For a man as loudly individual and extroverted as Truman Capote – bestselling author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Ebs Burnough’s documentary begins remarkably intimately. Capote’s former assistant, Kate Harrington, describes her early meetings with the great American author, who began a relationship with her father and unofficially adopted her. The Capote Tapes immediately and personally establishes the writer’s unending charm and ability to foster trust, which is further supported by the tapes The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton conducted with Capote’s friends in the years following his 1984 death.

Burnough merges Plimpton’s tapes with archival footage, fleshing out details with present-day remembrances from Capote’s remaining circle. Thankfully, subtitles are provided for the grainiest recordings, so modern viewers will not miss a word of Lauren Bacall’s sparkling recollections. These memories tell the story with little interpolated narration – perhaps the safest choice, but a story this distinct needs no additional stylings.

In its 100 minutes, The Capote Tapes wisely centralises In Cold Blood as the foil and predecessor to Answered Prayers, his second unfinished “non-fiction novel” whose first chapter led to his public disgrace. Through past and present voices, Capote’s ability to “seduce a whole town” over In Cold Blood’s six-year research period – and New York’s elite during Answered Prayers’ decades – comes to the fore, throwing his personal and professional relationships into a more convoluted light. Burnough avoids judgements of the writer’s brilliant, if calculated, journalistic technique, but juxtaposing his closeness with “witnesses” he wheedled private details from raises questions on the ethics of writing and the ownership of stories.

A frank, elegantly constructed story about an Icarian observer whose personability and professional voyeurism became his downfall, The Capote Tapes avoids both hagiography and sensationalism. It is a valuable and accessible resource, proving the truth to be a fine story in itself.



DIRECTOR: Ebs Burnough

WRITERS: George Plimpton, Ebs Burnough, Holly Whiston

SYNOPSIS: George Plimpton’s hours of interviews with Truman Capote’s friends in the wake of his death are presented here with new interviews and archival footage to illuminate the famed author’s fall from social grace.

The Capote Tapes will be available at and on all digital platforms across the UK and Ireland from 29 January.