What Was the Real Story Behind Truman Capote & “The Swans”?
Truman Capote was a notoriously odd fellow. Causing many scandals in his day, starting with his hit book In Cold Blood, which inspired several film adaptations, including one with the also-scandalous Robert Blake, Capote has also inspired a new season of Feud called Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans, which premieres on FX on Jan. 31.
Truman Capote leaves a reception at The Four Seasons with Princess Lee Radziwill, sister of Mrs. Jacqueline Onassis
The new season is based on Capote’s infamous fallout with a group of high-society women of the 1960s, including Barbara Paley, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith, Ann Woodward, Marella Agnelli, C.Z. Guest, Pamela Harriman and Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jackie Kennedy, which resulted from him publishing a tell-all story about them called “La Côte Basque, 1965” in Esquire. The story was based on the many private conversations he had with his coterie of female friends (nicknamed “The Swans”) and was an excerpt from the planned novel Answered Prayers, which was never finished. Capote died from liver disease in 1984, due to his alcoholism and general predilection for various other drugs — probably also why he never finished the book, despite having nearly two decades to do so.
Who Was Truman Capote?
Gloria Guinness, Truman Capote, and Barbara “Babe” Paley ca. 1957
Truman Capote was an author who became a massive celebrity after the success of his 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s — later adapted into a film starring Audrey Hepburn — and his 1965 true-crime novel In Cold Blood. (This was back in the 1950s and ’60s, when people still read books and cared about their authors!) In Cold Blood, a nonfiction account of a family’s murder in Kansas that included the perspectives of the killers, who Capote interviewed in prison before they were executed for their crimes, was really what catapulted him into the public eye, and is often cited as the instigator of our obsession with true crime. Capote spent years in Kansas researching the murders, along with the help of his best friend and former neighbor, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee.
What Caused This Epic Fallout Between Capote and His “Swans”?
Socialite Ann Woodward
Well, as a fellow author, I have to put the blame on him with this one. Writing about the secrets of your various powerful friends and barely even attempting to disguise their identities is just a bad idea. Rumor has it that Woodward, who Capote accused of murdering her husband, killed herself upon hearing about the story’s publication the night before it was published (in the new series, which has an amazing ensemble cast, she’s played by Demi Moore). Another woman, Babe Paley (played by Naomi Watts), never talked to him again because he wrote about her husband’s affair. In fact, none of them did, which supposedly made Capote’s problems with alcohol and drugs worse, because they were his closest friends.
The cost one pays for art!
If you want to witness all the juicy details of this high-profile falling-out, tune in to FX on Jan. 31!