Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation


‘You don’t have to be an English lit major to enjoy this…an ideal introduction to the work of both men…’

The picture above says it all, but the story is an engrossing one. Two very different men, both pulled forwards by irresistible forces, each remarkable in their own way. Playwright Tennessee Williams lived like a king on the back of a series of ground-breaking plays and films, even when the movies distorted his original meaning. Truman Capote’s work also suffered on the way to the big screen in terms of censorship, but although he partied hard, a mordant outlook always emerged, and an unhappy end loomed. That two such huge literary figures could be long-time friends is quite a tale, and Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary, distributed by Dogwoof in the UK, feels like its made for posterity,and that’s no bad thing.

I’d initially not been keen; having studied Williams’ work, but not Capote’s, I felt I knew too much about one and not enough about the other to enjoy this. As it turns out, that’s not really a problem, since this film turns out to have a number of approachable angles. The key is great archive in the form of dual interviews, with both Williams and Capote facing a tv interrogation at the hands of David Frost, who asks remarkably similar questions and makes possible some smart intercutting. Sparks fly; Capote describes Williams as ‘not intelligent’ which is something of a slam. Meanwhile Williams finds that ‘friendship and love are the same thing.’, a sweeping statement cannily designed to take various personal tensions out of the equation. Frost himself gets quite a lot of screen-time; the idea that playwrights and authors were deemed interesting enough to question about love at prime-time hermetically seals the content in the past, but preserves something worthwhile.

As careers go, Williams peaked too early and knew it; Capote became famous for his own fame, and set a deliberately bad example of how to feed on society’s darkest elements then vomit the whole lot up in prose and words. Capote’s treacherousness clearly hurt Williams, but the gap was one that Capote seems to have been keen to close, and the overall picture is of two men who adored each other’s company, and the pleasure-seeking life-style which was opened up for them.

You don’t have to be an English lit major to enjoy this; with juicy clips from the faithful bits of the hit films made from their works, this is an ideal introduction to the work of both men. While there’s no burning question or narrative through line, both men’s sexuality was somewhat gingerly handled by the press during their lifetimes, so this documentary does an admirable job in setting the record straight. The merging of the talent’s interviews and writing is seemly; I didn’t realise until the final credits rolled that Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto read the texts in lieu of primary sources, but it figures. There’s a degree of artifice required to being the ghosts of the past to life; Tennessee and Truman works because such care has been taken to recreate a friendship that’s truly one for the ages.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation – available in virtual cinemas & on Dogwoof on Demand from 30th April. See also

Photo credit for the wonderful images at the top; Truman-Tennessee-An-Intimate-Conversation.-Photo-of-Tennessee-Williams-Courtesy-by-Clifford-Coffin-Truman-Capote-1948-by-Irving-Penn-©-The-Irving-Penn-Foundation.png


Leave a Reply
  1. So, I had to use control f to even find the “we’re best literary buds” comment. I can deal with reading through 50 to maaaaaaaaybe 70 comments, but on a weekday my time is limited. This 100+ stuff isn’t on the menu.

  2. It’s a terrible shame that our culture has swung roundly about do-nothing celebrities (happened on a David Letterman show on Netflix interviewing a Kardashian, the presumption of the woman as well as the medium that we should care about her, her views, her foibles, and her midnight fears is astounding), I long for discussions with authors and thinkers rather than just the endless stream of wealthy twits whose actual value is honestly no more than the flesh on their bones. Henry David Thoreau once quipped about the reality of the pyramids being overblown tombs for jackasses who should have been tossed in the Nile is apt.

    • I’m enjoying the Dick Cavett show on YouTube. Like you, I miss the serious interview and the days when people listen to each other. Frost is amazing here, his line of questioning is intrusive, yet sensitive. Amazing clips, no way this will ever come back. The idiocracy rules.

      • Incidentally while Marc Maron’s podcast generally involves comics and actors, he also, occasionally interviews an author or musician from time time. I find those particular guests the most intriguing.
        The other amusing note here is that I just started reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s to sort of line it up with the famous (and awfully twee) movie. Though having read about 40 pages of the novella, its clear that Hepburn was doing a pretty close representation of Capote’s Golightly character! Surprise!

        • You are right on this count. It’s correct to say BAT is watered down and censored, but in this doc, there’s a clip of Audrey Hepburn doing dialogue that’s clearly direct from the novel; there’s vestiges of Capote’s original character for sure! Top marks for spotting that!

  3. It’s on prime, but it seems one has to pay a tenner for it, which really annoys me when I already pay £70 a year for the prime service. So I would have liked to see it but Nope.

Leave a Reply