Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, PSH

Gerald Clarke’s 1988 biography, Capote, was a commercial success and inspired the film for which Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for Best Actor in the film in 2005, Capote.

The apex of Truman Capote’s career comes for inventing a new literary genre in the 1960s, with the creative non-fiction crime story, In Cold Blood which he co-wrote the script with director Richard Brooks and starred Robert Blake.

Truman Capote the Man

Truman Capote was eccentric. From Monroeville, Alabama, he grew up next door to Harper Lee—she later fictionalized Truman in her book To Kill a Mockingbird. There was nothing ordinary about Capote’s personality.  Sparkling and outlandish, his friendships with movie stars and the international élite made him a desirable addition to parties. Coupled with his witty intellect, his literary reputation, and his knowledge of gossip, he transformed himself into a charismatic character. The only person alive today who I can compare him to is Elton John.

Truman Capote was a product of his own big imagination stuffed into a 5’3 frame.  I recommend the biography by Gerald Clarke who interviewed him and created an authentic account before Truman’s passing in 1984 to liver disease.

Truman Capote was the one who wrote the book, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He oversaw the iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn. He hated the butchering of his story but loved partying with the cast. However, it was the instant success of his non-fiction crime story, In Cold Blood, published in 1965 which sealed his literary notability. When Capote read of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas, he traveled to the crime scene and recreated the events in a suspenseful narration.  He sat for weeks with the death row pair who shot and killed the family. Truman Capote put us in the minds of the ex-convict killers and the reader looked beyond the crime and saw them as human.  This creative non-fiction style was the first of its kind making Truman Capote famous.  The film version of In Cold Blood  was an excellent film.

Capote (2005)

The film Capote was a biopic of Gerald Clarke’s biography and focused on the events surrounding the creation of the book, In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman was great in the film showing his versatility as an actor able to recreate an unusual person.  Actor Toby Jones was furious not to get the part complaining that Philip Seymour Hoffman wouldn’t pull it off since Hoffman was 5’10 and Toby Jones a more proper height at 5’3. Plus, Toby Jones is a fine actor and the spitting image of Truman Capote.

Regardless, Philip Seymour Hoffman captured the essence of the author and the top award at the Oscars.  Toby Zones got his own shot playing Capote in the 2006 version of the story called Infamous.

It’s a unique cluster of stories surrounding the amazing Truman Capote. I would recommend reading the biography, the book, and then watch PSH in the film and don’t forget the 1967 film In Cold Blood.  All stand on their own as solid entertainment.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”   Truman Capote

What did you think of the book and the films?

31 thoughts on “Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, PSH

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    1. He is one of the only actors out there that seemed to know how to catch quirky, great roles. I think because he isn’t 6’4 and gorgeous, he was able to really sink his teeth and experiement.

  1. Fine piece Cindy. I haven’t read or seen In Cold Blood but Capote was an excellent film and Hoffman was just sublime in the role. Even though he received the Oscar, though, I still think he’s delivered much stronger stuff.

    1. Yes–we both love PSH. My favorite–there’s so many to choose from–I know you loved The Master, for example, but my favorite is still Cold Mountain. He nailed the corrupt pastor and gave such a full bodied performance that really elevated the film. Twice as much as the leads did. sigh.

      1. I intend to check into both, actually. You’ve piqued my interest. Hopefully, the public library has an e-book version available.

        (Incidentally, I’m on the waiting list to check out Oryx and Crake.)

      2. How sweet! It’s good. The second is better. I’m about to start the third and final part of the trilogy. I hope you appreciate her style. She’s dry and thought provoking. I just finished watching Redford in ‘All is Lost’ and was thorooughly disappointed. What a crappy film. Ugh!

  2. I always learn something new whenever I go to your blog Cindy, so thank you! I haven’t seen the film nor am I familiar w/ Mr. Capote, but I will definitely try to watch the film this year.

    1. He’s a fascinating character in 20th Century literary circles as well as the film. What a hoot. He used to scour the newspapers daily and rehearse before going to a party. He literally was the life of the party. I admired him because he would travel many months of the year to Spain or Greece and just spend his days writing. I’m so jealous.

  3. I remember when this came out and people were horrified to know it was a true story. Nowadays – this looks like a walk in the park compared to the nutcases out there now. But – YOU did a great post!

  4. One of my favourite authors. Love all the books, and short stories, of his I’ve read. Am yet to read In Cold Blood, haven’t seen that movie either.
    You mentioned Harper Lee’s fictionalization of Truman Capote, but Truman Capote did the same with Lee in ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ (I blogged about this book back in 2012).
    I liked both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Zones in their respective roles.
    It’s sad what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman, he was a really good actor.

    1. We are on the same page, here! I agree. I wish I had his lifestyle. He and his partner would go and live in Spain for six months so he could “just write”. Wow. I wish I could do that! I”m not surprised about Capote fictionalizing Harper Lee. According to the biography, he thought her book To Kill a Mockingbird was overrated. Probably sibling-type jealousy. I am a fan of Toby Jones–loved him in The Painted Veil….:)

  5. I read the book “In Cold Blood” and saw the movie. Brilliant! Sad that it happens to be a true story. From what I recall, Capote’s theme was that one guy couldn’t commit the murders without the other. They fed off each other.

  6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all-time faves. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my 1001 list. I read In Cold Blood last year and thought it was fantastic. Haven’t seen that movie. I did see Capote and thought Hoffman did a great job. I was sad to hear about his death this week.

    1. I know, what a talent. He seemed to be a solid presence in many films always bringing the film to new heights because of his acting. Hope you get a chance to check out more Capote! 🙂

  7. The murder of the Clutter family in their isolated Kansas farm house were particularly frightening. for those inhabiting the thousands and thousands of farm households across the country. For anyone who has not experienced such a life, it may be difficult to understand what it might be like. When Capote’s book, In Cold Blood, I read it, but could feel no sympathy for the perpetrators of the crime. Although critically acclaimed, I felt the book perverse and that the author was capitalizing on a heinous crime.

    1. Hi Allen:
      Capote’s fame came from the new genre–non-fiction novel–he created with ‘In Cold Blood’. . I have lived in isolated farm areas and I understand your comment about the fright and the magnification of the horror because of the setting. To be alone, truly alone, is the hardest thing humans have to contend with “they” say. I sure don’t sympathize for the killers. Any empathy I feel is sadness that a human being reaches a point where life is meaningless and to slaughter another is acceptable. I’m writing a post as we speak about Nazism–I’ve never understood how humans could do such a thing to one another–WWII was an atrocity on many levels. While heroes like your uncle deserve respect for their tenacity and bravery, I see no value, in fact, I detest total war. As for Capote, I’m sure he enjoyed the fame and $$ that came from such a successful novel and film. He was a unique human being.

      1. I look forward to you post on Nazism. I see it as something far more reaching than as practiced by the Germans and their allies in World War II. Too often, perhaps as a form of denial, all of the horrors of Nazism are attributed to the Germans and we forget that they were not in this alone. What they did was industrialize, if you will, what has been going on for millennia and continues even today in various parts of our world. I have tried to make sense of all this for years, and I have never found an acceptable answer. I think, though, that Nazism thrives whenever our politicians, i.e., our leaders of whatever stripe, mobilize one group against another for their own political ambitions. When a politician starts to appeal to one group by telling them they are disadvantaged and that he will take care of them, the door is open to Nazism. This goes on in our own country and in countries across the globe. The pity is that it is so easy to do . . . . To call them out on it is to subject oneself to personal attack.

        As for Truman Capote, yes, he was a unique human being. He was an interesting person found a niche and played it to the fullest.

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