORRIS: It's amazing to me that her name was always out of the
scandal sheets. She never had a breath of scandal really attached to
her name. I think privately people were rather scathing of her,
particularly the men who were jealous of her at Time Inc., the
edit--some of the editors. But on the whole, Clare was not a name
that got into the papers except to do with her work. She became a
celebrity because she was such an achiever.
LAMB: Playwright, reporter...
MRS. MORRIS: Foreign correspondent, reporter, yes...
MRS. MORRIS: ...novelist, too. She wrote--she wrote a series of
short stories which read like a novel but they're actually
interrelated stories called "Stuffed Shirts." That was her first
published book. She wrote a serious work of history about the Phony
War called "Europe in the Spring." And she wrote three big Broadway
hits, every single one a hit and every one made into a movie, which
was--"The Women" was--came first, then one called "Kiss the Boys
Good-bye," 1938, and then in 1939, a play called "Margin for Error,"
which had Otto Preminger playing a Nazi consul who was protected by a
Jewish New York policeman.
MRS. MORRIS: And...
LAMB: What was her life like at the end?
MRS. MORRIS: At the end of her life, she was lonely--extremely
lonely because, you know, if you're 84 years old, a lot of your close
friends have died already. And she had difficulty concentrating, too.
And also she'd achieved so much, I think--she'd proved so much that it
was hard for her to just churn out articles, even though she was
capable of it. She gave speeches almost to the end, still was getting
$5,000, $10,000 per speech.
LAMB: Who were her friends at the end?
MRS. MORRIS: She was extremely fond of Bill Buckley. In fact, she
adored him. They had a very nice correspondence. On occasion, she
would write for his magazine, National Review. And she went on
"Firing Line"--his program on pub--on public television. She always
kept up her friends in the intelligence community and in--in the
military. And she had close women friends in Newport, Chicago, New
York. And they're not names that you'll particularly know; they
weren't well known except in society. And she had a variety of
friends, and she liked young people, too. She--she befriended Henry
Luce's grandchildren, would take them on her travels and encourage
them in their enterprises, just...
LAMB: What did she die of?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, it's ironic because she had a brain tumor. And
my husband used to joke with her because, quite often, she'd have
these little ailments and we'd be there when the doctor would come.
And he'd test her wrist, you know, take her pulse, test her heart, tap
her stomach and everything. And then he'd say, `Well, I can't find
anything.' And she would look at the ceiling and say, `Well, I think
that after I die, they'll say, "There was absolutely nothing wrong
with her."' And Edmund used to tease her; he said, `When you die,' he
said, `they'll have to beat your brains to death with a stick,'
because she was so sharp always, so quick. And then she got this
brain tumor and, of course, he felt terrible that he'd said that. But
LAMB: Once she got it, how long did she live?
MRS. MORRIS: Mercifully, it was quick. It was diagnosed about
February of 1987, and she died in October.
LAMB: Were you there when she died?
MRS. MORRIS: No, because she wasn't up really to seeing anyone at
the end. And I didn't really want to because I wanted to keep
that--you know, I had to write about her alive, and it was terribly
painful to--for me to see her like that. I was some--I was at the
last dinner party that she gave, which was in July.
LAMB: Who was there?
MRS. MORRIS: Quite a lot of Washington news people: Charles
Krauthammer, Morton Kondracke; Pat Buchanan was there and their wives;
and Henry Luce III was there; her--her stepson; my husband, myself.
Just a small group, a couple of tables.
LAMB: What was your--your reaction when she died and you had all this
material and all that time you spent with her and a book to write?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. When I picked up the phone and the secretary
said, `Sylvia, Clare died last night,' I had that feeling you
sometimes have with--and your heart goes, like, thud in your heart.
It was a real thud. And then, although I rushed over to the apartment
straight away and was at all the funeral services and went--went down
to the burial, which was on her Southern plantation in South Carolina,
which is now a Trappist monastery--she's buried there under the great
live oaks by the Cooper River--I found afterwards the next three
months or so, I had kept dreaming about her a lot.
I had strange dreams, and one was particularly weird because it was
her--she was like a stripper in a vaudeville show wear--wearing a
bright blue--it was a Technicolor dream which, I think, is strange,
because I think most people dream in black and white--it was a blue
spangled dress. And although she actually didn't take off her
clothes, I knew it was--they were--were kicking their legs and so on.
It was a strip show. But it was an old Clare; it was an old face with
a sort of blond wig and very long black eyelashes and a deep gash of a
red mouth. And I realized that what this dream symbolized probably
was that, in a way, I was going to expose Clare in my writings. I was
going to write about her most intimate life. And it was very
troubling, probably, in my stree--in my sleep. And I find that I was
grieving, and the grieving wouldn't end; it just went on and on. For
several months, I dreamt about her constantly. And I suppose it was
because I loved her, you know; I'd come to love her, even though I
tried to distance myself from her.
LAMB: What do you think she would really think of your book?
MRS. MORRIS: I ask myself that because on a trip once--I went with
her once on--Bill Casey, you remember, the head of the FBI--Was it FBI
MRS. MORRIS: I think …the CIA, yes. We went to--to
the--he w--he was to make the Winston Churchill Fulton, Missouri,
speech, you know, at Westminster College. And she asked me to go,
because she was going to introduce him. So we were on this little
propellor plane there, and she was talking about my book in the plane
and--oh, she said, `Oh, I'm going to leave you this in my will.' And I
said, `You can't leave me anything in your will.' `Oh, why not?' she
said. `Let the chips fall where they may.' I said, `Because it
wouldn't be appropriate, you know? It would look like a bribe.'
So she knew--she let me see absolutely every scrap of paper, and I
think she took comfort in the fact that I did know her at the end, and
I knew everything about her and that I liked her in spite of
everything, you know? And some of the things she did were--as anybody
who gets on in life, they have to do pretty ruthless things and pretty
inconsur--siderate and selfish things. But nevertheless, I think she
would admire the fact that I--I laid it all out there in an honest and
fair way, and I tried to be balanced. And it's not hagiography; at
the same time, it's not one of these hatchet jobs I...
LAMB: What does hagiography mean?
MRS. MORRIS: The study of saints. And she knew she was no saint.
LAMB: By the way, did she leave you any money in her will?
MRS. MORRIS: No.
LAMB: Did she--did she die a wealthy woman?
MRS. MORRIS: What she left, actually, was she left her tapes and
records to my husband because he--there was one thing about Clare:
She was very competitive with everyone, and she was always better at
everything than everyone. She was a great athlete. She was a great
golfer. She could shoot. She could swim. She could hunt. She could
ride. And she was always better at it than everybody else. But the
only thing she was not good at--and it's ironic, because her father
was a musician--was music. She was tone-deaf. She couldn't carry a
tune at all.
But in old age, she started to listen to records, and she accumulated
quite a collection of records. And she would listen to them in her
room when she was trying to get to sleep, because she was a terrible
insomniac. And I think, in the end, it was a gesture toward my
husband, you know, that she had tried to master the thing that he is
good at, because he wanted to be a concert pianist. I don't know
whether you know that, but Edmund never knew whether he wanted to be a
writer or a pianist. So it was her little way of saying at the end to
Edmund, `I did come to appreciate your field, too.'
LAMB: Where did you meet Edmund Morris?
MRS. MORRIS: We met in London. I actually had been in America for a
couple of years traveling, working, going to Mexico, the West Coast.
And then I would get back to New York, find I had no money left, so
I'd have to stay a little longer. And in that time, I didn't know it,
but I kind of became an American. So when I went back to London
thinking, `Oh, I have family in England and I was going home,' I
realized as soon as I set foot off the plane that I'd become an
American, and I wasn't going to settle there.
But I forced myself to stay; I took a job teaching in London, and I
took--I rented a room in a little house. And Edmund was in
advertising then; he worked in advertising. And he used to--in
exchange for being able to play this lady's piano every lunchtime so
he could practice, he agreed to do some light household chores for
this lady. And I was renting a room in this house, and one night, I
met him. I was in the kitchen making my dinner.
LAMB: What year was this?
MRS. MORRIS: And this is--oh, dear, 1964 or fi--no, early fi--early
'65, about February. And he came in to do some of his chores, and
that's how we met. And he didn't look too well, and he had a paper
bag. And I said, `What's that?' And he said, `Oh, that's my dinner.'
And I said, `What is it?' and I looked inside the bag. And it
was--one of those Lyons tea rooms they have in England. It was an--an
apple pie. And I said, `You're eating this for dinner?' `Oh, yes,' he
said, `I have some coffee, and I'll make some coffee when I--instant
coffee.' I said, `Why don't you sit down? I'll make you an omelette.'
I made him an omelette. And I had this Chock Full O'Nuts coffee that
friends used to send me from America, you know, the ground coffee in
cans. I made him a cup. Oh, he loved this coffee. You know, a way
to a man's heart--apparently, he was a goner right there because I
made this omelette and coffee.
And about a year and some months later we were married in London. And
he'd always wanted to go to America as an ad man. He thought he was
going to be a swinging ad man in those days. And I said, `Well, I'm
going back as soon as I can raise the fare.' So literally, we came
back together with a suitcase between us and came back into New York
and--and got jobs there and started over.
LAMB: What year did you get married?
MRS. MORRIS: '66.
LAMB: What year did you move?
MRS. MORRIS: I came back in '68.
LAMB: In '68--and you now live both in New York and Washington.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: And as you know we came to your house with some cameras to talk
to your husband at one time. And...
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: ...I found you working away on this book at the same time.
MRS. MORRIS: Yeah.
LAMB: But you have a town house that looks out over the Capitol and
the Supreme Court. How'd you get that?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes. Well, you know, we had a little condominium just
along the street. Because when we were coming to Washington to work
on our books, we kept staying in hotels, and it was very expensive.
And I remember one week we spent $1,100 just on one week of working at
the Library of Congress. And in this age, you know, we're not going
to ever have any equity if we keep doing this. So when I got the
advance on my book, I--we put a small part of that down on--a down
payment on this condominium. And we used to walk past this house on
the same street and have little fantasies about it, because it was our
favorite house on the hill. And s--`Oh, wouldn't that be nice to live
And then when Edmund got the Reagan book--the boo--the book on Ronald
Reagan, he--we were in New York one day, and a big hurricane came. It
was 1985. And a friend of ours was staying in a hotel, and she called
up; she says, `I can't get on the shuttle. Can you put me up?' So she
came along to our apartment and stayed the night. While there, she
said, `Oh, by the way, they're selling that house that you like.' So I
knew the owners. So I called up and I said, `We're very interested.'
And the owner said, `Well, when you come back to Washington, come over
and see it.' We went in, and she had a party going on at the time.
She said, `Oh, go take a look.' So we walked through, got to the top
floor, and the sun was setting behind the dome of the Capitol. And
Edmund said, `I'm a goner. I have to have this.' So we--we bought it.
LAMB: What year?
MRS. MORRIS: And this was 1980--we moved in in--in January of 1986.
And Edmund began the Reagan book in the fall of '85. He's...
LAMB: Now he's written how many books?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, together we wrote a book for Reader's Digest
which was called "Great Events That Changed the World." It was about
30 chapters about the great explorers from the Vikings to the moon
shot. And we divided it between us: He did Pizarro; I did Columbus,
you know; I did the moon exploration and he did the Vikings and so on.
And then we found writing these chapters, which were about 3,500 words
each, we like to go into things in greater depth. So that's how we
drifted into biography.
LAMB: And your first book?
MRS. MORRIS: And my first book was--came about because
Edmund's--Edmund wrote a screenplay once about Theodore Roosevelt's
days out West, which he called "The Dude From New York." And somebody
saw an article he wrote about North Dakota, which helped pay the trip
out there when he was researching the screenplay. He wrote a New--for
The New York Times an article on North Dakota. And somebody gave him
a contract for a book. It was supposed to be a short popular
biography about Theodore Roosevelt. But after he'd wrote--been
writing for four years, they realized he had a three-volume life here,
and so that was just Volume One.
And while I was helping him type that manuscript, I said, `Who's this
lady that he eventually married?' who was his second wife, Edith. And
he said, `Oh, nothing's known about her.' So I said, `Well, she
intrigues me.' So I went to the library; I did a bit of research.
There wasn't much of--known about her. And so I wrote a proposal, and
a publisher was interested in it, so I got a contract straight away.
And I wrote the book on Edith Roosevelt, which took her right until
her death. And, of course, Edmund's book ended when TR became
LAMB: Both of you have the same publisher?
MRS. MORRIS: At that time, it was Coward-McCann, which was a
subsidiary of Putnam.
LAMB: But now...
MRS. MORRIS: But now we're both at Random House.
LAMB: Both the same publisher, both writers...
MRS. MORRIS: Yeah.
LAMB: ...living and working at the same time in the same house.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: What--what do you think of this life?
MRS. MORRIS: Well, it's--it's a--it's a--it's a--a nice life, but
it's an insecure life in the sense that you--you know, you're only
a--as secure as the--as the project you're working on, you know, and
you never know whether it's going to do well or not. It's a big
gamble. And that's what--fortunately, we don't have any children,
because I think it would be just too precarious a life.
LAMB: Who's Pauline that you dedicate the book to?
MRS. MORRIS: Pauline is my sister. And at the time I was just
finishing the book, she was sick, and I just felt very close to her at
that point. And since I di--ded--dedicated the last book to Edmund,
I--and I only have one sibling--I dedicated it to her.
LAMB: And how's your sister now?
MRS. MORRIS: How's she now? She's fine. She lives on a farm in
Chalkshire. She's married to a farmer, has two sons.
LAMB: And you got a second volume of this book coming out after 1942.
When is it due?
MRS. MORRIS: It's due in a couple of years, and I should write that
much more quickly, because I have all the research done for that.
LAMB: You talk a lot in the book about Clare Boothe Luce's mother.
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: Who was she?
MRS. MORRIS: Fascinating lady. She was the kind of character who,
whenever she came onto the page, she kind of took over. I had a
terrible struggle keeping her off the page when she came on it because
she was such a character. She was a lady born on the lower Westside
to a laboring butcher; he was a--a Bavarian immigrant who became a
butcher. He never moved out of the laboring classes. He later became
a livery stable keeper.
And she was a gorgeously beautiful, dark chestnut-haired woman with
violet eyes, and she wanted out of the ghetto when she saw that her
brother and sister both died of ghetto diseases: meningitis,
tuberculosis, that kind of thing. And she lived a short walk away
from Broadway, and she used to hang around the wine bars there. And
one day she met this very dynamic man who was more than twice her age,
William Franklin Boothe, a man who was actually married at the time,
and they began an affair. She was 18 years old; he was in his
40s--late 30s, early 40s. And she became pregnant and gave birth to
David Boothe, Clare's brother, in 1902, and Clare was born the
following year. S--and they were still not married.
LAMB: Did they ever marry?
MRS. MORRIS: I don't think they ever married because he didn't get a
divorce until 1907, when Clare was four years old. And I never found
any papers, any marriage certificates. And I went to Memphis,
Nashville, Chicago, New York, everywhere they lived, found no evidence
of a certificate. And he couldn't, in any case, have married
in--remarried in New York state because in those days you could not
marry if you were the guilty party in a divorce action, which he was.
And in any case, by the time he was free to marry, the marriage was
really on the rocks--the--the relationship was on the rocks. And
shortly afterwards, Clare's mother left him and returned east, leaving
him in Chicago, and put out to her children the fact that he had died.
And Clare grew up thinking that her father was dead.
LAMB: And Clare Boothe Luce's mother died how and when?
MRS. MORRIS: She died in an accident. She was in Miami; she used to
go to Miami every winter with her boyfriend, a man who financed
Clare's education, such as it was.
LAMB: Joel Jacobs.
MRS. MORRIS: Joel Jacobs was his name, and he was an extremely
wealthy man, millionaire, and he owned the Firestone--Keystone,
sorry--Keystone Tire Company. And she wouldn't marry him because, in
those days, there was a lot of snobbery about marrying somebody Jewish
in the circles in which Clare's mother now moved, and she--she wanted
her children to be raised in the Episcopal faith. And she married,
eventually, a doctor from Greenwich, Connecticut. But the little man
from the tire company still kept coming around. He was much older
than she was. And every winter they went off to Fo--Florida together
because they both liked the races; they liked gambling. And they were
on their way back from the races one day when she was driving the car
and couldn't stop, it seems, at a re--at a rai--at a railway crossing,
seemed to go right past stationary cars onto the tracks--the train was
coming quite slowly, actually, 40 miles an hour--hit her, and she was
thrown from the car. Her leg was--her foot was severed, her one
ankle--at the ankle, and she was thrown and killed almost instantly.
LAMB: Fifty-five years old?
MRS. MORRIS: Yes.
LAMB: Th--we're about out of time, but I want to ask about this
cover. Where was this picture taken, and why did you pick it for the
MRS. MORRIS: Yes, this picture was taken by the very famous
photographer called Holst in November 1941, and it was taken
by--actually on a Vogue shoot. That gown she's wearing is by the
famous designer Valentinov, you remember, whose husband went off with
Greta Garbo. And she's wearing jewels by Verdura, and the gown and
the jewels were brought out for the shoot by Vogue. And the scene is
his house in Connecticut. And the feature article was about the
house, actually, not about Clare. And this picture actually never ran
in the article; another one ran where she's sitting more upright. But
I thought that the outstretched hand went very much with my subtitle,
"The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce," because it says, `I have arrived.'
And it was Clare at the height of her beauty and the height of her
fame and--and accomplished just before she was elected to Congress.
LAMB: Book One of a two-part series by Sylvia Jukes Morris, "Rage for
Fame," all about Clare Boothe Luce. Thank you very much.
MRS. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Lamb.
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