The most moving moment in Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary, “Halston,” about the commanding and complex fashion designer, isn’t a secret revelation about his private life. It’s when one of his closest friends, Liza Minnelli, refuses to divulge anything bad about him.
Halston’s influenced spanned decades — he designed pillbox hats for first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and dresses for everyone. Tcheng’s lush, detailed documentary chronicles Roy Halston Frowick’s journey from Depression-era Midwesterner to disco’s favorite designer to Wall Street pioneer. He brought high fashion to JC Penney and used plus-size models and models of color at a time when few designers did.
Along the way, he did a fair amount of drugs, hurt some feelings, and made some mistakes — while making the world more beautiful. His muses included Elizabeth Taylor, Angelica Huston and, of course, Minnelli.
The film offers an honest, fair assessment of Halston’s life. Several people in the documentary criticize Halson, but Minnelli isn’t one of them. Her loyalty to her best friend is so intense that she refuses to offer a cruel word, even nearly three decades after his death.
“Halston,” from 1091 and CNN Films, is now playing in New York and opens this week in Los Angeles. In February, we spoke with Cheng and “Halston” producer Roland Ballester for our “Shoot This Now” podcast.
“We’re living in a day and age right now where I think talent is not necessarily… the top thing that famous people have,” Ballester told us. “But in that era, no one had the talent of Halston and no one had the talent of Liza, and together it’s a wonderful combination.”
We speak specifically about Minnelli and Halston’s relationship at the 14-minute mark, and at the 30-minute mark.
We also talk about:
-How a boy born in Iowa in the 1930s reinvented himself as a fashion icon (at the 7:10 mark)
-Why he made a deal to sell his fashion at JC Penney (11:30)
-Halston’s desire to dress “every woman in America,” regardless of race or body type (13:00)
-How “Citizen Kane” influenced Cheng’s documentary (17:20)
Here is the trailer: