Inventing Elsa Maxwell

How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood, the Press, and the World

Sam Staggs

St. Martin's Griffin

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One of the twentieth century’s most colorful characters brought back to life in this biography by the author of All About All About Eve

With Inventing Elsa Maxwell, Sam Staggs has crafted a landmark biography. Elsa Maxwell (1881-1963) invented herself–not once, but repeatedly. Built like a bulldog, she ascended from the San Francisco middle class to the heights of society in New York, London, Paris, Venice, and Monte Carlo. Shunning boredom and predictability, Elsa established herself as party-giver extraordinaire in Europe with come-as-you-are parties, treasure hunts (e.g., retrieve a slipper from the foot of a singer at the Casino de Paris), and murder parties that drew the ire of the British parliament. She set New York a-twitter with her soirees at the Waldorf, her costume parties, and her headline-grabbing guest lists of the rich and royal, movie stars, society high and low, and those on the make all mixed together in let-'er-rip gaiety. All the while, Elsa dashed off newspaper columns, made films in Hollywood, wrote bestselling books, and turned up on TV talk shows. She hobnobbed with friends like Noel Coward and Cole Porter. Late in life, she fell in love with Maria Callas, who spurned her and broke Elsa's heart. Her feud with the Duchess of Windsor made headlines for three years in the 1950s.

Inventing Elsa Maxwell, the first biography of this extraordinary woman, tells the witty story of a life lived out loud.

 

 

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Reviews

Praise for Inventing Elsa Maxwell

“Elsa was a huge personality who led an amazing life; she knew everyone and everyone knew her. If you relish, as I do, the stories of old Hollywood, you’ll love this book–and you might end up loving her too!”–Miriam Margolyes, actress 

“Only in America could Elsa have lived the life she did.  What a talent Sam Staggs is to be able to write so entertaining a book about a phenomenon.”—Robert Wagner, actor and author of Pieces of My Heart       

"Elsa venit, ea vidit, ea vicit: Elsa came, she saw, she conquered. What a gal! Sam Staggs’ riveting biography of the high-priestess of the twentieth century is a real page turner. It reads like a good thriller, transporting the reader back to a time of real glamour, riveting drama, scandal, two world wars, high aristocracy, betrayal, suicide, kings and queens, and world leaders.”—HSH Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi

"Lively . . . Staggs writes in a bright, conversational style exactly suited to the worldly affairs he tells of . . . [He's] done his research, too, running down a host of the famed and unknown who knew his subject; they speak and she is among us once more."
Wall Street Journal

"Animated and intelligent." —Kirkus Reviews

"Well-written and entertaining."--EDGE New York

 


In the Press

Kirkus | INVENTING ELSA MAXWELL by Sam Staggs
Movie biographer Staggs' (<em>Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of <em>Imitation of Life, 2009, etc.) lively account of how a jowly plain Jane from Iowa became the 20th century's most celebrated "party giver for the rich, the royal, [and] the famous."
- Kirkus Reviews

Nonfiction Review: Inventing Elsa Maxwell: How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood, the Press, and the World by Sam Staggs. St. Martin's, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-69944-4
Though largely forgotten today, Elsa Maxwell (1883%E2%80%931963) was vastly influential all over the world infrom the 1910s to the 1950s, holding court with royalty, dignitaries, and famous actors an
- Publishers Weekly


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About the Author

Sam Staggs

SAM STAGGS is the author of five books, including four biographies of movies: All About All About Eve, Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard, When Blanche Met Brando, and Born to be Hurt.  He has written for publications including Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest. He lives in Dallas, Texas. 

Sam Staggs

Sam Staggs

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Available Formats and Book Details

Inventing Elsa Maxwell
How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood, the Press, and the World
Sam Staggs

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
October 2013
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250038234
ISBN10: 1250038235
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 384 pages, Includes two 16-page black-and-white photograph sections
$17.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
October 2012
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780312699444
ISBN10: 0312699441
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 352 pages, Plus two 16-page b&w photo inserts
$29.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
October 2012
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781250017758
ISBN10: 1250017750
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 352 pages, Plus two 16-page b&w photo inserts
$9.99
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