Picks and Pans Review: Biography: Truman Capote: the Tiny Terror

UPDATED 12/15/1997 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/15/1997 at 01:00 AM EST

A&E (Wed., Dec. 17, 8 p.m. ET)

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George Plimpton sums up the tragedy of Truman Capote better than anyone else in this hour-long documentary. Once Capote became "the most famous writer in America," Plimpton says, it was "very hard to go back to the discipline of writing." The workmanlike program covers the Capote story from his lonely Alabama boyhood to his death at 59 from the effects of alcohol and drug abuse. Almost as sad as his passing was his passage from highly respected writer (In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany s) to professional party animal and overexposed talk show raconteur. Though the narration exaggerates in saying Capote "wrote some of the best-known books of the 20th century," it may be accurate in rating his "black-and-white ball"—a bash he threw at New York's Plaza Hotel in 1966—as "the party of the decade." In the '70s, we're told, he was shattered when the swells shunned him because he spilled their secrets in published excerpts from his novel Answred Prayers. He never finished the book, but he got lots of dancing done at the disco of the decade, Studio 54. "He had a great sense of rhythm," says Capote biographer Gerald Clarke. Faint praise is truly damning.

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