So the long awaited (by me anyway) second season of “Feud” is coming out on the 31st on FX. This time around it’s based upon the book Capote’s Women, which I have not read (yet, but I might do so before the premiere) and the story of Truman Capote and his fall from grace socially after the publication in Esquire magazine of his short story “La Côte Basque, 1965”.
Now considering the readership of this blog I am sure that you people not only know the story but will be right there watching as I did with “Feud: Bette and Joan” and noting all the things that were incorrect, which in “Feud” were myriad. From the previews we can see that it will be gorgeous, and from the actresses chosen, well played.
Capote burst onto the literary scene in the late 40’s as a short story writer, achieving fame with his book “Other Voices, Other Rooms” in 1948. The book was noted by modern readers as a tale of a youth coming of age to accept his homosexuality, and the jacket cover was much commented upon for what some people saw as the “come hither” look the young Capote was supposedly giving the reader.
Capote later wrote what was arguably his most famous story, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1958, which was filmed (with a sanitized screenplay with a sanitized Audrey Hepburn) by Blake Edwards in 1961. Capote wasn’t fond of the casting: he wrote Holly Golightly with Marilyn Monroe in mind; while Audrey in Givenchy delicately munching a Croissant at 6am perusing the windows of Tiffany & Co. on her way home from an evening out is an indelible cinematic image (and Hepburn is wonderful in the role) we can’t really buy that she is really Lulamae Barnes, late of Texas and abandoned husband “Doc” Golightly and “American Geisha” to wealthy men.
In 1966 Capote again rocked the literary world back on it’s heels by writing In Cold Blood, creating the genre of what he called the “nonfiction novel” and cementing his place as both a literary force and a style icon: he was a master of the talk show circuit and of PR. It was at this time that he held his famous Black and White Ball at The Plaza, ostensibly in honor or Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, the idea for which he stole from friend Dominick Dunne. The Dunne and his wife had had a ball of their own at their Beverly Hills home two years before to which Truman was invited. Truman somehow neglected to invite Dunne and his wife to the ball at the Plaza.
The problem with riding the crest of the wave is that eventually the wave breaks and you have to catch another one to keep surfing. Truman kept surfing by keeping promising his new book, Answered Prayers, would further cement his reputation and rock the iterary world back again, as had In Cold Blood.
If he could get the damned thing down on paper.
He hemmed, he hawed, he received extensions after extensions on his advance and attempted to silence those who said that he’d never finish this one my publishing two chapters in Esquire: “Mojave” was well received and “”La Côte Basque, 1965” which went over in his circle of friends like the Hindenburg at Lakehurst.
Truman had, during his time as bon vivante, darling of the literary circles and talk show circuit ingratiated himself with a group of ladies referred to (by him? I don’t remember) as his “Swans”: ladies of not only pedigree, wealth, and social standing but their own blinding éclat. Ladies like “Slim” Keith and “Babe” Paley, the former who had discovered Lauren Bacall for her then husband Hollywood producer Howard Hawks before becoming Lady Keith of Castleacre while the latter was noted for not only her beauty and breeding (as one of the Boston Cushings) but intelligence and wit making her almost eclipse her husband, the president of CBS, Or Lee Radziwill, the Princess and sister of Jackie O. They enjoyed his wit and basked in his adoration, perhaps because he gave them something that most men don’t give their wives, no matter how engaging they are: their full attention.
But he couldn’t resist writing down what they said, and publishing it. Some of it was just mean-spirited swipes at the subjects looks (Jackie O is taken down by name) and some of it is really quite outré, and changing the names doesn’t fool anyone (Happy Rockefeller is described as a bovine, stupid racist with bad teeth.) Ann Woodward committed suicide after being publicly named as the cold-blooded murderer of her husband, an act that she was conspicuously not indicted for when she shot at a “prowler” in their Long Island home in 1955 and killed her husband Billy. Bill Paley doesn’t murder anyone, but there’s blood involved in his story and a slight name change doesn’t fool anyone as to who the players are. While Mrs. Paley is blameless in the tale, it’s not exactly a Hallmark Moment and not I am sure one that she was pleased to see on the pages of Esquire available at every streetcorner magazine vendor. The only person who may have been please might have been Ann’s Mother-in-Law Elsie Woodward, who was quoted as saying “Well, that’s that; she shot my son and Truman has just murdered her, and so now I suppose we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Elsie, by all accounts went on to a rollicking, enjoyable old age.
So, Truman’s “Swans” turned tail and swam gracefully away from him, then froze him out of New York society. He ended up dying at the home of Johnny Carson’s second wife Joanne (Johnny had moved onto Joanna by then) who was one of the few who stuck by him.
Well, after all that long winded blather, I am looking forward to watching the series (I even signed up for Hulu to get it) not only for the show, but for the production. I will admit that I am kind of wanting to get a gander (get the bird reference?) at the dressing tables of the “Swans” to see what perfumes I can see. Dominick Dunne, who fictionalized the story of Ann and Billy Woodward in his The Two Mrs. Grenvilles wrote of his Ann Grenville as wearing Fracas, which would fit with what Truman would describe as a “jazzy little carrot-topped killer.” Babe Paley might go for something a little more formal as befitting the wife of the head of the “Tiffany” network while “Slim” Keith might have been a bit more adventurous. Who knows?
Are you looking forward to seeing this? A fan of Capote? Let us know in the comments.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Pexels