Deborah Kerr on Truman Capote: Air and Sugar and Warmth

Truman Capote captured by Carl Van Vechten

Interview with Deborah Kerr
Conducted by James Grissom
Via Telephone

I don't mean this to be condescending or critical or...Well, I thought of him always as a child. Very sweet and small and tentative. I know that he had another image: He had a reputation as a fighter, as mean. I never saw this.

He was attracted, he claimed, to sweet women, and he saw me in this way. I did not threaten him, and I was charmed by him. I enjoyed him.

I think of him and I remember notebooks--beautiful, expensive books, bound in leather--that he filled with his tiny, compressed handwriting. He loved words, and he would admit that he was playing with them all the time. He was obsessive about the rhythm of the sentence, and would add a word, subtract a word. Alchemy and mathematics and music, he called it.

He gave me one of those expensive books, after I'd admired one. I couldn't do anything with it. It was too grand for lists, and I'm not one to keep a diary. He told me to describe things, to describe myself. I couldn't do it. And he closed his eyes, and he said something like, She's the shiny machine of cotton candy: Air and sugar and warmth and lightness. Sweet Deborah Kerr.

You can forgive a lot when someone says things like that about you.

© 2017  James Grissom

Deborah Kerr and Truman Capote enjoyed a social friendship, but their happiest moments were spent on the set of Jack Clayton's film The Innocents, which boasted a script by Capote.


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