Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clare Boothe Luce Plays Stamford, Connecticut

“No good deed goes unpunished” is a line often attributed to Clare Boothe Luce (and others), and might well be pasted on a review of her performance in George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida.”

At the time she played this role at the Strand Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut in August of 1945, she was also a member of Congress, a Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut.

She had a varied career as a playwright (“The Women”), she wrote for Vogue and was an associate editor for Vanity Fair, was a correspondent to Life (her husband’s magazine), and wrote the screenplay for the 1949 movie “Come to the Stable.”

But way back she wanted to be an actress, had a few early stage experiences, and evidently decided it was not too late, despite her workload as a Congresswoman, to trod the boards again.

Critic Lewis Nichols of the New York Times remarked in his column on August 6, 1945, with a tartness Luce might have appreciated were the jibes not directed at her:

It was generally agreed after the first performance tonight that the Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut deserved full credit for trying, she probably need not cause Katherine Cornell too many uneasy moments…

What the audience saw was a production of “Candida” which was word-perfect but lacked warmth…

Opening nights are trying affairs even to the experienced, but with all allowances for summer and a debut, Mrs. Luce seemed stiff and detached.

Mr. Nichols, evidently more intrigued with her connections than her acting prowess, notes others in the opening night audience included Brigadier General Elliot Roosevelt, son of the late President, who attended with his wife Faye Emerson. Financier Bernard Baruch, Connecticut Governor Raymond Baldwin, “who amiably vaulted a row when put into the wrong seat”, as well as actresses Margaret Sullivan and Betty Field.

Congress would re-convene soon, and the end of World War II was close at hand. One imagines there would not be too many more opportunities for playacting.

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