It’s not an April Fool’s Joke: Ryan Murphy’s Feud is officially coming back for a second season on FX, according to two separate Hollywood trade publications. While the first iteration focused on Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, season two will feature legendary author Truman Capote verbally duking it out with his cadre of socialite friends like Babe Paley, Slim Keith, CZ Guest, and Lee Radziwill. If those names mean nothing to you, well, expect a story about one of history’s wittiest gay men backstabbing one of the most glamorous cliques Manhattan has ever seen.
According to Deadline, the series will be based on Laurence Leamer’s book “Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era.” None other than Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant will direct all episodes, and Pulitzer-finalist Jon Robin Baitz has signed on to write the scripts. Naomi Watts is the first actress attached. She’ll play Paley, but producers are reportedly already circling several other Oscar-winning/nominated actresses to fill the part. Meanwhile, a “worldwide search” is underway to find the right man to play Capote. Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for playing the author in a 2005 biopic, though one has to wonder if producers will look to cast an openly queer actor for the role this time.
While we don’t know who will end up playing all the parts, we do know which real-life figures will end up in the series. Here, a breakdown of the characters in Feud: Capote’s Women.
Even before he became a national figure and cemented his place in the American literary cannon with 1966’s In Cold Blood, Capote was both a writer and society figure of prominence in New York City’s social scenes (thanks in no small part to the success of his earlier novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s). The success of Blood afforded him to throw his infamous 1966 Black & White Ball, still regarded as one of the most legendary parties in New York City history. He surrounded himself with the socialites of the time, but he ended up souring those relationship the best way a writer knows how: by writing about them.
In 1975, he published a chapter of his unfinished book Answered Prayers in Esquire magazine, which portrayed a lightly fictionalized portrayal of the marriage between his friend Babe Paley and her husband William, the chief executive officer at CBS. Other friends weren’t spared, either. Many dropped him from their social circles immediately, and Truman was quickly persona non grata in high society. Thus, the “Feud” of it all.
Girls still dream of living lives like Babe Paley’s, who will be played by Naomi Watts. The daughter of a prominent brain surgeon, she scored a job at Vogue in 1938, and was already noted as one of the best dressed women in the world by the early ’40s. She left Vogue in 1947 following her marriage to media tycoon William S. Paley, and became a full-time socialite. By 1958, she was a member of the Fashion Hall of Fame after appearing on the International Best Dressed List 14 times, and was a noted couture client. “I never saw her not grab anyone’s attention: the hair, the makeup, the crispness,” designer Bill Blass once said. “You were never conscious of what she was wearing; you noticed Babe and nothing else."
Rumor has it that the reason she became so fond of Capote’s company was because she was otherwise bored with life. Her husband, though in love with her, often cheated, and her children were being raised by nannies. Capote, of course, would later muse that he believed he was the only true friend she ever had in her life.
Yes, Jackie Kennedy is the mainstream icon, but fashion insiders have always regarded her younger sister Lee Radziwill as the true style icon. Although she was a mainstay of high society, she wasn’t afraid of a bit of edge—Radziwill and Capote once followed The Rolling Stones during their 1972 tour. Capote, in turn, worked hard to help Radziwill escape the public shadow of her elder sister by trumping her any chance he got by taking some public digs at Jackie O herself.
Yes, her daughter-in-law was on Real Housewives.
Another society doyenne who was already a member of the Best Dressed List Hall of Fame long before Capote met her, Guest was the daughter of a Boston investment banker. She dabbled in acting before marrying Winston Frederick Churchill Guest, a polo champion and member of a prominent British family (and, yes, a first cousin of the Winston Churchill).
Guest’s daughter Cornelia, who counted the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson as her godparents, would go on to become one of the most prominent Manhattan socialites of the ’80s.
Long before she came to New York, Slim Keith, a Californian by birth, was a Hollywood socialite who counted director Howard Hawks as her first husband. She’s also credited with paving the way for Lauren Bacall’s career by demanding her husband screen test her for an upcoming movie after seeing her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Keith, however, left her husband after he cheated on her, cooled off in Cuba for a while at Ernest Hemingway’s house, and reemerged on the New York social scene with a marriage to Leland Hayward, a prominent theatrical producer. (They eventually divorced. Rumor has it that was due to a one-night stand she had with Frank Sinatra.)
Keith was among the angriest at Capote after she suspected his character “Lady Coolbirth” was based on her—although some suspect the character was based on another socialite altogether.
Pamela Churchill Harriman
Harriman first came to prominence by marrying Winston Churchill’s son, but divorced him after he racked up debts and she racked up affairs. She married Leland Hayward just hours after his divorce from Keith became official. She also had a fling with Paley’s husband before their marriage—one of her many dalliances with powerful men. A British journalist once described her as “a world expert on rich men’s bedroom ceilings.” Fun gal!
In later life, she became a prominent fund-raiser for the democratic party, which led to Bill Clinton appointing her Ambassador to France.
Although she liked to pretend she was born to a humble seamstress and a political revolutionary, in reality, Guinness was born in Mexico to a prominent journalist father and a socialite mother. At some point in her life, she may or may not have been a spy ...possibly for the Nazis. No one knows for sure to this day. Despite this, she was often described as “the most elegant woman in the world.” She was married four times, and before becoming a Guinness (yes, the beer family) she was also married to a von Furstenberg and the son of an Egyptian princess. In later life, she wrote a column for Harper’s Bazaar.
Other Possible Characters
The reports suggest the series will focus on the group above, but there’s certainly room for other prominent socialites of the time to make appearances. That includes Gloria Vanderbilt (mother of Anderson Cooper), Happy Rockefeller, and Ann Woodward, a socialite who may or may not have murdered her husband and gotten away with it. Woodward actually inspired the main character in Capote’s scandalous story, and committed suicide days before its publication.