Movies

Capote vs The Swans Has One Surprising Link To The Gilded Age

Summary

  • Ward McAllister and Truman Capote both betrayed their closest friends by exposing their scandals, leading to their social downfall.
  • The publication of McAllister’s book, “Society As I Have Found It,” caused outrage among his elite friends and resulted in his ostracization from society, similar to Capote’s experience.
  • Both McAllister and Capote died alone and disgraced, realizing that their pursuit of the truth came at the cost of their security, stability, and societal acceptance.


Less than a hundred years before Truman Capote published “La Cote Basque” in 1975, a tell-all exposing the hypocrisy of New York society through sordid anecdotes about his closest female friends, another prominent socialite ruined a similar set of powerful women, tying Ryan Murphy’s FX limited series Feud: Capote vs. The Swans to Jullian Fellowes’ period drama The Gilded Age on Max. While the former examines the glamor of New York City’s most affluent population in the ’70s, The Gilded Age accomplishes the same in the late 19th century, when, like the characters in Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, capitalism galvanized unfathomable wealth for the city’s most industrious members.

Both series explore the gap between the Haves and the Have Nots, the hypocrisy of societal rules, and the way both are navigated by the most dedicated interlopers. Truman Capote (Tom Hollander), riding high after publishing his novel In Cold Blood, is an arbiter of taste and a keeper of secrets among the elegant socialites he calls his “swans,” and shortly before the turn of the century, Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane) performed the same function in the elegant dining halls of New York City’s Old Guard. Both men made one fatal error at the height of their influence, and it cost them their security, stability, and in Capote’s case, sanity.


The Gilded Age’s Ward McAllister Wrote A Book Exposing New York Society Women

He Betrayed His Closest Friends Just Like Truman Capote

The-Gilded-Age-season-2-Bertha-Russell-Walter-McCalister

Just like in The Gilded Age, the real Ward McAllister was friends with every prominent family in New York City before the turn of the 19th century, and a good friend to the most influential ladies in society. In The Gilded Age, he’s seen befriending both Agnes van Rhijn and Bertha Russell, who embody the feud between the Old Guard and New Money, and he plays both sides to his benefit. McAllister keeps their petty secrets knowing full well that the “dirt” he has on both of them will insulate him against aspersions to his own character, which might have worked if he didn’t decide to air their dirty laundry.

The publication of his book Society As I Have Found It is a historical scandal The Gilded Age season 3 should cover because it was as juicy an exposing treatise as anything Truman Capote could have written. McAllister wrote about the vacuousness of society, the innocuous nature of its privileged elite, and the tawdriness of his friends’ scandals through the decades that he’d spent in their midst. Friends, which included such Old Guard clans like Rockefellers, were shocked that someone they had let into their ballrooms could be so insidious, particularly since McAllister was known to make declarative avowals about society that treated it sacrosanct:

“A dinner invitation,” said McAllister, “once accepted, is a sacred obligation.”

Ward McAllister Was Ostracized From Society Just Like Truman Capote

His Society Friends Never Forgave Him

Tom Hollander As Truman Capote In Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans.jpg

After writing Society As I Have Found It, Ward McAllister watched as all of his prominent friends closed ranks against him. Gone were the dinner invitations, the garden parties, and the high teas. He found himself unable to get the best seats at The Metropolitan Opera, where he ordinarily could enjoy a box with the Russells, and was forced to sit among less elite circles. Like Truman Capote, he found that the sound of silence was deafening, and the cold shoulder from society’s most illustrious women more hurtful and decisive than anything, and the fact that the women would not dignify his memoir with a response was a response.

In Capote’s case, the glamorous “It Girls” of the ’60s like Babe Paley and Slim Keith refused to take his calls, lunch with him, or be seen on the same city block. His calls and cards went unanswered, and despite his attempts to send bouquets and letters, they utterly iced him out of society. McAllister wanted to write an all-encompassing and conclusive memoir that accurately reflected the travails of his life, and Capote wanted to reveal society’s hypocrisy as an author seeking the sublime truth, and both were summarily denounced by the very people who protected them from society’s unforgiving scrutiny.

Ward McAllister Died Alone & Disgraced Like Truman Capote For His Betrayal

The Pursuit Of Truth Wasn’t Worth The Sacrifice

Ward-McAllister-Nathan-Lane-The-Gilded-Age

Ward McAllister passed away while dining by himself at New York’s Union Club and in the depths of social disgrace after his memoir was published. Despite that fact, his funeral was well-attended by some of the very figures who had ostracized him. After years of substance abuse brought on by self-loathing and the ramifications of what happened between Capote and the swans, the author died in the arms of Joanne Carson, refusing any medical attention. His funeral was also densely attended, and his ashes were spit into two urns; one was kept by Johnny Carson’s ex-wife, and the other was given to Jack Dunphy, his longtime partner.

Related

Why Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans Has A Disclaimer

FX added a disclaimer in the end credits for Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans, the second installment in the series about famous Hollywood rivalries.

Ward McAllister was already prominent in the society of Savannah, Georgia, when he married Sarah Taintor Gibbons in 1853, a well-known heiress, whereas Truman Capote was born into the lower-class in New Orleans, Louisiana, and only came to know the socially elite of New York City after his mother married well. Capote was also a flamboyant gay man, who faced not only public scrutiny, but violence for this fact. While both well-dressed and mannered, the two men could not have been more different in their origin stories, except for their singular pursuit of the truth in examining the machinations behind society’s edifice and construction.

What astounds in both cases is the fact that these two titanic figures, who enjoyed influence within their social circles, thought that they were untouchable. It seems that somehow, even though Feud: Capote vs. The Swans makes changes to the story, both McAllister and Capote thought that even after they revealed the most torrid of scandals they would be welcomed back into their respective flocks without any repercussions. A lover of literature, Capote taught himself to read and write before he started school – would that he have read McAllister’s book and studied its ramifications, perhaps saving himself from a similar fate in Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.

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