Truman García Capote (September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984) was an American writer whose non-fiction, stories, novels, and plays are recognized literary classics. He is best known for In Cold Blood (1965) and the novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958). Capote, especially in his groundbreaking work, In Cold Blood, was one of the early pioneers of a distinctly modern novelistic subgenre, the journalistic novel that attempts to present the narrative in a hyper-real verisimilitude that is passed off as "reality." Capote helped to create the "mythology" of the genre, namely that of an artless presentation, when he announced that "every word is true," as if to suggest that his novel was purely an "eye-witness" account, and the effect of the story was not the result of a storytellers craft. The emphasis of verisimilitude treats materialistic "surface" phenomena as "reality."
At least 20 films and TV dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories, and screenplays.
Truman Capote, as photographed by Roger Higgins in 1959
|September 30, 1924|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|August 25, 1984|
Los Angeles, California
Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons in New Orleans, Louisiana, to salesman Archulus "Arch" Persons and 17 year old Lillie Mae Faulk. When he was four, his parents divorced, and he was sent to Monroeville, Alabama, where he was raised by his mother's relatives. His aunt, Marie Rudisill, became known as "The Fruitcake Lady" on the Tonight Show, in 2000. As a lonely child, Capote taught himself to read and write before he entered the first grade in school. He was often seen at age five carrying his dictionary and notepad, and he claimed to have written a book when he was nine years old. When he was ten, his short story, "Old Mr. Busybody," won a children's writing contest sponsored by the Mobile Press Register. When he was 11, he began writing seriously in daily three-hour sessions.
In 1933, he moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband, Joseph Capote, who adopted him and renamed him Truman García Capote. In 1935, Capote attended the Trinity School. In 1939, the Capotes moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, and Truman attended Greenwich High School, where he wrote for both the school's literary journal, The Green Witch, and the school newspaper. Back in New York in 1942, he graduated from the Dwight School, an Upper West Side private school where an award is now given annually in his name.
When he was 17, Capote ended his formal education and began a two-year job at The New Yorker. Years later, he wrote, "Not a very grand job, for all it really involved was sorting cartoons and clipping newspapers. Still, I was fortunate to have it, especially since I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn't a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case."
Between 1943 and 1946, Capote wrote a continual flow of short fiction, including "A Mink of One's Own," "Miriam," "My Side of the Matter," "Preacher's Legend," "Shut a Final Door," and "The Walls Are Cold." These stories were published in both literary quarterlies and well-known magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and Story. Interviewed in 1957, for the The Paris Review, Capote was asked about his short-story technique, answering:
Since each story presents its own technical problems, obviously one can't generalize about them on a two-times-two-equals-four basis. Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.
In 1943, Capote wrote his first novel, Summer Crossing about the summer romance of Fifth Avenue socialite Grady O'Neil with a parking lot attendant. Capote later claimed to have destroyed it, and it was regarded as a lost work. However, it was stolen in 1966, by a housesitter Capote hired to watch his Brooklyn apartment, resurfaced in 2004, and was published by Random House in 2005.
Other Voices, Other Rooms
In June 1945, Mademoiselle published his short story, "Miriam," which won an O. Henry Award (Best First-Published Story) in 1946. In the spring of 1946, Capote was accepted at Yaddo, the 400-acre artists and writers colony at Saratoga Springs, New York.
"Miriam" attracted the attention of publisher Bennett Cerf, resulting in a contract with Random House to write a novel. With an advance of $1,500, Capote returned to Monroeville and began Other Voices, Other Rooms, continuing to work on the manuscript in New Orleans, Saratoga Springs and North Carolina, eventually completing it in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Capote described the symbolic tale as "a poetic explosion in highly suppressed emotion." The novel is a semi-autobiographical refraction of Capote's Alabama childhood. Decades later, writing in The Dogs Bark (1973), he looked back:
Other Voices, Other Rooms was an attempt to exorcise demons, an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.
The story focuses on 13 year old Joel Knox following the loss of his mother. Joel is sent from New Orleans to live with his father who abandoned him at the time of his birth. Arriving at Skully's Landing, a vast, decaying mansion in rural Alabama, Joel meets his sullen stepmother Amy, debauched transvestite Randolph and defiant Idabel, a girl who becomes his friend. He also sees a spectral "queer lady" with "fat dribbling curls" watching him from a top window. Despite Joel's queries, the whereabouts of his father remain a mystery. When he finally is allowed to see his father, Joel is stunned to find he is paralyzed and near speechless. He runs away with Idabel but catches pneumonia and eventually returns to the Landing where he is nursed back to health by Randolph. The "queer lady," beckoning from the window, turns out to be Randolph in an old Mardi Gras costume. Gerald Clarke, in Capote: A Biography (1988) described the conclusion:
Finally, when he goes to join the queer lady in the window, Joel accepts his destiny, which is to be homosexual, to always hear other voices and live in other rooms. Yet acceptance is not a surrender; it is a liberation. "I am me," he whoops. "I am Joel, we are the same people." So, in a sense, had Truman rejoiced when he made peace with his own identity.
When Other Voices, Other Rooms was published in 1948, it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks, selling more than 26,000 copies. The promotion and controversy surrounding this novel catapulted Capote to fame. A 1947 Harold Halma photograph, used to promote the book, showed a reclining Capote gazing into the camera. Gerald Clarke, in Capote: A Biography (1988), wrote, "The famous photograph: Harold Halma's picture on the dustjacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) caused as much comment and controversy as the prose inside. Truman claimed that the camera had caught him off guard, but in fact he had posed himself and was responsible for both the picture and the publicity." Much of the early attention to Capote centered around different interpretations of this photograph, which was viewed as a suggestive pose by some. According to Clarke, the photo created an "uproar" and gave Capote "not only the literary, but also the public personality he had always wanted." The photo made a huge impression on the 20 year old Andy Warhol, who often talked about the picture and wrote fan letters to Capote. When Warhol moved to New York in 1949, he made numerous attempts to meet Capote, and Warhol's fascination with the author led to his first New York one-man show, Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote at the Hugo Gallery (June 16-July 3, 1952).
When the picture was reprinted along with reviews in magazines and newspapers, some readers were amused, but others were outraged and offended. The Los Angeles Times reported that Capote looked, "as if he were dreamily contemplating some outrage against conventional morality." The novelist Merle Miller issued a complaint about the photo at a publishing forum, and the humorist Max Shulman satirized it by adopting an identical pose for the dustjacket of his collection, Max Shulman's Large Economy Size (1948). Random House featured the Halma photo in their "This is Truman Capote" ads, and large blowups were displayed in bookstore windows. Walking on Fifth Avenue, Halma overheard two middle-aged women looking at a Capote blowup in the window of a bookstore. When one woman said, "I'm telling you: He's just young," the other woman responded, "And I'm telling you, if he isn't young, he's dangerous!" Capote delighted in retelling this anecdote.
Random House followed the success of Other Voices, Other Rooms with A Tree of Night and Other Stories in 1949. In addition to "Miriam," this collection also includes "Shut a Final Door." First published in The Atlantic Monthly (August, 1947), "Shut a Final Door" won an O. Henry Award (First Prize) in 1948.
After A Tree of Night was published, Capote traveled about Europe, including a two-year sojourn in Sicily. This led to a collection of his European travel essays, Local Color (1950), indicative of his increasing interest in writing nonfiction. In the early 1950s, Capote took on Broadway and films, adapting his 1951 novella, The Grass Harp, into a 1952 play (later a 1971 musical and a 1995 film), followed by the musical, House of Flowers (1954). Capote co-wrote, with John Huston, the screenplay for Huston's film, Beat the Devil (1953). Traveling through the Soviet Union with a touring production of Porgy and Bess, he produced a series of articles for The New Yorker that became his first book-length work of nonfiction, The Muses Are Heard (1956).
Friendship with Harper Lee
Capote was a lifelong friend of his Monroeville, Alabama, neighbor Harper Lee, and he based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on her. He, in turn, was the inspiration for Dill Harris in her 1960 bestseller, To Kill a Mockingbird. In an interview with Lawrence Grobel, Capote recalled his childhood, "Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Harper Lee's mother and father, lived very near. Harper Lee was my best friend. Did you ever read her book, To Kill a Mockingbird? I'm a character in that book, which takes place in the same small town in Alabama where we both lived."
It was rumored that Capote had written portions of her novel; some said he had "ghostwritten" the entire novel. At least one person—Pearl Kazin Bell, an editor at Harper's—believed the rumor was true. However, Capote would likely have been much more aggressive in claiming credit for the novel's Pulitzer Prize had he been the real author, since he never achieved a Pulitzer for his own work. His persona was far more flamboyant than hers, and their writing styles reflect this difference. A July 9, 1959, letter from Capote to his aunt indicates that Harper Lee did indeed write the entire book herself, and most literary experts accept Lee's authorship.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories brought together tales of personal loss: "House of Flowers," "A Diamond Guitar," and "A Christmas Memory." A first edition of this book might sell for between $500 to more than $3000, depending upon condition. For Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's was a turning point, as he explained to Roy Newquist (Counterpoint, 1964):
I think I've had two careers. One was the career of precocity, the young person who published a series of books that were really quite remarkable. I can even read them now and evaluate them favorably, as though they were the work of a stranger... My second career began, I guess it really began with Breakfast at Tiffany's. It involves a different point of view, a different prose style to some degree. Actually, the prose style is an evolvement from one to the other–-a pruning and thinning-out to a more subdued, clearer prose. I don't find it as evocative, in many respects, as the other, or even as original, but it is more difficult to do. But I'm nowhere near reaching what I want to do, where I want to go. Presumably this new book is as close as I'm going to get, at least stylistically.
In Cold Blood
The "new book," In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, was inspired by a 300-word article that ran on page 19 of New York Times on Monday, November 16, 1959. The story described the unexplained murder of the Herbert Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas:
- Wealthy Farmer, 3 of Family Slain
A wealthy wheat farmer, his wife and their two young children were found shot to death today in their home. They had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range after being bound and gagged. The father, 48-year-old Herbert W. Clutter, was found in the basement with his son, Kenyon, 15. His wife Bonnie, 45, and a daughter, Nancy, 16, were in their beds. There were no signs of a struggle and nothing had been stolen. The telephone lines had been cut. "This is apparently the case of a psychopathic killer," Sheriff Earl Robinson said. Mr. Clutter was founder of The Kansas Wheat Growers Association. In 1954, President Eisenhower appointed him to the Federal Farm Credit Board, but he never lived in Washington… The Clutter farm and ranch cover almost 1,000 acres in one of the richest wheat areas. Mr. Clutter, his wife and daughter were clad in pajamas. The boy was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. The bodies were discovered by two of Nancy's classmates, Susan Kidwell and Nancy Ewalt… Two daughters were away. They are Beverly, a student at Kansas University, and Mrs. Donald G. Jarchow of Mount Carroll, Ill.
Fascinated by this brief news item, Capote traveled with Harper Lee to Holcomb and visited the scene of the massacre. Over the course of the next few years, he became acquainted with everyone involved in the investigation and most of the residents of the small town. Rather than taking notes during interviews, Capote committed conversations to memory and immediately wrote quotes as soon as an interview ended. He claimed his memory retention for verbatim conversations had been tested at 94 percent. Lee lent Capote considerable assistance during his research for In Cold Blood. During the first few months of his investigation, she was able to make inroads into the community by befriending the wives of those Capote wanted to interview.
In Cold Blood was serialized in The New Yorker in 1965, and published in hardcover by Random House in 1966. The "non-fiction novel," as Capote labeled it, brought him literary acclaim and became an international bestseller. A feud between Capote and British arts critic Kenneth Tynan erupted in the pages of The Observer after Tynan's review of In Cold Blood implied that Capote wanted an execution so the book would have an effective ending. Tynan wrote:
We are talking, in the long run, about responsibility; the debt that a writer arguably owes to those who provide him—down to the last autobiographical parentheses—with his subject matter and his livelihood… For the first time an influential writer of the front rank has been placed in a position of privileged intimacy with criminals about to die, and—in my view—done less than he might have to save them. The focus narrows sharply down on priorities: Does the work come first, or does life? An attempt to help (by supplying new psychiatric testimony) might easily have failed: What one misses is any sign that it was ever contemplated.
In Cold Blood brought Capote much praise from the literary community, but there were some who questioned certain events as reported in the book. Writing in Esquire in 1966, Phillip K. Tompkins noted factual discrepancies after he traveled to Kansas and talked to some of the same people interviewed by Capote. In a telephone interview with Tompkins, Mrs. Meier denied that she heard Perry cry and that she held his hand as described by Capote. In Cold Blood indicates that Meier and Perry became close, yet she told Tompkins she spent little time with Perry and did not talk much with him. Tompkins concluded:
Capote has, in short, achieved a work of art. He has told exceedingly well a tale of high terror in his own way. But, despite the brilliance of his self-publicizing efforts, he has made both a tactical and a moral error that will hurt him in the short run. By insisting that “every word” of his book is true he has made himself vulnerable to those readers who are prepared to examine seriously such a sweeping claim.
Capote stood at just over 5'2" (159 cm) and was openly homosexual in a time when it was common among artists, but rarely talked about. One of his first serious lovers was Smith College literature professor Newton Arvin, who won the National Book Award for his Herman Melville biography.
Capote was well known for his distinctive, high-pitched voice and dentalized lisp, his offbeat manner of dress and his fabrications. He claimed to know intimately people he had in fact never met, such as Greta Garbo. He professed to have had numerous liaisons with men thought to be heterosexual, including, he claimed, Errol Flynn. He traveled in eclectic circles, hobnobbing with authors, critics, business tycoons, philanthropists, Hollywood and theatrical celebrities, royalty, and members of high society, both in the U.S. and abroad. Part of his public persona was a long-standing rivalry with writer Gore Vidal. Apart from his favorite authors (Willa Cather, Isak Dinesen), Capote had faint praise for other writers. However, one who did get his favorable endorsement was journalist Lacey Fosburgh, author of Closing Time: The True Story of the Goodbar Murder (1977).
Black & White Ball
On November 28, 1966, in honor of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Capote hosted a legendary masked ball, called the Black & White Ball, in the Grand Ballroom of New York City's Plaza Hotel. It was considered the social event of not only that season but of many to follow. The New York Times and other publications gave it considerable coverage, and Deborah Davis wrote an entire book about the event, Party of the Century (2006).
Capote dangled the prized invitations for months, snubbing early supporters like Carson McCullers as he determined who was "in" and who was "out." In choosing his guest of honor, Capote eschewed glamorous "Society" like Babe Paley and Fiat heiress Marella Agnelli in favor of Katharine Graham. Actress Candice Bergen was bored at the ball. Capote's elevator man danced the night away with a woman who didn't know his pedigree. Norman Mailer sounded off about Vietnam, and Frank Sinatra danced with his young wife, Mia Farrow.
After the success of In Cold Blood, Capote entrenched himself completely in the world of the jet set, discreetly conducting research (unknown to his friends and benefactors) for his tell-all, Answered Prayers. The book, which had been in the planning stages since 1958, was intended to be the American equivalent of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and a culmination of the "nonfiction novel" format. Initially scheduled for publication in 1968, the novel was eventually delayed, at Capote's insistence, to 1972. Because of the delay, he was forced to return money received for the film rights to 20th Century Fox.
In the late 1960s, he became friendly with Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Radziwill was an aspiring actress and had appeared to deplorable reviews in an engagement of The Philadelphia Story in Chicago. Feeling that the part simply wasn't tailored to her abilities, Capote was commissioned to write the teleplay for a 1967 TV adaptation of the classic Otto Preminger film, Laura, starring Radziwill. The adaptation, and Radziwill's performance in particular, received indifferent reviews and poor ratings; arguably, it was the author's first major professional setback as a writer. Radziwill supplanted the older Babe Paley as Capote's primary female companion in public throughout the better part of the 1970s.
Despite the assertion earlier in life that one "lost an IQ point for every year spent on the West Coast," he purchased a home in Palm Springs and began to use cocaine on a regular basis. This resulted in bitter quarreling with the socially retiring Jack Dunphy (with whom he shared a "open relationship" from 1948 until his death). They were separated during much of the 1970s. In the absence of Dunphy, Capote began to frequent the bathhouse circuit in New York, often seducing working-class, sexually unsure men half his age. The dearth of new material and other failures (including a rejected screenplay for Paramount's 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby) was counteracted by Capote's frequenting of the talk show circuit, where his inebriated, candid appearances became the stuff of cliché.
In 1972, with Lee Radziwill in tow, Capote accompanied the Rolling Stones on their 1972 American Tour as a Rolling Stone correspondent. While managing to take extensive notes for the project and visit old friends from the In Cold Blood days in Kansas City, he feuded with Mick Jagger and ultimately refused to write the article. The magazine eventually recouped its interests by publishing a 1973 interview of the author conducted by Andy Warhol. A collection of earlier works appeared that year, yet the publication date of Answered Prayers was pushed back once more. In 1974, he was commissioned by Katharine Graham to cover a murder trial in the Washington area, but he exaggerated an illness and abandoned the project. In letters dating back as early as 1971, the publisher wrote of concern for Capote, who seemed content to her in his deteriorating and debauched state. Friends were appalled later that year when manipulative John O'Shea, his latest boyfriend, attempted to take total control of Capote's literary and business interests.
By 1975, public demand for Answered Prayers had reached a critical mass, with many speculating that Capote had not even written a single word of the book. He permitted Esquire to publish three long chapters of the unfinished novel throughout 1975 and 1976, slightly surpassing Breakfast at Tiffany's in length if taken as one work. While the first part, "Mojave," was received favorably, "La Cote Basque 1965" and "Unspoiled Monsters" alienated Capote from his established base of middle aged, wealthy female friends, who were fearful that the intimate and often sordid details of their ostensibly glamorous and carefree lifestyles would be exposed to the public. Based upon the dysfunctional personal lives of William S. and Babe Paley, arguably Capote's best friends, the issue featuring "La Cote Basque" sold out immediately upon publication. "Unspoiled Monsters" contained a thinly veiled attack against Tennessee Williams, whose friendship with Capote had already been strained at this juncture.
Capote was further demoralized in 1978 when Radziwill provided testimony on behalf of perpetual nemesis Gore Vidal in a defamation lawsuit stemming from a drunken interview Capote gave Playboy in 1976. In a retaliatory move, Capote appeared on Stanley Siegal's talk show in a talkative, inebriated mood and revealed salacious personal details about Radziwill and her sister. While the public ate up the gossip in spades, resulting in a sizeable ratings increase for the otherwise lowly Siegal program, the nature of the appearance only exacerbated Capote's reputation as a drunken caricature of his former self.
In an ironic twist, Warhol (who had made a point of seeking out Capote when he first arrived in New York) took the author under his wing. He often partied with the author at Studio 54 and gave him steady short feature work — the kind of assignments that Capote thrived upon — for Interview magazine. Out of this creative burst came the short pieces that would form the basis for the bestselling Music for Chameleons (1980). To celebrate this unexpected renaissance, he underwent a face-lift, lost weight and experimented with hair transplants. Nevertheless, Capote was unable to overcome his reliance upon drugs and liquor and had grown bored with New York by the turn of the 1980s.
After the revocation of his driver's license (the result of speeding near his Long Island residence) and a hallucinatory seizure in 1980 that required hospitalization, Capote became fairly reclusive. These hallucinations continued unabated throughout the decade, and scans revealed that his brain mass had perceptibly shrunk. On the rare occasions when he was lucid, he continued to hype Answered Prayers as being nearly complete and was reportedly planning a reprise of the Black and White Ball to have been held either in Los Angeles or a more exotic locale in South America.
Capote died, according to the coroner's report, of "liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication" at the age of 59 on August 25, 1984, in the home of his old friend Joanne Carson, ex-wife of late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote had been a frequent guest. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, leaving behind his longtime companion, author Jack Dunphy, with whom he had reconciled in the late 1970s. Dunphy died in 1992, and in 1994, both his and Capote's ashes were scattered at Crooked Pond, between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor on Long Island, close to where the two had maintained a property with individual houses for many years. Capote also maintained the property in Palm Springs, a condominium in Switzerland that was mostly occupied by Dunphy seasonally, and a primary residence at the United Nations Plaza in New York City.
Capote twice won the O. Henry Memorial Short Story Prize and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Capote on film
Capote's childhood experiences are captured in the 1956 memoir "A Christmas Memory," which he adapted for television and narrated. Directed by Frank Perry, it aired on December 21, 1966, on ABC Stage 67, featuring Geraldine Page in an Emmy Award-winning performance. The teleplay was later incorporated into Perry's 1969 anthology film Trilogy (aka Truman Capote's Trilogy), which also includes adaptations of "Miriam" and "Among the Paths to Eden." The TV movie, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, with Patty Duke and Piper Laurie, was a 1997 remake, directed by Glenn Jordan.
In 1961, Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's about a flamboyant New York party girl named Holly Golightly was filmed by director Blake Edwards, starring Audrey Hepburn in what many consider her defining role, though Capote never approved of the toning down of the story to appeal to mass audiences.
Capote narrated his The Thanksgiving Visitor (1967), a sequel to A Christmas Memory, filmed by Frank Perry in Pike Road, Alabama. Geraldine Page again won an Emmy for her performance in this hour-long program.
In Cold Blood was filmed twice: When Richard Brooks directed In Cold Blood, the 1967 adaptation with Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, he filmed at the actual Clutter house and other Holcomb, Kansas, locations. Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts headed the cast of the 1996, In Cold Blood, miniseries, directed by Jonathan Kaplan.
Neil Simon's 1976 murder mystery spoof, Murder by Death provided Capote's main role as an actor, portraying reclusive millionaire Lionel Twain who invites the world's leading detectives together to a dinner party to have them solve a murder. The performance brought him a Golden Globe nomination (Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture). Early in the film it is alleged that Twain has "no pinkies." In truth, Capote's little fingers were unusually large.
In Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), there is a scene in which Alvy (Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are observing passersby in the park. Alvy comments, "Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote Look-Alike Contest." The passerby is actually Truman Capote (who appeared in the film uncredited).
Other Voices, Other Rooms came to theater screens in 1995, with David Speck in the lead role of Joel Sansom. Reviewing this atmospheric Southern Gothic film in the New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote:
One of the things the movie does best is transport you back in time and into nature. In the early scenes as Joel leaves his aunt's home to travel across the South by rickety bus and horse and carriage, you feel the strangeness, wonder and anxiety of a child abandoning everything that's familiar to go to a place so remote he has to ask directions along the way. The landscape over which he travels is so rich and fertile that you can almost smell the earth and sky. Later on, when Joel tussles with Idabell (Aubrey Dollar), a tomboyish neighbor who becomes his best friend (a character inspired by the author Harper Lee), the movie has a special force and clarity in its evocation of the physical immediacy of being a child playing outdoors.
Capote's short story, "Children on Their Birthdays," another look back at a small-town Alabama childhood, was brought to film by director Mark Medoff in 2002.
Capote in TV and Film
With Love from Truman (1966), a 29-minute documentary by David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, shows a Newsweek reporter interviewing Capote at his beachfront home in Long Island. Capote talks about In Cold Blood, his relationship with the murderers and his coverage of the trial. He is also seen taking Alvin Dewey and his wife around New York City for the first time. Originally titled A Visit with Truman Capote, this film was commissioned by National Educational Television and shown on the NET network.
In 1990, Robert Morse received both a Tony Award and an Emmy for his portrayal of Capote in the one-man show, Tru, seen on the PBS series, American Playhouse in 1992.
Louis Negrin portrayed Capote in 54 (1998). A reference is made to Capote as just having had a face lift, and the song "Knock on Wood" is dedicated to him.
Sam Street is seen briefly as Capote in Isn't She Great? (2000), a biographical comedy-drama about Jacqueline Susann. Michael J. Burg has appeared as Capote in two films, The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000) and The Hoax (2006), about Clifford Irving.
Truman Capote: The Tiny Terror is a documentary that aired April 6, 2004, as part of A&E's A&E Biography series, followed by a 2005 DVD release.
In July 2005, Oni Press published comic book artist and writer Ande Parks' Capote in Kansas: A Drawn Novel, a fictionalized account of Capote and Lee researching In Cold Blood.
Director Bennett Miller made his dramatic feature debut with the biopic Capote (2005). Spanning the years Truman Capote spent researching and writing In Cold Blood, the film depicts Capote's conflict between his compassion for his subjects and self-absorbed obsession with finishing the book. Capote garnered much critical acclaim when it was released (September 30, 2005, in the U.S. and February 24, 2006, in the UK). Dan Futterman's screenplay was based on the book Capote: A Biography by Gerald Clarke. Capote received five Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance earned him many awards, including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award and the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actor.
Infamous (2006), which stars Toby Jones as Capote and Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee, is an adaptation of George Plimpton's Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career (1997). Writer-director Douglas McGrath offered a contrast of Capote in Kansas with his gossipy adventures amid the New York social set. The film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August 2006 was followed by a October 13 theatrical release. Reviewing in The Independent, prior to the premiere, critic David Thomson wrote:
The best new film I've seen this year is about the writer Truman Capote… I have no reason to attack Capote, or diminish it. I thought it was a good picture. But this is better… So get ready for Infamous—unless someone has the wit to find a new title. Understand in advance that the leading arbiters of culture will tell you it's the same thing warmed up, a story you know, a curiosity even. It's none of those. We do not write off this year's Hamlet because we enjoyed last year's. We might listen to Mahler's Ninth tonight and in a few months' time. You do not really know this story in advance, for a very good reason: You have not been moved by it yet. You have been intrigued, entertained—all good things. In Infamous, among other things, you have Gwyneth Paltrow's breakdown and the fact that one of the killers took 30 minutes to die after he had been hanged. People collapse slowly. You will be surprised.
More than 70 film critics wrote favorable reviews of Infamous, but some were not impressed. Jim Emerson, reviewing in The Chicago Sun-Times, wrote:
Infamous never finds its proper tone, which should have been set by the peacock performances of Jones and Stevenson—flaming creatures who are comically flamboyant, self-possessed and just enough over the top to be dazzling. As Capote's fellow author and investigative collaborator Nelle Harper Lee, Sandra Bullock is robotic. When she shifts her eyes at a key moment in a scene, you can almost read the programming code that dictates the maneuver. In the end, Infamous turns out to be the third-best movie built around the murders of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kan., in 1959.
- Capote (2005) film soundtrack by Mychael Danna. Reading by Capote.
- A Christmas Memory LP. Reading by Capote.
- Children on Their Birthdays Columbia Literary Series ML 4761 12" LP. Reading by Capote.
- House of Flowers Columbia 10" LP. Reading by Capote.
- House of Flowers Broadway production. Saint Subber presents Truman Capote and Harold Arlen’s House of Flowers, starring Pearl Bailey. Directed by Peter Brook with musical numbers by Herbert Ross. Columbia 12" LP, Stereo-OS-2320. Electronically reprocessed for stereo.
- In Cold Blood (1966) RCA Victor Red Seal monophonic LP, VDM-110. Reading by Capote.
- In Cold Blood Random House unabridged on 12 CDs. Read by Scott Brick.
- The Thanksgiving Visitor (1967) United Artists LP UAS 6682. Reading by Capote.
- Capote in Kansas (2005) Oni Press, Graphic novel about Truman Capote and his time in Kansas researching In Cold Blood.
Published and other works
|approx. 1943||Summer Crossing||Novel; posthumously published 2005|
|1945||Miriam||Short story; published in Mademoiselle (magazine)|
|1948||Other Voices, Other Rooms||Novel|
|1949||A Tree of Night and Other Stories||Collection of short stories|
|1951||The Grass Harp||Novel|
|1952||The Grass Harp||Play|
|1953||Beat the Devil (1953 film)||Original screenplay|
|1954||House of Flowers||Broadway musical|
|1956||The Muses Are Heard||Non-fiction|
|1956||"A Christmas Memory"||Short story; published in Mademoiselle (magazine)|
|1957||"The Duke in His Domain"||Portrait of Marlon Brando; published in The New Yorker; Republished in Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker (2001)|
|1958||Breakfast at Tiffany's (novella)||Novella|
|1960||The Innocents (film)||Screenplay based on Turn of the Screw by Henry James; 1962 Edgar Award, from the Mystery Writers of America, to Capote and William Archibald for Best Motion Picture Screenplay|
|1963||Selected Writings of Truman Capote|
|1964||A short story appeared in Seventeen magazine|
|1966||In Cold Blood||"Non-fiction novel"; Capote's second Edgar Award (1966), for Best Fact Crime book|
|1968||The Thanksgiving Visitor||Novella|
|1971||The Great Gatsby||Screenplay based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, rejected by Paramount Pictures|
|1973||The Dogs Bark||Collection of travel articles and personal sketches|
|1975||"Mojave" and "La Cote Basque, 1965"||Short stories from Answered Prayers; published in Esquire (magazine)|
|1976||"Unspoiled Monsters" and "Kate McCloud"||Short stories from Answered Prayers; published in Esquire (magazine)|
|1980||Music for Chameleons||Collection of short fiction and nonfiction|
|1986||Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel||Published posthumously|
|2005||Summer Crossing||Previously lost first novel — excerpt published in the 2005-10-24 issue of The New Yorker|
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1992. ISBN 0805708510.
- Hill, Patti. Truman Capote: The Art of Fiction No. 17. Paris Review 16, Spring-Summer 1957.
- Inge, M. Thomas. Truman Capote Conversations. University Press of Mississippi, 1987. ISBN 0-87805-274-7.
- Krebs, Albin. Truman Capote Is Dead at 59; Novelist of Style and Clarity. New York Times. (August 28, 1984).
- Plimpton, George. 1997. Truman Capote, In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. Doubleday, 1997. ISBN 0385491735.
- Walter, Eugene. Milking the Moon: A Southerner's Story of Life on This Planet. Crown. ISBN 0609605941.
All links retrieved May 2, 2023.
- Obituary, New York Times, August 26, 1984 (with some striking contradictions to this article about his early years)
- Find A Grave
- Gerald Clarke on Capote
- Minnesota Public Radio: Public readings of "A Christmas Memory"
- Review: The Dogs Bark (1973)
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