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Inventing Elsa Maxwell

Inventing Elsa Maxwell Cover

Inventing Elsa Maxwell

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

By Sam Staggs

St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312699444, 340pp.

Publication Date: October 16, 2012


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.

About the Author
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.

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!”–actress Miriam Margolyes

“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