In Hulu’s ‘Feud: Capote vs the Swans,’ Truman Capote stirs drama in the high society of New York after publishing the intimate details of their lives as a part of his new novel. While the betrayal comes as a shock to his friends, this isn’t the first time Truman did that. As the episodes unfold, a clearer picture of his friendship with the Swans comes to light, especially how he would act as their support system while also, at times, manipulating them in the process.
The third episode focuses on his infamous Black and White Ball, where Katharine Graham of The Washington Post is his guest of honor. But she, too, discovers how Truman can use people’s personal tragedies to his own ends. The mention of her husband’s tragic fate makes things awkward. What happened to him? SPOILERS AHEAD
Phil Graham Struggled with Mental Health Issues
Katharine Graham’s Husband, Phil, died on August 3, 1963, at the age of 48 due to a gunshot wound, which he inflicted on himself with a 28-gauge shotgun. He didn’t leave any note behind to reveal why he took such a step, but the people close to him knew of his mental health struggles and how his condition had been worsening with time. He was survived by his wife, their three sons, and a daughter.
In her book, ‘Personal History,’ Katherine Graham revealed that her husband suffered from “numerous illnesses, increasingly so as the years went by.” She noticed that he had started drinking too much, and this started to cause a strain on their relationship. When sober, he would try to make up with his wife, which soon became a pattern as his alcohol habit worsened. At the same time, he also started to have issues with his health, and he started to get frail. His mental health also suffered because of it.
His wife first realized that he was seriously struggling when he started weeping one night and couldn’t stop. He was in a major bout of depression and told her that he “felt trapped, no longer able to go on, that everything was black.” He also had “overwhelming doubt about himself and his abilities, a desire to seclude himself from the world, indecision even about what pair of shoes to wear, guilt, and occasional talk of suicide.” This was a clear sign that he needed help.
Slowly. Phil recovered and went back to work at the Post, which he’d inherited from his wife’s father and turned into a success compared to the failing venture it was when he came on board. He was deeply involved in politics and had ties to the likes of Lyndon Johnson. While work did keep him busy, it didn’t help his condition, which only worsened with time.
In 1962, his marriage with Katharine suffered a blow when he started an affair with Robin Webb, an Australian journalist. Katherine found out about it through a phone call between them that she overheard. At first, he promised to end things with Robin because he wanted to be with his family, but then the affair continued. At one point, when he was traveling with Robin, mostly because of business, he lost the agency of his senses for a while, which concerned the people around him so much that the moment he was back in Washington, he was taken to the George Washington University Hospital, following which he was sent to Chestnut Lodge, a private mental hospital.
Once out of Chestnut Lodge, Phil went back to Robin, and this time, he claimed he was going to divorce Katherine and be with his mistress for good. But five months later, he came back home, and his condition was even worse than when he left. He went back to Chestnut Lodge, and Katherine noted that he looked better a week into his treatment. A few weeks into the treatment, Phil asked for a day pass from the hospital, claiming that he felt much better now, and the doctors believed him because he did look better. That day, he had lunch with his wife, and later, they went to separate bedrooms for a nap. A few minutes later, Katherine heard a loud noise, and when she went to her husband’s room, she found him dead.