Discovered in 1938, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, was used to treat mental illness and to expand consciousness before it became an emblem of the counterculture and psychedelia, shortly before being outlawed in 1968.
But before that, it was frequently used by the upper echelons of Hollywood and society, including Flying Over Sunset characters Cary Grant, Aldous Huxley, and Clare Boothe Luce.
Here’s your guide to these three icons of mid-century American politics, arts, and letters before Flying Over Sunset—which will star Carmen Cusack, Harry Hadden-Paton, and Tony Yazbeck—opens April 16, 2020.
The debonair actor—who appeared on Broadway as Archie Leach in a handful of shows during the late ’20s and early ’30s—became something of a spokesperson for LSD in the late 1950s, claiming that the drug saved his life. Perennially conflicted about his personal identity, he came to it during a period of time when it was often prescribed for medical and psychological treatment, and went on to use it 100 times. Grant retired from acting shortly after LSD was made illegal, and died in 1986. A 2017 documentary was released about his effusive use of LSD, titled Becoming Cary Grant.
The British author—who settled in Los Angeles in the late ’30s—is best-known today for the novel Brave New World. But in the middle of last century, he was a revered author and pacifist, with a strong interest in mysticism. He began experimenting with psychedelic drugs in the early ’50s, writing a book about his experience on mescaline called The Doors of Perception, before starting use of LSD. He died November 22, 1963.
Clare Boothe Luce
Broadway and classic Hollywood fans know her best as the playwright behind the biting wit of The Women, which enjoyed a huge success on the Great White Way in the mid ‘30s (the play was last revived in 2001, starring Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilly, and Kristen Johnston) and then a successful film adaptation in 1939, starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. The wife of publisher Henry Luce—the man responsible for Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated—ambitious, determined Luce became a leading conservative voice in American politics, serving as a Congresswoman from 1943 until 1947, and then as an ambassador to first Brazil and then Italy. She began using LSD during the late ’50s, around the time that her longtime marriage to Luce began to disintegrate. She died in 1987.