The Truman show: Capote and the movies

Lifestyle

The Truman show: Capote and the movies

He wrote and inspired some memorable films and is the subject of a new bio-doc. What is his cinematic legacy?

Nigel Andrews

How do you define a writer whose chief game plan was to escape definition? Today that seems almost the only true way to pin down Truman Capote: by calling him un-pinnable.

What on Earth was he? Who was this mincing prince of New York high society who became a gritty nonfiction novelist? Who was this loving fantasist of the demimonde who became, with his last, unfinished novel Answered Prayers — an epic project based on the lives and characters of his friends (some of whom soon became non-friends) — an acid-spitting diarist, a poison-tipped Proust?

“Let’s write about Capote and the movies.” When my editor said that — to chime with the release of Ebs Burnough’s The Capote Tapes, a new bio-doc on the author — I seized the idea; though I felt it should have arrived like one of those “Come to dinner” invitations received by imminent victims in an Agatha Christie murder story. What death — or fate worse than death — was waiting? What wrestlings with the unknowable? Capote himself played the host of such a killing party in his only notable film role. Superintending the demises of a starry cast in Murder By Death (1976), he is gleefully self-parodic — a plump, primping, pink-suited elf, fluting campy menace...

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