All You Need To Know About Truman Capote's Swans Before Watching The New Series - The Gloss Magazine

All You Need To Know About Truman Capote’s Swans Before Watching The New Series

With a stellar cast including Naomi Watts, Demi Moore and Chloë Sevigny, Feud is a perfect cocktail of style and spite…and we can’t wait to watch!

The premiere of producer Ryan Murphy’s FX series Feud: Capote vs The Swans took place in New York this week at the Museum of Modern Art and has brightened up these dark days of January with a ‘fashion-off’ on the red carpet between cast members.

They adhered to the dress code of black and white – a homage to Truman Capote’s famous Black and White ball, which took place at the Plaza Hotel in 1966. Chloë Sevigny wore a Christopher John Rogers gown, Naomi Watts stunned in black lace Givenchy couture, Calista Flockhart was demure in Zuhair Murad, while Demi Moore dressed on a swan theme in a bespoke feathered Balmain number. Designer Zac Posen was also on the red carpet – he dressed the actresses in the series.

Before settling down to watch the eight episode series based on Laurence Leamer’s bestselling book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal and a Swan Son for an Era, it’s best to know some background details.

Feud’s first season, Bette and Joan, chronicled the well-publicised rivalry between Hollywood actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis during and after the production of their 1962 psychological horror thriller film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

This series of Feud tells the story of American novelist Truman Capote (played by Tom Hollander) and his high profile fallout with his female friends, whom he befriended in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He called them his “swans” as they were all slim, impeccably dressed and were infamous for their tangled love lives and affairs. They could be described as the trendsetters or influencers of their day as they were constantly featured in magazines and on Best Dressed Lists. They accompanied Capote to parties, on jet setting trips around the world, shuttling between their homes in Palm Beach, New York and Los Angeles.

Truman sometimes used the swans as inspiration for his writing. Most notably he
scandalously included several of their secrets, barely disguised, in the published excerpts of his unfinished, tell-all book, Answered Prayers. This terminated his friendship with many of the swans and led to his fall from grace.

Chloë Sevigny as CZ Guest. Photograph via FX Network.

Here’s all you need to know about his former friends:

Barbara “Babe” Paley (played by Naomi Watts)

Dubbed the “Queen of New York”, Barbara “Babe” Paley was the epitome of the current “old money aesthetic.” Born into a wealthy Bostonian family, her father was a brain surgeon and professor of surgery at John Hopkins, Yale and Harvard universities). She had two other sisters and the trio all married wealthy, powerful men. Babe married William S Paley who was the CEO of CBS network television. They were power players on the New York social scene for three decades from the 1950s to 1970s. Babe was especially close to Truman Capote who idolised her and once said, “Mrs. P. had only one fault: she was perfect. Otherwise, she was perfect.” Known for her impeccable manners and designer wardrobe of Balenciaga, Valentino and Givenchy, she worked as a fashion editor for American Vogue and was credited with reviving Halston’s career by wearing his dresses to public engagements.

CZ Guest (played by Chloë Sevigny)

Born Lucy Douglas Cochrane but called Sissy or See Zee by her brother, CZ Guest was described by Truman Capote as a “cool vanilla lady.” She was a keen gardener, tennis player and equine enthusiast as well as a style icon and society beauty. British Vogue once described her as having “the face of a flower.” She was often a muse for photographer Slim Aarons who famously photographed her at her Palm Beach home, and was painted by artists Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. In her closet were couture pieces by Mainbocher, Adolfo and Givenchy. CZ’s brand of outdoorsy glamour would later inspire Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta.

Lee Radziwill (played by Calista Flockhart)

Best known as the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee was often considered the more stylish sister – a natural tastemaker who pursued careers in interior decorating, acting and writing. Capote called her his “Principessa.” The sisters were often rivals in love and marriage – Lee had an affair with Aristotle Onassis before Jackie married him. Lee married three times, keeping her surname from her second marriage to European Prince Stanislas Radziwill of Poland. Former US Vogue Editor at Large, Andre Leon Talley called her a close friend and said, “She edits herself. She edits her wardrobe. She edits her life.” She had a penchant for diamonds, furs and Yves Saint Laurent, and has inspired designers such as Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs and Hamilton South.

Joanne Carson (played by Molly Ringwald)

The wife of late night TV host Johnny Carson, Joanne was gorgeous and worked as a model and flight attendant before her marriage. She disliked the New York social scene and after her divorce from Johnny she decamped to Los Angeles and lived in a rustic house on Sunset Boulevard. Truman Capote often stayed with her for long periods. In fact he died in her house, in a writing room on 1984, from a suspected overdose.

Ann Woodward (played by Demi Moore)

Originally from Kansas City, Ann Woodward was highly ambitious and moved to New York where she would work variously as a model, nightclub dancer and radio actress. She had an affair with wealthy banker William Woodward Sr before marrying his son, William Jr, and the couple became prominent players on the New York social scene. Her marriage was often volatile. In 1955 Ann shot and killed her husband, thinking he was a burglar. Though she was exonerated legally, she was ostracised by society. Truman Capote called her “Mrs Bang Bang” and portrayed her as a cold blooded killer in “La Côte Basque, 1965” (the first instalment of Answered Prayers). Before the story appeared in print, Ann took her own life.

Nancy “Slim” Keith (played by Diane Lane)

Dubbed the original “California Girl” because of her athletic physique, Keith became a model and often featured on Best Dressed lists. She was a Hollywood insider (and friend to Lauren Bacall). She married three times – her last husband was a British aristocrat Sir Kenneth Keith, from which she became known as Lady Keith. She acquired her name “Slim” because of her rapier wit.

Need to Know: Viewers in the US can watch Feud: Capote vs The Swans from January 31 on FX and Hulu. The series will land on Disney+ at a later date where viewers in Ireland will be able to watch all eight episodes. In the meantime, for further reading pick up Barbara Davis’ book Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball.


All the usual great, glossy content of our large-format magazine in a neater style delivered to your door.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This