Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
08
December 2009

Truman Capote arrives in Portofino

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The write Truman Capote in Portofino

Spring 1953: Truman Capote makes his entrance in Portofino in a red Renault accompanied by Jack Dunphy, his lifetime companion, and a noisy couple of dogs. Together they rent an apartment over the Delfino Restaurant, on the top floor with a grand terrace, and there they stayed until the end of October.

He was born in New Orleans in 1924. When he took this long vacation he was already a celebrity, known in his country for his gifts as a brilliant writer and for his intemperate and transgressive life. He had his literary debut in 1948 with the novel “Other Voices, Other Rooms“, followed the next year by a collection of short stories entitled a “Tree in the Night” and in 1951 by the novel “The Grass Harp”.

By 1953 he had already written for the theater and for the cinema.

He came to Portofino with the intention of working in peace and quiet on the screenplay for “The House of Flowers“, and at the same time on a project for a new collection of short stories. The distractions of summer proved to be many however, and he let a good part of the time slip by. At the same time, in Portofino, there were many gatherings of a whole slew of friends and celebrities.

Some, like Noel Coward and John Gielgud were staying with Rex Harrison and his wife Lilly Palmer. Others, like Tennessee Williams, the celebrated dramatist and author of among other works “The Glass Menagerie”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof“, and “Streetcar Named Desire” and Paul Bowles, the famous composer”, who with his wife lane were portrayed in the film “Tea in the Desert” by Bertolucci, were just passing through. A few, like Saint Subber, John Malcolin Buinniu, and Cecil Beaton had gone purposely to visit Truman.

It was above all with Cecil Beaton that Capote spent most of his time. Older then Capote by twenty years, Beaton was tall, thin, with silver hair, and was considered the personification of English refinement, the arbiter elegantiarum of London since the 1930’s when he became the preferred portrait photographer for the rich and socially prominent on both sides of the Atlantic. Together they must have appeared a strange couple.  As much as Cecil was distinct and elegant, Truman had an almost wild primitive look. Everyone describes him during this vacation like a little boy, bleached blond hair, dirty, with long finger nails, and always in bermuda shorts which at that time weren’t in fashion.

Together, they frolicked in the water, lay in the sun, and above all they talked and talked. The vacation proved very stimulating for Truman, to the extent that it became a true spiritual enrichment.  Back in the United States he continued to produce masterpieces.  We fondly recall “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1958, the novel which was transformed into an unforgettable film by Blake Edwards who would then begin the successful Pink Panther series with Peter Sellers.

Then in 1966 came the chilling “In cold Blood”, the disturbing account in novel form of a gruesome murder that actually happened, told in graphic minute detail. Corresponding to this great literary ascent was the inevitable decline of the man who died on August 24, 1984, destroyed by an immoderate abuse of drugs, alcohol and medicines.

Truman Capote
1924 – 1984

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