In Hulu’s ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans,’ the audience is transported to the 70s, where Truman Capote lands himself in a terrible fight with the women he was supposed to be best friends with. While he prides himself on being the kind of person who knows everything about everything, even when most people would miss those things, he somehow misses the wreck he would create by ruining his friendship with the Swans, most prominently, Babe Paley.
Over the course of the season, several things about their friendship and how it deteriorated come to light. The show also makes passing remarks about some very important moments in Babe’s life, which didn’t make the cut in the show. One of those life-altering moments was her car accident.
Babe Paley’s Accident Changed the Way She Looked
When Truman Capote and Babe Paley first land in each other’s orbit, the writer impresses the socialite with his knowledge of things, especially people’s best-kept secrets. When Truman claims that he thinks he and Babe will become best friends, he spills her secrets that he’s already privy to. He mentions the car accident, which no one was supposed to know about, mainly because it happened such a long time ago.
The accident that Capote refers to happened in 1934. At the time, Babe was still miles away from being inducted into New York’s high society and making her mark on the world. The details of the case remain hazy on certain parts, but there are some things that have been confirmed by people who knew Babe Paley at some point. Reportedly, it happened one night when she was coming back home from a party on Long Island with her boyfriend at the time. It’s not clear how the accident happened, but its intensity was truly horrifying.
The accident left a huge mark on Babe’s face. Her front teeth were knocked out, and her mouth and jaw suffered terrible bruises. In his book, ‘Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era,’ Laurence Leamer mentioned how the accident “left her a mass of bruises, blemishes, and scars.” Luckily, her father knew a good surgeon who suggested that Babe get reconstructive surgery. What happened next was not what Babe or anyone who saw her following the accident had expected. In the surgery, the doctors redid Babe’s face such that she appeared to be even more beautiful once she was fully recovered. But she didn’t know it at the time.
Following the surgery, Babe’s face was left scarred, and she would use a chiffon handkerchief to hide the lower half of her face. Slowly, the wounds healed, the scars lightened, and Babe’s features were noted to be “unblemished and perhaps even more heightened.” This was shortly before her debut in society, following which she quickly rose the social ladder. She went to New York City, where she got a job working for Vogue, which widened her prospects. She eventually married Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr., established herself as a person to watch out for in social and fashion circles had two children, divorced Stanley, married Billy Paley, left her job, and had two more children. In between all this, she continued to be the epitome of glitz, glamour, and beauty, which eventually crossed her paths with Truman Capote.
While the post-surgery beauty changed her image in society, she was the only one who knew about the pain that this fame and popularity cost her. Reportedly, she once confided in Capote that she still had scars from the accident and the surgery, which she would hide using make-up and the false teeth she got after the accident “ached incessantly.” This wasn’t something that Babe could talk about with just anyone, and the fact that she confided this pain of hers in Capote shows how close they were and what a betrayal it must have felt for her following Capote’s Esquire article.