TV Series

FIRST LOOK: "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans"

Feb 2, 2024
Dimitris Passas

Following a heady first season, Ryan Murphy's Feud turns the page and travels back in time to chronicle a case of social suicide committed by the American author of the iconic true crime book In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. The story is set in 1970s New York and narrates the fallout between Capote and a group of women who he liked to call his "swans", all members of the haute society with wealthy and powerful men by their sides. The minutiae of this gossipy relationship crisis can be found in Laurence Leamer's biography Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era which focused on Capote's life after the publication of Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the emblematic true crime epic In Cold Blood (1966), a dark period in Capote's life as during that time he faced major challenges both personally and as a writer. It should be noted that Capote didn't deliver another completed manuscript after 1966 and struggled with the notorious "writer's block" that seemed to have eliminated his edge as a creator. Even his renowned observational skills that allowed him to take a glimpse into the depths of someone's soul have begun to fade while his gargantuan alcohol consumption made things even tougher.

Capote was a high-profile writer who enjoyed mingling with New York's elite and forged robust bonds mostly with women. He was an outspoken homosexual at a time when the majority of both men and women didn't look kindly on "fags" and his effeminate body language and attitude never went unnoticed during his many public appearances. His voice occupied the middle spot in the vocal spectrum, standing right on the border that separates the verbal tone of men and women. Capote is infamous for the various feuds that he held with other authors and celebrities and his vendetta with Gore Vidal is still discussed in the literary cycles. The fact that both of them were gay did nothing to reduce the intensity of their mutual antipathy as each one had adopted a radically different public persona. Capote was the definition of camp, several years before the term became popular, and manifested a spirit of jollity and conviviality while Vidal exemplified a more manly demeanor and won people over mainly by employing his distinctive epigrammatic wit.

The second season of Feud features, once again, a shiny cast of superstar actors: Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Demi Moore, and Chloë Sevigny incarnate the NYC socialites whom Capote named as his "swans". However, it is Tom Hollander who steals their thunder as his portrayal of Capote is so accurate and psyched-up that draws a fair comparison to Philip Seymour Hoffman's extraordinary performance in Bennett Miller's 2005 feature film Capote. Hollander puts himself forward as a nominee for the best fictional representation of the late American author along with P. S. Hoffman and Toby Jones, who played Capote in the 2006 film Infamous by Douglas McGrath, being the most prominent adversaries. Capote's fictional onscreen portrayals commenced in Mark Christopher's 1998 54 with Louis Negin in the role of the author, though the three aforementioned performances stand at a higher level than any other. Hollander impresses with his absorption of Capote's voice, offbeat mannerisms, and body language, elevating the quality level of the production as a whole and rising above his co-stars who do a more than decent job in the impersonation of their respective characters.

The story of the feud between Capote and the group of women consisting of Babe Paley (N. Watts), C. Z. Guest (C. Sevigny), Ann Woodward (D. Moore), Nancy -"Slim"- Keith (D. Lane) and Lee Radziwill (C. Flockhart). Capote stood as the linchpin that held this atypical "family" together and the women tended to confide in him their secrets and innermost thoughts. The narrative kickstarts when one of Capote's stories (La Côte Basque 1965) is published on Esquire. Capote, who used to be close -even intimate- with Babe Paley does the unthinkable: uses her dirty laundry -husband's infidelities- in his story leaving little room for doubt regarding the identity of the real-life persons upon which the story was based. Babe is devastated and joins ranks with the other women in order to destroy Capote in the full sense of the word. Thus, the feud begins and as wise people use to say "hell hath no fury like women scorned", thus anything can be expected.

Watching the first two episodes of this second season of Feud made me inclined to believe that this cycle will be significantly better than the previous one. Don't get the wrong idea, I found the celebrity battle between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to be hugely entertaining but season 2 has all the hallmarks of a show that is destined to be remembered for long. The production values are higher and all the team that works both in front and behind the scenes surpass themselves and offer something unique. Readers who appreciate Truman Capote's work are not allowed to skip this one as the show focuses on an entirely different period in the author's life than both Capote and Infamous. The two movies revolved around the time when Capote made his extensive research in Kansas to write his magnum opus In Cold Blood while Feud's creators (Ryan Murphy, Michael Zam, and Jaffe Cohen) chose to tell a story that is lesser-known but juicy as anything in terms of adaptability.


Feud: Capote vs. The Swans
TV Series
Ryan Murphy, Michael Zam, Jaffe Cohen
Written by
Jaffe Cohen ... (created by) (8 episodes, 2017) Jaffe Cohen ... (written by) (3 episodes, 2017) Ryan Murphy ... (created by) (8 episodes, 2017) Ryan Murphy ... (written by) (2 episodes, 2017) Michael Zam ... (created by) (8 episodes, 2017) Michael Zam ... (written by) (3 episodes, 2017) Jon Robin Baitz ... (created by) (5 episodes, 2024) Jon Robin Baitz ... (developed for television by) (2 episodes, 2024) Jon Robin Baitz ... (written by) (2 episodes, 2024) Jon Robin Baitz ... (developed by) (1 episode, 2024) Laurence Leamer ... (based on the book by) (5 episodes, 2024) Laurence Leamer ... (based on the book 'Capote's Women' by) (3 episodes, 2024) Tim Minear ... (written by) (4 episodes, 2017) Gina Welch ... (written by) (3 episodes, 2017)
Tom Hollander, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Chloë Sevigny, Demi Moore, Calista Flockhart
Based on the book by
Laurence Leamer
Production Companies
Plan B Entertainment (Plan B) Ryan Murphy Productions Fox 21 Television Studios 20th Television
8 episodes/55 minutes

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