Clare Booth Luce: Ambassador, Congresswoman, Playwright
Born in New York City in 1903, Clare Boothe Luce led a diverse career as a playwright, journalist, editor, and congresswoman, and became the first woman to ever be ambassador to a major diplomatic post. Though she was a talented writer in all genres, her sharp wit and biting sense of humor served her best in playwriting. (She is famous for such tart one-liners as “No good deed goes unpunished” and “Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage” as well as for her famed rivalry with writer Dorothy Parker.) Her most famous work was The Women, a satirical commentary on the lives of Manhattan socialites that features an all-female cast. The play was made into a movie in 1939 starring Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford (and was remade in 2008, featuring Meg Ryan and Annette Bening).
Just before The Women opened on Broadway and after her first marriage ended in divorce, Clare married Henry Luce. Publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, he gave his wife many opportunities to work as a correspondent for those magazines during World War II. She reported on countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa and interviewed such famous people as Nehru and Chiang Kai-Shek. Luce won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1942 as a Republican and outspoken critic of FDR’s foreign policy. Luce was admired for her incredible ambition and intelligence. But these same qualities, combined with her alluring sexuality and pointed humor, often drew criticism as well. FDR campaigned against her reelection, publicly calling her
“a sharp-tongued glamour girl of forty.” Nevertheless, Luce won a second term and played a vital role in the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission.
In 1953, after campaigning for Dwight Eisenhower, Luce was rewarded with an appointment as Ambassador to Italy. Her greatest achievement was the negotiation of a peaceful solution to the Trieste Crisis of 1953–1954, a border dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. Trieste had been declared an independent city-state – the Free Territory of Trieste – under the protection of the United Nations in 1947.
However, the territory was divided into two zones: Zone A governed by the U.S. and the British and Zone B controlled by Yugoslavia. Worried that the territory would escalate conflict in the region, Luce played a critical role in negotiations that eventually led to the signing of the London Memorandum, which granted civil administration of Zone A to Italy and Zone B to Yugoslavia.
Luce left Italy in 1956 after suffering arsenic poisoning, and in 1959 she was nominated to be Ambassador to Brazil. (Her farewell gifts from the diplomatic corps are part of ADST’s collection of diplomatic artifacts.) She was confirmed by the Senate, but her appointment was met with strong opposition from a number of Democratic senators and she resigned from her new ambassadorship having only served four days.
In 1964, the Luces retired; Henry Luce died in 1967. In 1973, Richard Nixon named Luce to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. President Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the the first woman member of Congress to receive the award. Luce died in Washington, DC in 1987 at age 84.
In these excerpts from her 1986 interview, Luce discusses her time in Congress, how she worked the Washington bureaucracy on the Trieste issue, the problems she had with the Italian press, including those over a black cultural affairs officer, a funny misunderstanding in Italian, and the difficulties of being a woman in the State Department and Congress. She was interviewed by Ann Miller Morin.
“Being ambassador is not as broadening an experience as being a congressman”
Q: How would you place your experience as an ambassador in the totality of your life?
LUCE: Speaking of it as a human experience in life, it was very interesting, very rewarding, very exhausting at the time, but I wouldn’t say it was as broadening an experience as being a congressman. In other words, I think being a congressman would be very helpful to anyone who is appointed an ambassador. Now, it would not be helpful to him in learning the language of the country; you’d have to know that before you went.
The State Department would certainly give you what they gave me, a quick course. But the diplomatic experience is very different. Now I’m leaving out personalities and language, but just as a process, a technique, the diplomatic experience is very different from the political experience, because in politics, to use the phrase of one of the founding fathers, the people are the king and you are getting your orders from the people. We live now in a democracy and not a republic.
The function of being representative for the people and making decisions for the people has long since passed. They make the decisions and you are supposed to follow them out. Their decisions are often very close decisions, they’re often confused, they’re often ignorant, they’re often conflicting, so that the poor congressman is driven to guess what it is that his constituents really want.
Now there are, I suppose, still constituencies in America where your constituents would be largely represented, let’s say, by the tobacco companies, or the tobacco workers as well as companies–for all the workers in the company, or by the largely agricultural, or whatever. But sometimes a congressman will have the misfortune, misfortune or good fortune, call it what you will, of representing a district like the Fifth Connecticut District, which has a–it’s a little America where there’s a little of everything, so as you can’t possibly please everybody, you please yourself.
You do what you think is right. I mean, all the time that I happened to be in Congress I only on one occasion made a vote that I did not in my own conscience believe in. But that I couldn’t have done if I had represented, say, a different kind of a district. I would probably have been voted out of office if I’d followed my conviction. So, the political experience is one of trying to keep your conscience and your constituencies together.
The diplomatic experience is a good deal more agreeable because you’re taking orders from your commander-in-chief. And while you do have the right, and the duty, even, to disagree with the Department of State’s policy, and you sometimes can change their minds, nevertheless, you have the comfortable feeling of following orders for the United States and the American people as a whole. And that’s a very rewarding feeling after politics…. Also, the diplomat has a great deal of privacy compared to the politician.
Q: Is that so? I’m surprised. I would have thought it was a sort of goldfish-bowl-like existence, being the chief…
LUCE: Oh, it is a goldfish bowl as far as you are, so to speak, on parade, but you are not subject to the intrusion, at least in my day, of the press. You didn’t have to account for your actions to anybody but the boss man, who was the secretary of state or the president, and your private life, while it
had to be above board and all the rest of it, which is very important, your privacy when it was invaded was invaded by your peers rather than anyone who met you on the street who could come up and say, “I’m your constituent. Will you take me home and give me a cup of tea?” You know?
And not always a cup of tea, either. So it is different in that respect. Then I think that we’re seeing more and more women ambassadors. It doesn’t distress me at all. It’s a funny thing for a woman to say, that I should even suggest I might be distressed, but I’ve always thought myself that getting the job done as well as possible was a good deal more important than whether you put in a black or a woman or an ethnic of some sort or someone who had a certain religious bent.
Oddly enough, women are well qualified as diplomats; I think much better than these politicians. I mean, by nature. By nature, not by where they went to school or anything of that sort, but by nature, women like to strive for agreement. In fact, I’m not with it. I don’t sound like a member of NOW [National Organization of Women], and I never have been one, either. But I think women are better negotiators. I think they do what is diplomatic, always must do, seeming to be a breeze and getting along and seeking for an honest compromise, and women are very good at that….
Negotiating the Treaty of Trieste
Q: In connection with that, would you explain your part in the Treaty of Trieste? I have seen so many different versions.
LUCE: You’ve seen many different versions partly because I never wanted to press my own view on anyone. I was content to let everyone figure it out the way they wanted to at the time. But the actual fact was, very soon after I arrived, the prime minister at the time ordered the Italian troops to Trieste, to the border. And I had been briefed about the so-called Trieste situation, and faced with what looked like war which was about to come, I remembered that what State Department advice had been was, “When it boils up, calm it down; when it calms down, forget it.”
And that struck me as a recipe for constant conflict. The Italians were doing, or the Italian leadership was doing, pretty much what leadership does in any country when in a domestic jam, trying to create a diversion with a foreign country with whom you have sufficient disagreement so that the diversion seems logical. So there it was, and I strived to find out from my minister counselor, who was a man called [Elbridge] Durbrow, what steps we were taking, what steps I should take to get the question solved, and was told that it was probably insolvable within the present context, you know?
So I wrote some letters, as I remember, to Livy [Livingston] Merchant, who was the head of the European desk, and got back equivocal answers and they all came to the same thing: “As soon as they calm down, they’ll forget it, forget the whole thing.” I knew it was boiling up again, because the situation in Italy was such that the next prime minister, and the next, would all return to Trieste to settle their own political disagreements. As a matter of fact, De Gasperi [Alcide De Gasperi, leader of the Christian Democratic Party and sometime prime minister of Italy] said to me, “If I had had this Trieste settled, I would still be Prime Minister.”
So I then said, “Well, how do you get this thing settled?” And somebody in the embassy, and I couldn’t remember who it was, said, “You have to get [to] the National Security Council; you have to get it on the agenda.”
So I said, “Well, how do you get it on the agenda?” And he said, “Well, you know the president. He can put it on.” Well, I did know the president, and this was one thing where it goes to show that it’s important to know, and by know, I don’t mean just shake his hand. I knew that Ike, President Eisenhower, was the kind of military man who never could read more, never had the time to read more than a page on any question.
So I sat down at my own typewriter and tried very hard to put the complicated Trieste question–it was terribly complicated–and the reasons for solving it on one sheet of paper. I was always running over onto two and three, and pulling it out of the typewriter. I said to myself, “My goodness! This guy is a soldier. If there’s anything that he is familiar with, it’s that famous little childhood poem, ‘For the want of a nail the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe, and so on’.” So I paraphrased it….
Anyway, the way the thing began was, “For the want of a two-penny town.” And I wrote at the bottom of this letter, “Dear Mr. President, please let us try to solve this. Put it on the agenda,” or whatever. And the word came over, “Go ahead. Try to solve it.” Well, cheers!
And then, it was impossible, of course, to solve it without the British, because the occupying powers were the British and ourselves in Trieste then. Somehow or other–I’ve forgotten all this history; it was a long time ago–but the end of the war left Americans still in Trieste, which was disputed between Tito [Yugoslav communist leader Marshal Tito (ne Josip Broz)] and the then caretaker government of Italy. As it happened, with De Gasperi towards the end, and with [Mario] Scelba, and then with I’ve forgotten whom. We had a new prime minister every year, as you know.
Then it was all right to try to do this, and it was not only all right, it was most agreeable to do it with the British ambassador. Meanwhile, the news was that we could put it on the agenda. Permitted my opposite number in Yugoslavia – Riddleberger [James Riddleberger, Ambassador to Yugoslavia, 1953-1958] Riddleberger could tell Tito to lay off because we’re going to get this solved and, obviously, Riddleberger was in favor of his client; it was Tito’s argument. I was in favor of the Italians’.
So anyway, everybody fell back and the arguments began. At what point the French latched onto it, I don’t know, except to say that the French always latched onto to everything pour la gloire or pour raison d’autre…and they don’t give up. Anyhow, there the French walked in on it, and not only did they walk in on it, but I never will forget that French ambassador — he’s a career ambassador — who insisted that he sit in on the meetings at the American embassy and insisted that every word of everything should be translated into French, and the final document should be in French.
That wasn’t bad enough, but we had to go to the Foreign Office, and there we finally became like a musical comedy, with the English ambassador and the American ambassador and the French ambassador marching three abreast to the Chigi. And there would be reporters as we went in, and reporters as we left. And after a while — I think that went on for some time. I didn’t write up the experience or keep a diary, but, anyway, it then occurred to me that it would never get settled, because trying to conduct these diplomatic negotiations in public…that’s when I first realized that modern communication had absolutely ruined the diplomatic technique of getting things solved. It’s really a very serious problem….
So I said, “How do we get this thing where it belongs, where it isn’t in the headlines with the dope story, or whatever? I told my husband what I had in mind and he said, “It’s worth a shot.”
I made a trip back to Washington and I went to see the Secretary, whom also I knew very well, Foster Dulles, and said, “Foster, why not–if I can get them to agree, and I’ll do my best, and you tell Riddleberger to go ahead on his end, and we’ll persuade the Italians to appoint a team and the Yugoslavs to appoint a team to negotiate this thing in the place where they will both agree; not in Italy and not in Yugoslavia.
And then you pick a diplomat and the British pick one to chair it, and see if you cannot decide [on an agreement]. Now, they began those negotiations and I think they took over a year…. Tommy Thompson chaired the Trieste proceedings. Who his British opposite number was, I don’t know.
In any case, in the end, when they began discussing the ownership of Trieste, the whole city and everything it encompassed, when they got to the end, they hit a road block. It had a certain similarity to the difficulties the Israelis are having with Golan Heights. What they were arguing about was the crest of a hill, 14 acres — I mean, a little more than that — the size of a golf course. That’s all there was, a golf course, but it was on the crest of the hill, and the Israelis’ idiotic nationalistic things come in. The Yugoslavs didn’t want the Italians looking down on them, and vice-versa. And there it was, absolutely, hopelessly stuck.
Now, I was dressing to go to a dinner when someone came to me, and I shall not tell you the name at this point because it would be breaking a promise made many years ago. A telephone rang and it was a man. I was told it was very urgent and I went to the phone. Oh, yes, I remember my husband was there, and he said to me, “It’s So-and-So,” who asked for me, and it was someone who’d worked for my husband.
And my husband said to me, “Doesn’t want to talk to me. He wants to talk to you.” I got on the phone and he said, “May I come and see you? It is really very urgent, and your husband will tell you I’m a serious man.”
I was going out to dinner, but I put aside the time and he came to see me. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. He laid down a map and that’s how I remember his pointing. He said, “This is all that it’s about. These few little acres.” And he said, “Now I’ll tell you why, what the real argument is about, the real argument.”
Twisting Tito’s Arm
Now if you’ve been reading the history of Trieste, you might come to think it was about fishing rights and this or that. Even today I’ll be in trouble if I tell you what real troubles it was about. I just can’t tell you. All I can tell you is there was something – there was a way in Tito’s own interest, and there was a way that certain very important people in Italy would be satisfied on the question of the debt they thought was owed to them.
Then this man – I said to him, “Why are you telling me these things instead of the CIA?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m telling you first because I’ve never met you and I’ve always liked you and, secondly, because I’m going to tell them tomorrow but I thought you should have the first crack at it because you have worked so hard and you’re the only person that has.” So there I had the secret, but I did not have the means at my disposal of twisting Tito’s arm, and there were reasons why it couldn’t be twisted, even on the cables, so I was very unhappy about it and said, “I will go back to Washington.”
I got back to Washington, and the day before I was going to see the president there was a big dinner given at the Pan American Union, a ball of some sort, a big diplomatic dinner, enormous. And the man I sat next to was an old friend, Bob Murphy. And Bob said to me, “How is the Trieste affair going?”
And I said, “Bob, it’s hung up because we have a little problem that I can’t solve. I can take care of the Italian end, but I can’t take care of the Yugoslavian, because our Ambassador there has gotten us painted into a corner, because he insists that there is no possible way of changing Tito’s mind.” That was also part of my information.
And I said, and I remember using that phrase, because it always stuck in my mind, “What we need is someone who knows Tito well enough to twist his arm.” And he said, “You’re talking to the man….”
It always reminds me of Churchill, when we were talking about what makes a great man, and he said, “I’ve told you all these things and you’ve forgotten the most important thing.”
I said, “What’s that?”
He said, “Luck.”
Well, anyway, there I was, lucky enough to sit next to Bob Murphy, who had been in the OSS [Office of Strategic Services] during the war and who had had OSS contacts with the partisans in Vis. He was on a first-name basis with Tito. This I can say now because Tito’s dead and all of that doesn’t matter. We were then giving wheat to Tito under our Marshall aid….One of the unbreakable rules in the State Department was…you were not permitted linkage…. Kissinger got all over that by coming outright and saying, “We’re going to proceed on a quid pro quo basis.” But in my day you weren’t supposed to link things.
So I said, “Now, if you will go over and tell Tito that unless he gives in on those 14 acres, no wheat.” He won’t know because he’s a totalitarian and he thinks that the State Department, the President, and everybody would act the way he would act in those circumstances…. I said, “Could you go? He said, “I can’t go like that unless the President sends me.”
So the next day I went to see the President. I said, “Mr. President, I only have one favor to ask and we’ve almost gotten this Trieste thing solved. If Bob will stop in Rome and then go on to Belgrade, and be briefed in both places, and make his call on Tito, we can settle this thing.”
And I think if you looked this up in the papers, you will see that he wasn’t gone but three days, or four days. And a few days later, with great sighs of relief, Tito and the Yugoslavs signed the treaty….
“In Italy the only man is a woman”
The Archives in Congress are full of the cartoons that they wrote about me. And, incidentally, my name has always been a misery here – you know, “loose woman,” “loose talk,” all that kind of thing. But in Italy, it was just wonderful. “Clara Loo-chay” meant “clear light.” And there were a lot of cartoons, many of them puns on my name, during the Trieste thing. “The light at last,” you see….
I remember one Trieste cartoon with two characters. The “Mike and Ike” kind of characters were in one of the Italian papers, and one was saying to the other, “It’s a strange thing. In Italy the only man is a woman.” I thought that was funny.
And really, the funniest one is – this is again having the sense of the Congress – I wrote to Foster [Dulles] and said, “Foster, one of the big things the Italians are talking about is how badly we treat our blacks. Could you find me a black cultural attaché?” And we brought over – I think I was the first who ever had a black man [as cultural attaché] in an embassy – a Dr. Snowden from Howard University. He was Master of Romance Languages at Howard, and a charming man. He never speaks much about the extraordinary honor. He just fell so much in love with Italy that, while he returned, his daughters married Italians. At any rate, he was very good. I’ll just tell you this, because this is a very amusing pun.
The Italians did not very much like blacks…. The day after he arrived, there was a cartoon in the paper and it showed me…. The Communist papers made me look like a hag. You know, I was made to look like an awful witch, with shrunken bosom and everything. And the papers that were for me would have me going along with bosoms pointed out; it really was very funny. They couldn’t get their act together as far as what I looked like.
Anyway, there was this cartoon of me spanking along down the Via Veneto, followed by a black man, and the thing underneath it said, “Dopo la luce l’oscuro,” which quite literally means “After the light, the dark.” The way we put it is, “After the night comes the dawn.” But anyhow, there were lots of cartoons, an enormous number of cartoons….
But if I allowed myself to be distraught by every piece of bad publicity, I mean, I wouldn’t have a peaceful evening. Now, furthermore, most of my bad publicity, as far as Italy went, was in the American papers.
Q: Is that so? Why were they vilifying you at that time?
LUCE: Well, my mission got off on the wrong foot…. This was in the McCarthy days, and most of the embassies were staffed by people of the Rooseveltian heyday, really, when New Dealers sponsored a very, very mild and very necessary reform. I myself began as a New Dealer, as you know. Ellsworth Bunker was the Ambassador. He had called the entire staff together and told them he would have no more talk about me becoming the ambassador.
Q: Was this because you were Mrs. Luce, “Harry” Luce’s wife?
LUCE: Yes, and because I was a Republican.
Oops — Some Problems with the Italian Language
Q: Because you were a Republican. It had nothing to do with your being a woman?
LUCE: And the idea of being a playwright. Oh, yes, it did…. Well, anyway, an interviewer came, and he spoke hardly a word of English, very poor English. I said I wouldn’t see him unless he spoke English, because my Italian was not, at that point, very good….
I’d just begun my Italian lessons. I said I knew De Gasperi. Because, see, I told you to begin with, I’d known De Gasperi during the war, before the war. Where did I meet him? I think I met him at some kind of a business conference that my husband had for foreign economists and that sort of thing. Anyway, I said to this interviewer,” What kind of hobbies does Mr. De Gasperi have?” And there’s no word in Italian for hobby. But I finally said to him, “What does he like to do when he is not working, to amuse himself?” You know. And very gradually got the idea through to him. Then he replied to me that he did not know the English word, but he’d say it in Italian. And I said, “Oh, we have the same word for it in English.” And I repeated, “entomology.” And he said, “Si.”
Okay, we now found out that Mr. De Gasperi was interested in insects. And I said, “Butterflies,” and he just didn’t understand “butterflies,” and I didn’t know the Italian word, but I assumed “Si, si, signora,” as being agreeable, and so on.
So I reported to my husband that I had made my first interesting discovery in having discussed Italy with a foreigner, with an Italian, that De Gasperi collects butterflies. Harry had the Time people get a frame and box of beautiful butterflies of North America for the entomologist. I told the State Department that I’d already picked the gift I’m taking to the foreign minister, and they asked me what? And I said, “He’s an entomologist and he’s a butterfly collector.”
The next thing I’m told is that I have made a serious mistake. He’s not an entomologist, he’s an etymologist. He collects books on linguistics, or languages. Fine, except someone in the Department thought it was so funny they started to tell the press, and it gets in the press that I am so ignorant I don’t know the difference between butterflies and books.
But it also gets into the Italian press, where one little writer, who said his knees were shot off by the Red Brigade, called Montenelli, was the wittiest and the cleverest of all the Italian writers, political commentators. (He wrote something called L’histoire des Papillons; it was Pappilloni in Italian.) He said that it was appropriate that a well-known American butterfly – that was me – should bring butterflies to the man with the butterfly brain….
On Being a Woman in the Foreign Service (and Congress)
Now, the first woman I ever met in the Foreign Service I met under the most extraordinary circumstances, and that was on May 10, 1941. I was coming from Amsterdam and spent the night at Ambassador Cudahy’s. And that was the morning that the Phony War [the early part of WWII, where there was little military aggression] ended.
Q: You were in Brussels then?
LUCE: Yup, this remarkable woman and myself, not knowing at any moment whether the Germans would go on bombing, because they only dropped two bombs on Brussels, and one of them sent the house next door right up. She became an ambassador. I think she probably was the first ambassador to Switzerland. She was a regular Foreign Service officer.
Q: Frances Willis. [Frances Willis was the first female FSO to become an ambassador. She had three embassies (Switzerland, Norway, Ceylon) and was the first woman to achieve the personal rank of career ambassador]
LUCE: Frances Willis. A wonderful woman. She and I had an extraordinary morning that morning, and she helped me get out of the place with the wife of another ambassador, a French woman, Hugh Gibson’s wife…. Well, Frances Willis…or I would have been startled if anybody had come in and said, “You’re both going to be ambassadors.”
Q: Isn’t that amazing? And you liked Frances Willis?
LUCE: Oh, yes. I thought she was une femme serieuse. She was straight and very effective. But I’d always thought that the women undergo the same hazard in this occupation – I mean, the ambassadorial career – as they do in federal office. You may have noticed that whereas there are a great
many women mayors and aldermen, and even a number of governors, there are still very few senators, you see, or even congressmen. There were 17 women in Congress when I was in Congress, and there are now only about 25.
The problem for women is that once they have to leave, the husband must either give up his business or there’s a divorce ahead of them. I mean, I refused to take the post when Ike offered it to me unless Harry would promise to spend six months with me. And in those days you got three months off for the summer, so that was nine months of the year….
And now, of course, they can conveniently get a divorce, which they couldn’t. Look at Von Damm [Helene von Damm, while Ambassador to Austria (1983-1986), divorced her American husband to marry an Austrian. Von Damm was born in Austria and is a naturalized American citizen]; she not only got a couple of divorces, she – well, we won’t say much about that….
Q: [Laughs] We won’t talk about that.
LUCE: No I don’t like to talk about that. I don’t know what became of the old idea that you had to be a native-born American to become [an ambassador]. But, even if you weren’t, you shouldn’t be sent to the country of your origin. I mean, mes colleagues diplomatiques, mes amis – I had a lot of good friendships with many of them. And I had a good feeling about Italy and the Italians and made many lasting friends and, in many ways, it is the heart of my life in Washington, the many, many friends that led to other friendships, and so on. That and congressional life is why I like to live here.
So after Italy I was appointed to Brazil, and appointed ambassador twice, and you know the story and my decision not to go Brazil, which I think was the right decision…. When it said that the President [should] send the best man, we sent John Cabot.
Jack Kennedy said to me, “Clare, you’ve only made one mistake in your life. You’ve made a terrible mistake, because if you had not resigned, I would have kept you. You know that.” He was a good friend of mine.
I said, “Jack, you would have kept me? How would you have done that?” I said, “John Cabot was a lame duck. He was THE expert ambassador in the field of Latin American affairs, and the Brazilians asked him to leave four months after he got there.” So anyone who got there was in trouble….
Q: I think, after your tremendous success in Italy, any other country would take it as a great compliment to have you sent to them. I think that’s about the size of it.
LUCE: Yes, I had a little trouble about that. I’ll tell you a story that was never printed; or I don’t think it was ever printed. [Winthrop] Aldrich, our Ambassador [to the U.K.], for some reason or other was not altogether a success. And somebody – it was toward the end of my stay in Rome – put it in the paper that I was going to replace Aldrich.
This piece of news, which was instantly printed in Italy, not only startled me and my husband, it embarrassed us because we had just accepted an invitation from Aldrich for a dinner that he was giving for the Queen. And so, what to do? Nothing to do but go. So we got there and I was sitting in earshot of my husband — it was not difficult to do because he had a very loud voice — and on this occasion I couldn’t be more pleased, because he was sitting next to Harriet Aldrich.
The Value of a Good Spouse as Ambassador
And there was a little silence and Harry’s voice was heard to say, “Harriet, there’s something I want you to know, and that is that I’m not trying to get your job.” And everybody laughed, you know, and it broke the tension. Then after that he said, “I assure you that there’s nothing in the rumor.” Then from the time I came back, things started about where I would go next.
But it was too much of a strain on my marriage.
Now the only reason that Harry consented – found it easy in Rome – was because he had an office in Rome. Time had an office in Paris and London and Berlin, so he was [an] overnight [flight] away from any of his offices, and he enjoyed it. He loved to travel and he loved parties, and altogether he was happier when he was my husband….
He wasn’t when I was a very successful playwright making a half a million dollars a year.
Q: Why do you think that was?
LUCE: Why, I think that’s very simple. I could write my plays entirely alone. I couldn’t have done the embassy thing without him….Even a male ambassador is ten times as effective if he has a good wife. You’ve got to have a wife.
Now, in one sense, he was not a “wife,” in that he paid no attention to the embassy. But where Harry was wonderful was that he knew inside and out what I was not very good at, which was the actual talk of business.
You see, all the businessmen in Italy, not to mention all the people who owned newspapers and magazines — Harry was great from the start on the publishing, and he was a man who understood success and how to get from the bottom to the top — so they were just as eager as possible to lunch alone, man-style, with him, you know. So I was very fortunate. And he was aware of the important part he played.