She Killed Her Husband, and Truman Capote Killed Her Reputation: The Story of Socialite Diva Anne Woodward

Juliette Morgan
She Killed Her Husband, and Truman Capote Killed Her Reputation: The Story of Socialite Diva Anne Woodward

Ryan Murphy and Gus Van Sant's long-awaited series Feud: Capote vs. the Swans is based on the story of the scandalous friendship between writer Truman Capote and the 1970s New York socialites he called his "swans." In addition to the fact that he betrayed his best friend Babe Paley, Capote is also blamed for the suicide of socialite Anne Woodward: she committed suicide after learning that Capote had exposed the secrets of her life in his new novel. Spltnk tells who Anne Woodward was and why Capote nicknamed her "Mrs. Bang Bang".

Деми Мур
Деми Мур в роли Энн Вудворд/Фото: Кадр из сериала "Вражда"/FX

Angelina Lucille Crowell, who later changed her name to the more sonorous Anne Eden, was born in 1915 in Pittsburgh (Kansas). She grew up the daughter of former military man and streetcar driver M. Jesse Crowell and school teacher with a master's degree, Ethel Smiley Crowell. When Angelina grew up, her parents divorced and she and her disillusioned mother moved to Kansas City, where she began running a city taxi service, and Ann studied for a year at a local college.

Woodward, like many girls from the provinces, dreamed of a better life, so at the age of 22 she moved to New York, cherishing the dream of becoming an actress and model. She quickly signed a contract with the agency and, thanks to him, got a job as a radio actress. In 1940, at the age of 25, she won the title "The Most Beautiful Girl on Radio."

The girl from Kansas's career was not going as successfully as she would have liked, so at night Anne danced for wealthy men at FeFe's Monte Carlo nightclub. She saw obvious advantages in this work: good tips and the opportunity to make the right acquaintances. Soon, William Woodward Sr., the father of her future husband, became her most promising client.

Иллюстрация ночного клуба FeFe's Monte Carlo
Иллюстрация ночного клуба FeFe's Monte Carlo/Фото: Vogue

He is the heir to a multimillion-dollar fortune, a racing-obsessed thoroughbred breeder, deeply married and raising five children. William was a frequent visitor to Monte Carlo, where he whiled away his time in the company of long-legged provincial beauties while his marriage to aristocrat Elsie Woodward was falling apart at the seams.

One evening, Woodward Sr. invited Ann to his table. Then their relationship began, about which there were many unflattering rumors later. They say that William was crazy about the bright dancer, but she, of course, was counting on more than rare meetings within the walls of the club. They both understood that Woodward would never leave his wife, especially for a girl like Ann, a failed actress from a poor, single-parent family.

Then, according to rumors, the millionaire decided that the only way to “keep Anne with him” would be to “transfer” her to his only son, William Woodward Jr., whom the secular press characterized as an avid bachelor who was not interested in girls. The father suspected that his son was still a virgin. He even heard rumors about his homosexuality*. It is difficult to imagine which of this could have been the biggest blow for the conservative father. They say that Woodward Sr. was sure that the bright Anne would save his son from his virginity, and dreamed of dispelling obscene rumors about his son, which were discussed by socialite New York over a glass of martini. Anne agreed, because she had a chance to get into that same bohemian world that she had long dreamed of, and it didn’t matter which way.

Уильям Вудворд — младший и Энн Вудворд
Уильям Вудворд — младший и Энн Вудворд/Фото: Keystone/Getty Images

William Woodward Jr., like his father, was an enviable bachelor: a Harvard graduate, served in the navy, and was the direct heir to a multimillion-dollar fortune with a ready-made career in the family bank Hanover. Woodward Sr.'s plan worked out perfectly: Anne Crowell and William "Bill" Woodward, who was five years her junior, met at the Copacabana nightclub in 1943. That same year, they were married at St. Luke's Memorial Episcopal Church in Tacoma, Washington. But the marriage, which Elsie’s groom’s mother was against, was controversially accepted in the circles of the New York elite, and Anne did not immediately manage to join the local high society.

In their early years, the couple lived in luxury: they had two sons, William III and James, and owned a townhouse on the Upper East Side, a farm in Maryland, and a 60-acre estate on the north shore of Long Island. They raised horses, attended charity events and went big game hunting in Africa. But Anne and William's personal relationship was fraught with jealousy: they had affairs and hired private detectives to spy on each other, and sometimes fought in public. At the same time, rumors about his possible unconventional orientation faded away. “One night at the El Morocco nightclub in Manhattan, she scratched Bill Woodward’s face until he bled after he pulled out a handkerchief with a lipstick stain on it,” Time magazine wrote in 1955.

Four years after the wedding, William Woodward Jr. asked for a divorce, but Anne refused him. She had something to worry about: she could lose not only her money, but also her position in society, which she had achieved with difficulty. After another eight long years of a doomed marriage, Anne herself put an end to it due to an accidental (or not) tragedy that Life magazine would later call “the shooting of the century.”

On the evening of October 30, 1955, after a party given in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the couple returned to their country home, alarmed by a string of thefts that had occurred in the Oyster Bay area where their mansion was located (several wealthy estates in the area had been robbed by a local drifter) .

The couple decided to play it safe: they placed loaded guns next to their beds and went to sleep in different rooms, since they had been sleeping separately for a long time. At about two o'clock in the morning, Anne heard rustling noises outside her bedroom and, in a panic, pointed the gun at the door. When it opened and Woodward saw a shadow approaching her, she fired twice in its direction. Anne was known for her accuracy and often boasted that she was a better shot than her husband. When the shadow fell on the floor, then Anne screamed because she realized that she had shot her Billy. The police who arrived at the scene for a long time could not calm the sobbing socialite sitting on the floor next to the body of her dead husband.

Особняк Белэр
Особняк Белэр/Фото: Quarterczar/Wikipedia

The tragedy divided the life of 40-year-old Ann Woodward into before and after. The incident caused a storm in the press and many completely different rumors. Many wondered: did she kill her husband on purpose? Despite the fact that the jury acquitted Anne and officially called the incident an accident, she was never again able to escape the stigma of a husband-killer. “The widow was no longer a dazzling glamor girl: shock and grief had noticeably aged her, and she was in a state close to collapse,” Time magazine wrote at the time.

For the next twenty years, socialites discussed what happened over lunch at the famous cafe La Côte Basque on 55th Street, after which the famous writer and gossip lover Truman Capote named his scandalous story. They went through many theories according to which Anne could have killed William intentionally, and also discussed why their relationship was such that she was afraid of her own husband on the threshold of the bedroom, mistaking him for a burglar. How is it possible that the wife was not ready for her husband to express a desire and show up in her bedroom late at night?

Знаменитое кафе La Côte Basque
Знаменитое кафе La Côte Basque/Фото: Marc Shepherd/New York Journal

All bohemia, including Truman Capote and his “swans,” knew that before the tragedy, Anne and William were on the verge of divorce. They gossiped about Billy's voracious sexual appetite, who in recent years had not hesitated to publicly have affairs with his mistresses, which infuriated his wife. They knew their relationship was often abusive on her part, putting Woodward at risk of losing custody of the children. Not a bad reason to get rid of her husband, who is discrediting Anne’s already tarnished reputation.

Another object of gossip was Woodward Jr.'s mother Elsie, who had just come to her senses after the death of her husband Woodward Sr. in 1953, and now had lost her only son. She was sure that Anne killed William intentionally, but surprised everyone by publicly supporting the version of an accident. It turned out that Elsie was simply not ready for the scandal and was worried about her grandchildren, who were sleeping peacefully in their beds at the time of the murder of their own father. Like their mother, gossip and speculation about his death haunted them for the rest of their lives.

Трумен Капоте
Трумен Капоте/Фото: Roger Higgins/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Wikipedia

Gossips put forward theories, for example, that Elsie wrote a good check to the first tramp she came across in order to testify, trying to exonerate her daughter-in-law. Police then surprisingly quickly arrested Paul Virts, who admitted that he had planned to break into the Woodward home that night but was startled by the sound of gunfire. For her freedom, Anne paid her mother-in-law the highest price - she gave up her children.

The story of the outsider Anne, first caught up in the closed world of New York's elite and later exiled, seemed a very attractive subject for writer Truman Capote. He, like Anne, was not born in a prestigious maternity hospital in Manhattan, but also fled for a better life from Alabama to New York. He liked to talk about this over a glass of martini to his “swans”: Babe Paley, Lee Radziwill, Slim Keith and CC Guest, who did not particularly think about the existence of any decent life outside of Long Island.

Anne Woodward and Truman Capote met after the tragic murder, in 1956, at a dinner with aristocrat Vicco Von Bulow in Switzerland. Before this, the writer knew members of the Woodward family, because in 1948, after the release of the book “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” he gained popularity among wealthy people in New York. Capote was sure that Anne intentionally killed her husband, and did not hide his opinion.

Викко Фон Бюлов
Викко Фон Бюлов/Фото: Pacific11/Flickr/Wikipedia

Anne and Truman did not see each other often. After her husband's funeral, which she was advised not to attend, Woodward was expelled from high society: she was no longer invited to social parties and dinner parties. At all. No matter how she tried to regain at least a share of her former authority, all attempts were in vain, and when she appeared in public, people did not hesitate to cast condemning glances in her direction.

One day she crossed paths with Capote at the beloved La Côte Basque, where they had a short conversation. He was featured in the first episode of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans. "Why does she keep looking at me?" - Truman (Tom Hollander) wonders during lunch with the swans. “Maybe because you keep telling everyone she’s a killer,” Slim Keith replies.

"You're a fucking little piece of shit," Anne tells Truman in the show. "I know what you're saying about me. You're telling people I killed my poor dead husband? That's slander and insult!" ]

During that actual conversation, Anne called Truman a "little [homosexual*]." In response, he pointed his finger at her and shouted, “Mrs. Bang Bang,” imitating shots from a gun. This nickname, like the shadow of the killer, stuck with Anne until the end of her life.

“Truman Capote may have hated socialite Anne Woodward because she reminded him so much of his mother,” writes Rosanna Montillo, author of “Intentional Cruelty: Truman Capote, a Millionaire’s Wife and the Murder of the Century.” “But perhaps he was so cruel to her because Anne Woodward seemed too much like himself.”

When Anne handed over the children to her mother-in-law, she went to Europe, where she spent time in the company of young men and drank heavily. Meanwhile, Capote was preparing for the publication of his new novel, “Answered Prayers,” after the publication of an excerpt from which, in the near future, he would face an equally cruel “secular trial” as “Mrs. Bang-Bang.”

In one of his characters, Capote recreated the image of Anne, giving her the name Anne Hopkins. He described her as a "cold-blooded killer" who shot her unfaithful husband after they returned home from a party. Anne Hopkins also claims that she mistook her husband for a robber, but in fact she kills him because her husband found evidence that Anne did not divorce her first husband. This would force her to give her husband a divorce, and he could remarry.

Обложка книги
Обложка книги "Услышанные молитвы”

Despite Truman Capote's claims that "almost everything" in Answered Prayers was true, there is no evidence that Anne, as stated in the novel, robbed neighboring estates herself to create the pretext that a thief was on the loose, and then deliberately shot her dead. husband in the shower, and carried his body into the corridor. There is also no evidence of her previous marriage that would make the Woodward union bigamous.

Spending the last years of her life in Europe, Anne knew that she was still the subject of gossip in the States. She knew that Capote was part of the circle that made her a favorite target. She didn’t want to see him and angrily called him “little toad.”

Woodward soon heard rumors of the imminent publication of an excerpt about her from Answered Prayers entitled "La Côte Basque 1965" in Esquire magazine. Anne was well aware that her story would go far beyond New York. After all, even in small towns in Europe, people recognized her several times as “that rich American woman who shot her husband and didn’t go to jail.” After her long journey, Anne returned to the United States and on the night of October 10, 1975, committed suicide in her New York apartment. A note was found by her bed. In it, she asked the nameless reader to “remember Anne Woodward.” A month after her death, the story "La Côte Basque 1965" was published. According to friends, Anne suffered from severe depression, which was aggravated by Capote's novel.

Обложка журнала за ноябрь 1975 года, в котором напечатан отрывок
Обложка журнала за ноябрь 1975 года, в котором напечатан отрывок "Услышанных молитв"/Фото: Esquire

"Well, that's it," Elsie Woodward said later, "she shot my son, and Truman just killed her. Now, I guess we don't have to worry about that anymore."

Following Anne, Capote also “died,” or rather his personality in the eyes of New York socialite. The story of his downfall after the release of an excerpt from "Answered Prayers" formed the basis of the new series "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans." Anne Woodward played Demi Moore in the film, and Tom Hollander appeared as Truman Capote. The script is based on Lawrence Leamer's bestselling book "Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and the Swan Song of an Era."

The fate of the children of William and Ann Woodward was also tragic: both of their sons committed suicide. Three years after Anne's suicide, in 1978, at the age of 31, James passed away, and in 1999, at the age of 54, William. Woodward, Ann and their sons are buried in the Woodward family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Уильям
Уильям "Вуди" III Вудворд/Фото: Find a Grave

Truman Capote and Anne Woodward had one thing in common - they created themselves. The writer was happy to talk about his background and youth in poverty in Alabama, but on his own terms, to create his own brand. As a result, Anne Woodward's brand was destroyed by murder, and Capote - by gossip at the dinner table. Perhaps Anne understood that she was just a target, and her life was excellent material for a novel, or perhaps her death had nothing to do with Capote. To this day, the exact reasons for her suicide are unknown. However, her last wish still came true, albeit in a perverted form: everyone still remembers Anne Woodward.

Том Холландер
Том Холландер/Фото: Кадр из сериала "Вражда"/FX

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