“She always claimed that her idea for ‘The Great Fur Caravan’ shoot Avedon did for Vogue in Japan with Veruschka and a sumo wrestler was inspired by The Tale of Genji,” Immordino says. “She never even read it!”
While elegantly balanced, The Eye Has to Travel is not unsparing, skirting as it does any mention of the mistresses (Edwina Mountbatten was always rumored to have been one) of Vreeland’s conspicuously good-looking husband, Reed, a banker who was later employed by the Rigaud candle company. But it does address her discomfort with emotion and shortcomings as a materfamilias. Immordino rightly judged that the credibility of her film depended on getting Immordino’s father-in-law, Frecky, and his brother, Tim, to open up about their mother’s indifference-slash-neglect.
“There’s a reason they left New York,” says the willowy and fresh-faced 48-year-old director, whose interest in artifice, it turns out, is purely professional. Immordino is almost disarmingly natural and direct—what Vreeland would have called sans façon. “Both sons were absent during some of the most difficult moments in her life”—Frecky as U.S. ambassador to Morocco and Tim as the dean of architecture at UCLA. “And she clearly was not with them during theirs. But listen, kids have been treated worse.”
Kids, if not assistants. Ali MacGraw makes the point that The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly was not the first fashion magazine chieftess to bark orders or throw her coat at an underling. Unlike the fictional Andrea Sachs, however, MacGraw, straight out of Wellesley and on the receiving end of Vreeland’s manteau and commands (“Girl, get me some pencils!”; “I need Cecil Beaton!”), didn’t take it. In the film, the actress says she “chucked” her boss’s coat right back.
Immordino never knew Vreeland, a fact she thinks made keeping her distance easier. Still, she says, “Her life had this texture nobody else’s had, and she herself this openness, and you do become a little changed by it. She was interested in everyone—the security guards at the museum, a favorite cab driver she used to invite to dinner. But I’m not sure she would have liked me. I’m not sure I was her kind of girl.”