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How Capote Betrayed His “Woman.”

by News Room
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He was perfect. Her hairstyle, makeup, clothes and accessories, menu and gift choices, hand gestures and nods: New York since the 1940s celebrity Barbara ‘Babe’ Paley (1915–1978) as the ultimate style exemplar for American women with social ambition. Thanks to her marriage to media magnate Bill Paley, the it girl born Barbara Cushing enjoyed luxury: four country houses, a New York apartment full of Louis XVI antiques, an art collection and wardrobes full of Haute couture. Paleys hosted politicians, princesses and movie stars; Babe was the elusive center.

It takes an almost superhuman effort to present an image of impeccable elegance day after day to a man who doesn’t practice marital fidelity – and so author, comedian, charmer and gossip king Truman Capote came to Babe Paley just in time. . After their chance meeting in the mid-1950s, the writer grew up Breakfast at Tiffany’s in In cold blood to his confidant and best friend; She was able to share the details of her chronically adulterous husband with him without embarrassment. Witty, mischievous but loyal, Truman became a regular dinner companion for Babe and his stylish friends, called swans.

Twenty years and countless luncheons, parties, and vacations later, Capote single-handedly exploded his coveted status among them: in November 1975, the monthly Esquire “La Côte Basque, 1965”, a preview of what was to become his masterpiece of New York high society, with the working title Answered prayers. The restaurant La Côte Basque was a regular meeting place for swans; Their conversations seemed to have been verbatim. The secrets of the Paleys’ marriage were out in the open—although Capote used pseudonyms, they were easily recognizable.

For the Swans and their powerful husbands, this breach of the code of silence was unforgivable: Capote had lost his place as the court joke forever. Paley was already ill at the time of publication and died of lung cancer three years later; Capote was not welcome at his carefully planned funeral. Over the next six years, he slowly drank himself to death without finishing the book that started it all.

Naomi Watts and Babe Paley.

Hurt souls

What drew these two hurting souls to each other? Why did Paley choose the appearance of a cold marriage over the friendship of the one man with whom she could be herself, and why did Capote lack the strength to deliver a final blow to the establishment that so suddenly shut him out again with a thick, shocking Roman key?

TV series Feud: Capote vs. The Swans takes eight episodes, nearly an hour long, to ask and explore these types of questions; Naomi Watts as Babe Paley and Tom Hollander as Capote give perhaps their best performances ever, with sets and costumes that immediately transport the viewer to a bygone, upscale New York. Anyone who loves ’70s fashion, smoked lunches, beautifully served (rarely enjoyed) meat dishes, and indignant grumbling about the disappearance of a hat and glove from a street scene, to name just one of the many witty details, will enjoy this Ryan Murphy production. TV drama. Hollander’s Capote is on par with previous performances, even by Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, 2006). Here he is more human than tortured genius; a spoiled, mean, but also heartbreakingly lonely person.

Capote vs. The Swans is the second season Hatred, Murphy’s series about famous American pop culture, which can be seen in its entirety on Disney+. The first season tells about the competitive years of movie stars Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). Camp and hysteria are always lurking in a Murphy production, but in terms of tone and pace, it makes sense Capote vs. The Swans earlier Crown a way of thinking where detailed historical research also forms a springboard for fictional dialogues and even revelations.

A thought experiment

In Hatred Capote’s dead mother shows up (Jessica Lange again, she’s one of Murphy’s favorites) and writer James Baldwin (Chris Chalk) arrives from France to try to get Truman out of his drunken depression and back at the writing desk.

However, screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz’s completely fictionalized conversations between the two (Capote and Baldwin knew each other, but mostly exchanged commas) are, however, an interesting thought experiment: what if Capote had really taken advantage of his position as an outsider, as Baldwin instructed him to do. here, and had also dared to condemn the homophobia and racism of his former circle of friends?

Despite this creative richness, even as a more-than-average viewer, you’ll begin to notice after about four episodes that Capote and his swans are repeating themselves: the script is simply too long. Truman’s alcoholism and writer’s block, as well as Babe’s icy persistence during his hopeless cancer treatments, are emphasized and expressed again and again, in slightly different ways. Thanks to director Gus van Sant, who signed on for six episodes, and an excellent cast, it remains alive as a whole: The Swan is played by a delightful cast of 80s and 90s stars that we haven’t seen in a full-length film. a role seen for too long.

Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Calista Flockhart, Diane Lane and Chloë Sevigny empathize with visible pleasure; Flockhart especially stands out as the bitter Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy’s sister. More work for this generation of seasoned actors, please. It’s not Ryan Murphy’s fault. He loves his swans.

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