WASP Godfather: Whit Stillman’s Town & Country Cover Story

With “Damsels In Distress” set to debut next month, Whit Stillman is the subject of Town & Country‘s April cover story. Hearst’s publicity department was kind enough to send over a preview (which I’m not allowed to post, alas), and the story has some interesting revalations about this unique filmmaker devoted to deadpan humor and the preppy class.

Turns out Stillman’s godfather is none other than E. Digby Baltzell, the very man who coined the term “WASP” in his book “The Protestant Establishment.”

Hudson Morgan, the story’s author, writes:

… his parents… were richer in name than fortune, and when they divorced, in Stillman’s early teens, what money tey had was spent on things like boarding school. As a result, Stillman is polite but not pretentious (he drinks Dunkin’ Donuts coffee), well spoken but not pedantic (he aske me as many questions as I ask him), and well loved but not a household name (his three films have grossed just $13 million collectively).

How unique is he in American filmmaking?

“If you said a bad word on the open mike he’d look at you and shake his head,” says [leading lady Greta] Gerwig, shaking hers sternly in imitation. “And at the end of each day it felt perfectly natural to express myself in a many-claused sentence that had lots of commas and caveats.”

Finally, regarding Stillman’s possible move to Ireland for his next film:

It makes you wonder — along with the fact that the dudes in “Damsels” don’t so much wear loafers as just loaf — if this is Stillman’s way of signaling the demise of the Alpha Prep. “Never!” he replies with mock solemnity. “It will come again. It’s just being surreptitious. It’s a strategic retreat to later advance.”

“Damsels In Distress” opens April 6. — CC

9 Comments on "WASP Godfather: Whit Stillman’s Town & Country Cover Story"

  1. Boston Bean | March 11, 2012 at 3:22 am |

    From the Web:

    Because the term “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” seemed too long to use in the tables of his 1964 book – “Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America” – Baltzell saved space by using “WASP.” He had no idea it would instantly enter America’s lexicon.

  2. Richard Meyer | March 11, 2012 at 11:16 am |

    Baltzell= One of my true culture heroes.

  3. Thanks for posting this Christian! I might just have to pick this Town&Country up.

  4. Dutch Uncle | March 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm |

    Apparently the afficionados of slım fit OCBDs who read this blog didn’t find this posting as interesting as ramblings about Black jazz musicians or Japanese copycats.

  5. ‘Japanese copycats’ . . . Are you 11 years old?

  6. A post is a failure if it doesn’t generate at least 100 responses, 90% of which are off-topic and inflammatory and/or derogatory.


  7. @Dutch Uncle

    You slept through most of “troll class”, didn’t you?

  8. I had no idea Mr. Stillman had a new movie coming out, I can’t wait. What revelation to find Stillman’s godfather was Baltzell he is a legend.

  9. A.E.W. Mason | March 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

    There’s a very interesting feature article on Whit Stillman in today’s Sunday New York Times. He’s apparently a very Churchillian character; he adored a powerful father who largely ignored him (until the last years of the father’s life). By my math the elder Stillman was born in 1918, making him a “Greatest Generation” father, as was my own. Stillman is 60; I’m pushing 57. Father’s of that era were just like that, and Stillman is an excellent observer of, and commentator on, the residual psychological impact of that “species” on their kids. I can’t help but find it ironic that men of my age – and I’m especially guilty of it — are so fascinated by the Ivy League style effected by their fathers. But there it is. It’s now forty years since my father introduced me to J. Press and Chipp. To me those names conjure up cultural connotations with which I could fill a book. To him, he’d say: “Yes, well, we dropped pleats and waistcoats due to war rationing and so we figured we’d just keep it that way. It was straightforward. We liked that.” And that would be it. Sorry to go on. Ivy Style is a great achievement. Keep up the excellent work.

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