March 1, 1967OBITUARY
Henry R. Luce, Creator of Time-Life Magazine Empire, Dies in Phoenix at 68
by ALDEN WHITMANA man of missionary zeal and limitless curiosity, Henry Robinson Luce deeply influenced American journalism between 1923, when he and the late Briton Hadden founded Time The Weekly Newsmagazine, and 1964, when he retired as head of one of the world's largest and richest publishing empires.
Mr. Luce created the modern news magazine, fostered the development of group journalism, restyled pictorial reporting, encouraged a crisp and adjective-studded style of writing and initiated the concept of covering business as a continuing magazine story.
In the process, the tall, lean man with heavy eyebrows grew to be one of the nation's wealthiest men, rose to a position of vast and pervasive economic, political and social influence and helped shape the reading habits, political attitudes and cultural tastes of millions. Nonetheless, he tried to remain inconspicuous as a public figure. In private his manner of living was notably inconspicuous.
"We tell the truth as we see it," Mr. Luce once explained when his magazines took sides on controversies. And he was accustomed to urge his editors to make a judgment. He believed that objectivity was impossible. "Show me a man who claims he is objective," he told an interviewer, "and I'll show you a man with illusions."
To a remarkable extent during the peak of his total involvement with his magazines--Time, Fortune, Life and Sports Illustrated--the judgments and opinions that were printed reflected the focus of Mr. Luce's own views--and these encompassed virtually every facet of human endeavor.
He was a stanch Republican, a defender of big business and free enterprise, a foe of big labor, a steadfast supporter of Chiang Kai-shek, an advocate of aggressive opposition to world Communism. He was also an Anglophile, but he believed that "the 20th century must be to a significant degree the American century."
Admired and Criticized
As with many who achieve eminence, Mr. Luce was lauded by those he benefited; he was cursed by those who felt injured by him and, sometimes, even by those men whose careers he had made.
Virtually no one viewed him temperately, yet admirer and critic respected his business accomplishments, his ingenious brain, his insatiable curiosity, his editorial prescience. For example, he anticipated an American appetite for tersely packaged news, for the photojournalism of Life magazine and for the easy-to-grasp pictorial essay on such topics as "The World We Live In," "The World's Great Religions" and "The Human Body."
Mr. Luce was not gregarious, especially convivial or given to mixing with those he considered his intellectual inferiors. "He lived well above the tree line on Olympus," one of his editors remarked.
After his formal retirement, however, Mr. Luce tried hard to unbend, but his fund of small talk was usually exhausted after a few moments of pleasantries.
Attempting to explain the difference between the dour Mr. Luce and the puckish Time magazine, a friend said:
"Time is a side of Luce called forth by the magic of the written word."
The Luce enterprises, which had an annual revenue of $503-million in 1966, were started on an $86,000 shoestring in 1923 by Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden. The two, schoolmates at Hotchkiss and Yale, had for a long time discussed the idea of getting out a weekly magazine capsulizing the news for readers who wanted a condensed account of events.
Vision of Evangel
"People in America are, for the most part, poorly informed," the prospectus for Time declared. This attitude, and its implication that something ought to be done about it, was one of the keys to Mr. Luce's conception of himself as an evangel. It was an attitude ingrained from earliest childhood, as was his tendency to evaluate many issues in moral terms.
He was born April 3, 1898, in Tengchow, China, the son of the Rev. Dr. Henry Winters Luce, a poor but socially well-connected Presbyterian clergyman and teacher, and Elizabeth Root Luce, a former Young Women's Christian Association worker. Harry, as the boy was known throughout his life, was the first of four children.
Serious minded and precocious, Harry Luce learned Chinese before he spoke English and composed sermons for boyhood diversion. The household was run on Spartan lines, even though Mrs. Cyrus H. McCormick, widow of the millionaire inventor, was a family friend and benefactor.
The son adored the father, a filial piety to which students of the editor-publisher traced his religious impulses, him moralities and his zealous approach to life. The son also developed a vigorous attachment to things Chinese, and all his life he regarded himself as an expert on China.
After attending a strict British boarding school at Chefoo, where caning was the practice, Harry came to the United States at 15 to attend Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., on a scholarship.
He amassed a top academic record, wrote verse, edited the school's literary monthly and became assistant managing editor of the weekly paper. Most fateful of all, he became friendly with young Briton Hadden, the paper's managing editor.
Shared Journalistic Interest
The youths shared a deep interest in journalism and a judgment that too many people were ignorant of the world about them and ought to be enlightened.
The young men went to Yale, where both were editors of The Daily News. They graduated in 1920, with time out for military service in World War I. Mr. Luce, a Phi Beta Kappa, was voted "most brilliant"" in the class and Mr. Hadden "most likely to succeed."
After brief study at Oxford, Mr. Luce returned to the United States and went to work for The Chicago Daily News as a legman for Ben Hecht. He migrated from Chicago to Baltimore for a reporter's job on The News, where he was reunited with Mr. Hadden.
In their spare time, the youthful reporters, developed plans for a weekly news magazine, at first to be titled Facts, but then called Time, and put together the prospectus, which pledged that the publication would have "a prejudice against the rising cost of government; faith in the things which money cannot buy, a respect for the old, particularly in manners."
The prospectus also told how the new magazine would differ from Literary Digest, then the reigning newslike weekly. "The Digest, in giving both sides of a question, gives little or no hint as to which side it considers to be right," Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden said. "Time gives both sides, but clearly indicates which side it believes to have the stronger position."
Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden quit their Baltimore jobs in early 1922 to sell stock and get their publication under way. The task took a year, with 72 investors, mostly from Wall Street, chipping in $86,000 toward their $100,000 goal.
The first issue, dated March 3, 1923, divided the week's news into 22 departments in 28 pages. Eighteen persons were listed on the first masthead, 11 of them Yale alumni. The circulation manager was a Harvard man, Roy E. Larsen, who is now chairman of the executive committee of Time, Inc. He and Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden paid themselves $40 a week.
Ran Business Side
The articles in the first issues were recast chiefly from The New York Times by nimble writers. By the flip of a coin, it was decided at the outset of Time that Mr. Luce would manage its business affairs while Mr. Hadden would run the editorial side. It was Mr. Hadden who fathered the idiosyncratic style by which the magazine became famous.
Two elements of that style--the inverted sentence and the double epithet--were borrowed from "The Iliad," "The Odyssey" and "The Aeneid." Homer and Virgil, however, might have been awe-struck by the license Mr. Hadden and his writers took: "fleet-footed Achilles" became "beady-eyed," or "jut-jawed," or "snaggle-toothed" or "haystack-haired."
The Homeric sentence, "Brazen were the walls which ran this way and that from the threshold to the inmost chamber," was transformed into the Hadden-Luce-Time sentence, "To Swanscott came a lank, stern Senator, gray-haired, level-browed."
Time's carly motto was "Curt, Clear and Complete."
It contained an abundance of telescoped words, such as "GOPolitics," "cinemaddict," "socialite," "Freudulent" and such an archaicism as "moppet" for child.
"Tycoon," from the Japanese taikun, meaning prince, was liberally applied to men of success. Action verbs were the mode, and the dictionary was ransacked for alternatives to the verb "said." The saucy style was considerably toned down after Wolcott Gibbs wrote a merciless parody of it in a Profile of Mr. Luce for The New Yorker magazine in 1936.
The sketch contained two sentences that have become a part of the literary folklore: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind" and "Where it will all end, knows God!"
Planned Business Journal
When Time began to show a profit in 1927, Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden started Tide, a magazine for the advertising business, which they sold in 1930. Meantime, in 1929, Mr. Luce devoted himself to planning Fortune, which was to exemplify the thesis that "business is obviously the greatest single denominator of interest among the active leading citizens of the USA. . .the distinctive expression of the American genius."
Also in 1929, Mr. Hadden died of a streptococcus infection, and the editorial and business aspects of Time, Inc., shifted to Mr. Luce. The two men, oddly, were never intimate social friends, although they always rallied to each other's support.
Publication of Fortune began in 1930. The magazine looked luxurious, cost the then high price of $1 a copy and contained excellent art. In its first year it printed articles critical of some large corporations, including the United States Steel Corporation, but it eventually won acceptance for its perceptive reporting and for its major stories on technological change and life in the executive suite.
Writers for Time and Fortune have included such noted social critics as Archibald MacLeish, John O'Hara, Stephen Vincent Benet, James Agee and Dwight Macdonald.
Not all of Mr. Luce's writers agreed with him or with his principles, but they found his generous pay scales and his early friendly attitude toward the American Newspaper Guild irresistible.
Bought Architectural Forum
In 1932 Mr. Luce purchased a trade publication, Architectural Forum, a reflection of his own interest at the time in architecture. Twenty years later it gave rise to House & Home, which specialized in home building. The Forum, the largest magazine in its field but an economic loser, was discontinued in 1964. House & Home was sold that year to McGraw-Hill, Inc.
The most spectacularly popular of all Luce publications was Life magazine, started in 1936. Its announced purpose was:
"To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud."
It brashly and splashily published photographs of statesmen in unguarded moments, soldiers fighting to the death, babies being born, policemen clubbing strikers and models in the almost- nude. There were gaudy layouts of surgical procedures and panoramas of nature. Later, there were essays and memoirs, heavily pictorialized, and editorials on what was called "the American Purpose."
Life magazine was a wedding gift of sorts to Mr. Luce's second wife. His first marriage, to Lila Ross Hotz of Chicago, in 1923, ended in divorce in 1935. They had two sons, Henry 3d, a vice president of Time, Inc., and chief of the magazine's London bureau and Peter Paul, a management consultant.
Shortly after his divorce, Mr. Luce married Mrs. Clare Boothe Brokaw, daughter of a vaudeville couple and the divorced wife of George Tuttle Brokaw.
According to an article by John Kobler in The Saturday Evening Post in 1965, Mr. Luce proposed to Mrs. Brokaw, then an editor of Vanity Fair and a fledging playwright, at virtually their first meeting by asking her how it felt to know that "you're the only woman in a man's life."
Purchased Title for $85,000
The new Mrs. Luce "had been advocating photojournalism ever since she knew Luce," the account stated, "and he had told her, 'I don't really want more magazines, but if it pleases you we'll go ahead.'"
On their honeymoon, it was said, the couple shaped the magazine, whose title was purchased for $85,000 from the fading humor weekly.
Because Mrs. Luce had such a germinal role in the founding of Life, it was widely assumed that she exercised a great deal of direct influence over its policies and those of her husband's other periodicals.
Initially, it was said, Mrs. Luce did play an open part, but she limited herself to writing bylined articles for Life after an argument with Ralph Ingersoll, a Life editor, in the magazine's early years.
Mrs. Luce's indirect influence, however, was reported to have been considerable. Her husband, it was said, listened to her suggestions for articles and proposed them under his own name.
In the beginning Life magazine was overly successful. Its circulation outraced its advertising revenue, although it was not until 1969 that it operated in the black.
Started 'March of Time'
Mr. Luce's final magazine venture was Sports Illustrated (the title was also purchased) started in 1954, to capitalize on what he called "the wonderful world of sport" and a more abundant leisure available to Americans after World War II.
The magazine's appeal was primarily to families in the suburbs and smaller towns. Mr. Luce, previously ignorant of most sports except golf and swimming, undertook an intensive cram course in baseball, boxing and horse racing to equip himself intellectually as publisher.
Mr. Luce also had an early association with radio, starting in 1928 with promotional broadcasts from Time's articles. This developed into "The March of Time." It ran for 15 years, and its narrator, Westbrook van Voorhis, achieved fame for the solemn manner in which he intoned, "Time Marches On!" the program's catch phrase. The series was also adapted for a period for the movies.
At his retirement in 1964 as editor in chief of all Time, Inc., publications, Mr. Luce was the company's principal owner, with a stock interest of 16.2 per cent. The market value of his holdings then exceeded $42-million and his annual dividend income was $1,263,888. All told in 1964, Luce magazines published 13 editions, weekly or monthly, with a world circulation of 13 million copies an issue.
Mr. Luce's influence in communications, however, went far beyond magazines. It included production of television programs here and abroad; the operation of five radio and six television stations, and the creation of a series of popular books on science and history. (Time, Inc.'s book division was said to have grossed $40-million in 1964.) The company also owned a 45 per cent interest in the 48-story, $70-million Time & Life Building at the Avenue of the Americas and 50th Street.
The man who nurtured the Time, Inc., enterprise from one-room simplicity to global complexity was a tall, lean man with a large head of the sort that his baldness, which began in middle life, enhanced.
His eyes were light blue, narrow and sharp under dark brows. His mouth was thin, his jaw firm.
Almost from the start of Time magazine, Mr. Luce communicated with his underlings by memorandums, of which he was a prolific composer. When he returned from trips--and he traveled incessantly--he dispatched memos that were obviously the work of a sharp-eyed observer and that often contained directives on whatever struck his agile mind as important.
When Mr. Luce stepped down as editor in chief, George P. Hunt, Life's managing editor, wrote that it had been "a rigorous and rewarding experience" to have had "Harry Luce as a boss." He also described the Lucean memos:
"This comes in two forms. The long ones are neatly typewritten. The others consist of pencil scrawls on yellow pad paper, often with a newspaper clipping attached by means of an ordinary straight pin. The subjects of these memos were broad--a proposal to do a series on Greece, a critique of the latest issue of Life, a question about the latest teen-age fad, a philosophical comment on United States politics."
In politics, Mr. Luce backed Republican candidates for President in every campaign except 1928, when he supported Alfred E. Smith. He apparently also had some qualms about the Republican candidate in 1964, for Life, that year carried an editorial critical of Barry Goldwater, the party nominee. Mr. Luce voted for Mr. Goldwater, however.
Mr. Luce sometimes liked to talk with his editors in person, T.S. Matthews, formerly one of his principal editors, recalled in his book, "Name and Address."
Faulted on Fairness
Mr. Matthew's 1960 autobiography found Mr. Luce secretive, not always aware of other people, yet a good editor and a man who could be answered back. Nonetheless, Mr. Matthews faulted Mr. Luce on the question of fairness, asserting that "the Presidential campaign of 1940 was the last one that Time even tried to report fairly."
"In 1952, when it sniffed victory in the air at long last," Mr. Matthews wrote, "there was no holding Time. The distortions, suppressions and slanting of its political 'news' seemed to me to pass the bounds of politics and to commit and offense against the ethics of journalism. The climax was a cover story on Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate, which was a clumsy but malign and murderously meant attack."
Mr. Matthews reported that he had not resigned over this incident. He left the organization in the mid-fifties and subsequently wrote his autobiography.
Mr. Luce's curiosity was legendary. Correspondents who drove with him from an airport to the center of a city had to be prepared for all manner of detailed questions about the sights. Some, to anticipate the cross-examination, made dry runs from the airfield to town. Once, one story has it, Mr. Luce, spotting a large excavation, asked his correspondent what it was. "That, Mr. Luce," the man replied "is a hole in the ground."
In addition to these impressions of Mr. Luce, there was a thinly distinguished portrait of him in "Death of Kings," a novel by Charles Wertenbaker, once a high-ranking Time editor. Many of Mr. Luce's associates thought the portrayal unflattering.
Was Seldom Quoted
Mr. Luce wrote little about himself for publication and was seldom quoted in his own publications. In his travels he talked to presidents, premiers, popes, cardinals, ambassadors, bankers, political leaders, industrialists, generals and admirals.
Many in Time, Inc., close to Mr. Luce were impressed by his ranging interests. Hedley Donovan, who succeeded Mr. Luce as editor in chief, recalled that his superior had "an extraordinary zeal for new ideas, not only as inspiration for new modes and vehicles of journalism but as a subject matter for journalism."
"Far from being pained by new ideas," Mr. Donovan said, "Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time."
This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said:
"His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once."
A belief in a Christian God animated much of Mr. Luce's thinking. A man who attended church regularly and prayed before he went to bed, he contended that the United States had a "constitutional dependency on God." He often used the word "righteousness" to describe the causes he espoused.
Mr. Luce, however, was not a dogmatic Protestant. He concurred in his wife's right to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1946, and he was said to respect her view of the world without adopting it for his own.
After a career as a playwright ("The Women," "Kiss the Boys Goodbye" and "Margin for Error") Mrs. Luce, also an ardent Republican, served two terms in the House of Representatives from Connecticut, from 1943 to 1947. She was appointed Ambassador to Italy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Mr. Luce was in Rome with her during most of her three-year term.
Mrs. Luce was nominate as Ambassador to Brazil in 1959 but she resigned before going to her post after a public quarrel with Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon.
Mr. and Mrs. Luce maintained an apartment in New York and homes in Ridgefield, Conn., and Phoenix.