‘Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were two of the most famous American writers of their time. For more than forty years, these giants of American literature goaded and supported one another in the agonising quest to turn life into art. This is an encounter between the lifelong friends in their own words.’ So begins Truman and Tennessee, a new must-watch 90-minute documentary directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland that profiles these two literary giants.
With an age-gap of 13 years, theirs was an unlikely friendship: particularly when you consider that they had actually known each other since Capote was just 16-years-old. Yet through interview footage, as well as readings of their personal letters and diaries by actors, we learn more about the relationship between the two writers, whose careers ran parallel.
After early successes within years of each other – Williams first in 1944 with The Glass Menagerie, followed by Capote in 1948 with Other Voices, Other Rooms – they rose to household name status in the 1950s, with both enjoying big screen adaptations of their works by Hollywood (clips of which are used in the documentary) – even if the end results weren’t always what they had envisioned.
As Capote recalled of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Audrey Hepburn: ‘Marilyn Monroe was my first choice. Holly had to have something touching about her, unfinished. Marilyn had that. At that age she was exactly right for the part. But Paramount double crossed me and gave the part to Audrey Hepburn – although she did a terrific job. The book was really rather bitter. Holly Golightly was real – a tough character – not an Audrey Hepburn character at all.’
What drove both men to write is also explored, including their influences (Moby Dick for Capote, Chekhov for Williams) and the role of writing as a kind of therapy. As Williams posits: ‘Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory’. Capote echoes his sentiments: ‘I created myself and I created a world to live in’.
Both men’s homosexuality and the effect that this had on their lives is also shown, as the two share their views on love, sex and friendship. Capote remembers how his mother wanted to put him on testosterone as a teenager, because of his sexuality, while Williams talks of the duo’s tumultuous triangular relationship with Gore Vidal.
With so much interest in Capote once again following the release of The Capote Tapes earlier this year, in which his close friends detailed his fall from favour with his so-called Swans (society beauties including Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest, Lee Radziwill and Gloria Guinness) following the leak of his unpublished book, Answered Prayers, this new documentary provides a different perspective – all in Capote’s own words.
Truman and Tennessee is available to stream online from 30 April at trumantennessee.co.uk
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