Greenwald, Marilyn. Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon & Animal Rights Crusader. Lebanon, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2009. 252 pp. $27.95.
A media commentator whose sardonic wit characterized his critiques from high society and popular culture to animal rights, Cleveland Amory (1917-98) influenced audiences by the millions. Biographer Marilyn Greenwald relates his high-profile media career, detailing his life in and out of the public eye to reveal the transformation of an enigmatic New England aristocrat into a charismatic anti-cruelty activist.
Amory wrote extensively throughout his life. A best-selling book author as well as a magazine and syndicated newspaper columnist, he also was a national television and radio commentator who was not averse to talk-show appearances, lecture tours, or even bumper sticker slogans to advance his crusades. From his social histories through his ruminations on life with a cat, his story is a tale for the Internet age.
His career moves coupled with his life phases enabled him to recognize a significant cultural shift: celebrities were supplanting those born into privilege as America's social elite. The summer that Amory, at 18, spent in a mentorship to William Zinsser would foster a realization that journalism was his forum and propel him to the top editorship of the Harvard Crimson. After his 1 939 graduation, he became the youngest editor of the Saturday Evening Post, where he was allowed to develop his discerning style of profiling cultural figures. Residing in Hollywood via a stay in Arizona for his health, he wrote a social history, The Proper Bostonians, which would become his signature work. Then, moving back to the East Coast in the early 1950s, he joined the fledgling Today show as an occasional commentator while writing a syndicated column of social commentary and publishing his second best-selling volume of social history. In that decade, he also became involved in the animal rights movement.
Much as Amory, the Bostonian, skewered celebrities whom he critiqued, he had become one himself. Greenwald notes that in the 1960s, with the last installment of his social history trilogy, he made the transition from society to cultural critic. He turned the focus of his analyses from the blue bloods to celebrities, or tJiose known not for their breeding but for what they had accomplished and who could become noteworthy beyond their area of expertise, a shift in social recognition that he felt was indicative of a natural democratic progression in modern American culture.
In the 1960s and the 1970s, Amory wrote television criticism for TV Guide, and he penned celebrity profiles for Parade magazine in the 1980s and the 1990s. …