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Truman Capote 1924-1984
 


Country : New Orleans, LA
Profession : Novelist
Date of birth : 1924-09-30
Date of death : 1984-08-25
Cause of Death : Unspecified

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Truman Capote (September 30, 1924 — August 25, 1984) (born Truman Streckfus Persons) was an American writer whose short stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "non-fiction novel". At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories and screenplays.

Early life

Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of 17-year-old Lillie Mae and Archulus Persons, who was a salesman. When he was four, his parents divorced, and he was sent to Monroeville, Alabama, where he was raised by his mother's relatives. He formed a fast bond with his mother's distant relative, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, whom Truman called 'Sook'. "Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind," is how Capote described Sook in "A Christmas Memory". In Monroeville, he was a neighbor and friend of Harper Lee, who grew up to write To Kill a Mockingbird (with the character Dill based on Truman).

As a lonely child, Capote taught himself to read and write before he entered the first grade in school. Capote was often seen at age five carrying his dictionary and notepad, and he began writing when he was ten. At this time, he was given the nickname Bulldog, possibly a phonetic reference and pun of "Bulldog Truman" to the fictional detective Bulldog Drummond popular in films of the mid-1930s.

On Saturdays, he made trips from Monroeville to Mobile, and when he was ten, he submitted his short story, "Old Mrs. Busybody," to a children's writing contest sponsored by the Mobile Press Register.

In 1933, he moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband, Joseph Capote, a Cuban-born textile broker, who adopted his stepson and renamed him Truman García Capote. However, Joseph turned out to be an embezzler and shortly afterwards his income crashed and the family faced moving out of Park Avenue. When he was 11, he began writing seriously in daily three-hour sessions. Of his early days Capote related, "I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about eleven. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it." In 1935, he attended the Trinity School. He then attended St. Joseph's military academy. 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."

In 1954 Truman's mother, who had become an alcoholic, committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Short fiction

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 Best First-Published Story in 1946. In the spring of 1946, Capote was accepted at Yaddo, the 400-acre (1.6 km2) 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, Louisiana, 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.

The story focuses on 13-year-old Joel Knox following the loss of his mother. Joel is sent from New Orleans, Louisiana, 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 a quadriplegic, having tumbled down a flight of stairs after being inadvertently shot by Randolph and nearly dying. He runs away with Idabel but catches pneumonia and eventually returns to the Landing where he is nursed back to health by Randolph. The implication in the final paragraph is that the "queer lady" beckoning from the window is Randolph in his old Mardi Gras costume.

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 picture at a publishing forum, and the photo of "Truman Remote" was satirized in the third issue of Mad (making Capote one of the first four celebrities to be spoofed in Mad). The humorist Max Shulman struck an identical pose for the dustjacket photo on his collection, Max Shulman's Large Economy Size (1948). The Broadway stage revue New Faces (and the subsequent film version) featured a skit in which Ronny Graham parodied Capote, deliberately copying his pose in the Halma photo.

Random House featured the Halma photo in its "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 suffered from depression as he traveled about Europe, including a 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), which spawned the song A Sleepin' Bee. 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 remained a lifelong friend of his Monroeville neighbor Harper Lee, and he based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on her. He in turn was the inspiration for the character Dill, in Lee's 1960 bestselling, Pulitzer prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Capote, Dill is creative, bold and had an unsatisfactory family history. 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."

Breakfast at Tiffany's

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 strategically.

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 39 of New York Times on Monday, November 16, 1959. The story described the unexplained murder of the Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas.

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 'over 90%'. 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.

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.

Celebrity

Capote was 5 feet 3 inches (160 cm) tall and openly homosexual in a time when it was socially acceptable 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 odd vocal mannerisms, his offbeat manner of dress and his fabrications. He often claimed to intimately know 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 ("Truman Capote has tried, with some success, to get into a world that I have tried, with some success, to get out of."). Their rivalry prompted Tennessee Williams to complain: "You would think they were running neck-and-neck for some fabulous gold prize." Apart from his favorite authors (Willa Cather, Isak Dinesen, Marcel Proust), 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). He also claimed an admiration for Andy Warhol's The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B & Back Again.

Black and White Ball

On November 28, 1966, in honor of The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Capote hosted a legendary masked ball, called the Black and 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), excerpted by The Independent. Different accounts of the evening were collected by George Plimpton in his book Truman Capote.

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 "swans" like Babe Paley and Fiat heiress Marella Agnelli in favor of Katharine Graham. Capote's elevator man danced the night away with a woman who did not know his pedigree.[citation needed] Norman Mailer sounded off about Vietnam, and Frank Sinatra danced with his young wife, Mia Farrow.

The years following In Cold Blood

After the success of In Cold Blood, Capote's publisher re-released his earlier works, including a 20th anniversary edition of Other Voices, Other Rooms and a holiday gift book edition of his 1956 story "A Christmas Memory." A new long story, "The Thanksgiving Visitor," also became a holiday gift book. Now more sought-after than ever, Capote wrote occasional brief articles for magazines, and also entrenched himself more deeply in the world of the jet set.

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 was not 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 Capote's first major professional setback. Radziwill supplanted the older Babe Paley as his 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 indulge in a more aimless lifestyle and heavy drinking. This resulted in bitter quarreling with the more retiring Jack Dunphy (with whom he had shared a non-exclusive relationship since the 1950s). Their partnership changed form and continued as a nonsexual one, and they were separated during much of the 1970s. Dunphy was irritated by the unwavering substance abuse and even went so far as to allege that Capote had slept with Radziwill. However, others have alleged that Dunphy, a writer and playwright of far less renown, was unappreciative of Capote's gifts (including a Swiss condominium that Capote had little use for) and financial support.

The dearth of new writing 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. There, his candid—and sometimes inebriated—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 correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine. 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, in April 1973, an interview of the author conducted by Andy Warhol. A collection of previously published essays and reportage, The Dogs Bark: Public People and Private Places, appeared later that year.

In July 1973 Capote met John O'Shea, the middle-aged vice president of Marine Midland Bank on Long Island, while visiting a bathhouse. The married father of three did not identify as homosexual or bisexual, perceiving his visits as being a "kind of masturbation". However, O'Shea found Capote's fortune alluring and harbored aspirations to become a professional writer. After consummating their relationship in Palm Springs, the two engaged in an ongoing war of jealousy and manipulation for the remainder of the decade. Longtime friends were appalled when O'Shea, who was officially employed as Capote's manager, attempted to take total control of the author's literary and business interests.

Answered Prayers

Through his jet-set social life Capote had been discreetly conducting research (unbeknownst to his friends and benefactors) for his tell-all Answered Prayers (eventually to be published as Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel). The book, which had been in the planning stages since 1958, was intended to be the American equivalent of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time 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. Capote spoke about the novel in interviews, but continued to delay the delivery date.

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 four chapters of the unfinished novel in 1975 and 1976. The first to appear, "Mojave", ran as a self-contained short story and was favorably received, but the second, "La Côte Basque 1965", based in part on the dysfunctional personal lives of William S. Paley and Babe Paley, arguably Capote's best friends, generated controversy. Although the issue featuring "La Côte Basque" sold out immediately upon publication, its much-discussed betrayal of confidences alienated Capote from his established base of middle aged, wealthy female friends, who feared that the intimate and often sordid details of their ostensibly glamorous lives would be exposed to the public. Another two chapters, "Unspoiled Monsters" and "Kate McCloud", appeared subsequently; intended to form the long opening section of the novel, they displayed a marked shift in narrative voice, introduced a more elaborate plot structure, and together formed a novella-length mosaic of fictionalized memoir and gossip. "Unspoiled Monsters", which by itself was almost as long as Breakfast at Tiffany's, contained a thinly veiled satire of Tennessee Williams, whose friendship with Capote had already become strained.

Later years

In the late 1970s, Capote was in and out of rehab clinics, and news of his various breakdowns frequently reached the public. In 1978, talk show host Stanley Siegal did a live on-air interview with Capote, who, in an extraordinarily intoxicated state, confessed that he might kill himself. One year later, when he felt betrayed by Lee Radziwill in a feud with perpetual nemesis Gore Vidal, Capote arranged a return visit to Stanley Siegal's show, this time to deliver a bizarrely comic performance revealing salacious personal details about Radziwill and her sister, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

In an ironic twist, Warhol (who had made a point of seeking out Capote when he first arrived in New York) provided the author with the platform for his next artistic renewal. Warhol, who often partied with Capote at Studio 54, agreed to paint Capote's portrait as "a personal gift"—rather than for the six-figure sums he usually charged—in exchange for Capote contributing short pieces to Warhol's Interview magazine every month for a year. Initially the pieces were to consist of tape-recorded conversations, but soon Capote dispensed with the tape recorder and chose instead to craft meticulously composed "conversational portraits" that applied his literary skills to the magazine's dialogue-driven format. Out of this creative burst came the pieces that would form the basis for the bestselling Music for Chameleons (1980). To celebrate this unexpected renaissance, he underwent a facelift, 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 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. On a few occasions, he was still able to write. In 1982, a new short story, "One Christmas", appeared in the December issue of Ladies' Home Journal and the following year it became, like its predecessors "A Christmas Memory" and "The Thanksgiving Visitor", a holiday gift book. In 1983, "Remembering Tennessee", an essay in tribute to Tennessee Williams, who had died in February of that year, appeared in Playboy magazine.

Death

Capote died in Los Angeles, California, on August 25, 1984, aged 59.

According to the coroner's report the cause of death was "liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication." He died at 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. Dunphy died in 1992, and in 1994 both his and Capote's ashes were scattered at Crooked Pond, between Bridgehampton, New York and Sag Harbor, New York 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's will provided that after Dunphy's death a literary trust would be established, sustained by revenues from Capote's works, to fund various literary prizes and grants including the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin, commemorating not only Capote but also his friend Newton Arvin, the Smith College professor and critic, who lost his job after his homosexuality was exposed.

After his death, fellow writer Gore Vidal described Capote's demise as "a good career move."

Exhibition

Capote's childhood is the focus of a permanent exhibit in Monroeville, Alabama's Old Courthouse Museum, covering his life in Monroeville with his Faulk cousins and how those early years are reflected in his writing. The exhibit brings photos, letters and memorabilia together to paint a portrait of Capote's early life in Monroeville. Jennings Faulk Carter donated the collection to the Museum in 2005.

The collection includes 12 handwritten letters (1940s–60s) from Capote to his favorite aunt, Mary Ida Carter (Jennings' mother). Many of the items in the collection belonged to his mother and Virginia Hurd Faulk, Carter's cousin with whom Capote lived as a child. The exhibit features many references to Sook, but two items in particular are always favorites of visitors: Sook's "Coat of Many Colors" and Truman's baby blanket. Truman's first cousin recalls that as children, he and Truman never had trouble finding Sook in the darkened house on South Alabama Avenue because they simply looked for the bright colors of her coat. Truman's baby blanket is a "granny square" blanket Sook made for him. The blanket became one of Truman's most cherished possessions, and friends say he was seldom without it — even when traveling. In fact, he took the blanket with him when he flew from New York to Los Angeles to be with Joanne Carson on August 23, 1984. According to Joanne Carson, when he died at her home on August 25, his last words were, "It's me, it's Buddy," followed by, "I'm cold." Buddy was Sook's name for him.

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, and featured 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 and starred 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 teleplay.

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 Award nomination (Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture). Early in the film it is alleged that Twain has ten fingers but no pinkies. In truth, Capote's pinkie fingers were unusually large. In the film, Capote's character is highly critical of the detective fiction of the like of Agatha Christie and Dashiell Hammett.

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's the winner of the Truman Capote Look-Alike Contest." The passerby is actually Truman Capote (who appeared in the film uncredited).

Documentaries

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. Truman Capote: The Tiny Terror is a documentary that aired April 6, 2004, as part of A&E's Biography series, followed by a 2005 DVD release.

Portrayals of Capote

In 1990, Robert Morse received both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his portrayal of Capote in the one-man show, Tru. In 1992, he recreated the performance for the PBS series American Playhouse and won an Emmy Award for his performance. In 1994, actor-writer Bob Kingdom created the one-man theatre piece The Truman Capote Talk Show, in which he played Capote looking back over his life. Originally performed at the Lyric Studio Theatre, Hammersmith, London, the show has toured widely within the UK and internationally.

Paul Williams appears as Capote in The Doors (1991) introducing Jim Morrison to Andy Warhol. Louis Negin 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.

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 US and February 24, 2006 in the UK). Dan Futterman's screenplay was based on the book Capote: A Biography by Gerald Clarke (1988). 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 BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award and an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Infamous (2006, directed by Douglas McGrath), 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).

Due to the numerous depictions of Capote on film, the satirical newspaper The Onion published a 2006 article: "Oscars Create New Truman Capote Biopic Category."

Media mentions

In the Charles Bukowski poem, "Nothing but a Scarf," Capote is referred to as an "ice-skater-of-a-writer." Bukowski describes how Capote's fast life led to his downfall and how "he never had his nose rubbed into life."

On February 22, 1982, British new wave pop star and electronic music pioneer Gary Numan released his eighth single, "Music For Chameleons." The A side appeared on his fourth studio album, I, Assassin. The single reached the #19 spot on the U.K. singles chart. Numan is a Capote fan, and although the title clearly refers to Capote's book, the song itself contains no references to the original short story.

Dave Filoni, the director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, has been quoted as stating that the film's producer, George Lucas, used Capote's voice as the inspiration for the voice of Ziro, Jabba the Hutt's uncle.

On the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, host Ina Garten hosts a party in honor of Capote's masked ball featuring food prepared as it was at the ball.

Discography

  • Capote (2006) RCA, Film Soundtrack. Includes complete 1966 RCA recording Truman Capote reads scenes from In Cold Blood - see below.
  • A Christmas Memory (1959) United Artists UAL 9001. (LP) Truman Capote reading his A Christmas Memory.
  • Children on Their Birthdays (1955) Columbia Literary Series ML 4761 12" LP. Reading by Capote.
  • House of Flowers (1955) Columbia Masterworks 12508. (LP) Read by the Author.
  • House of Flowers (1954) Columbia 2320. (LP) 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 VDM-110. (LP) Truman Capote reads scenes from In Cold Blood.
  • In Cold Blood Random House unabridged on 12 CDs. Read by Scott Brick.
  • The Thanksgiving Visitor (1967) United Artists UAS 6682. (LP) Truman Capote reading his The Thanksgiving Visitor.
  • Capote in Kansas (2005) Oni Press, graphic novel about Truman Capote and his time in Kansas researching In Cold Blood.

Bibliography

Year

Title

Type/Notes

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

approx. 1949

Summer Crossing

Novel; posthumously published 2005

1951

The Grass Harp

Novel

1952

The Grass Harp

Play

1953

Beat the Devil

Original screenplay

1954

House of Flowers

Broadway musical

1956

The Muses Are Heard

Nonfiction

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

1960

The Innocents

Screenplay based on The 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

Midcareer retrospective anthology; fiction and nonfiction

1964

 

A short story appeared in Seventeen magazine

1966

In Cold Blood

"Nonfiction novel"; Capote's second Edgar Award (1966), for Best Fact Crime book

1968

The Thanksgiving Visitor

Holiday story published as a gift book

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

1976

"Unspoiled Monsters" and "Kate McCloud"

Short stories from Answered Prayers; published in Esquire

1980

Music for Chameleons

Collection of short works mixing fiction and nonfiction

1983

One Christmas

Holiday story published as a gift book

1987

Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel

Published posthumously

1987

A Capote Reader

Omnibus edition containing most of Capote's shorter works, fiction and nonfiction

2004

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote

Anthology of twenty short stories

2004

Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote

Edited by Capote biographer Gerald Clarke

2005

Summer Crossing

Previously lost first novel—excerpt published in the 2005-10-24 issue of The New Yorker

2007

Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote

Published by Random House

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