Savage Grace

The Background

Barbara Daly Baekeland was a wealthy socialite who was murdered by her son, Antony Baekeland. Baekeland had a complex and allegedly incestuous relationship with her gay son, Antony. She attempted to “fix” her son by having prostitutes take him to bed; after this failed, Baekeland was alleged to have manipulated or coerced her son into having sex with her.

Barbara & Antony Baekeland

The Baekeland’s were determined to promote Tony as some sort of child prodigy, constantly showing off to their friends about everything he had written or drawn at school. ‘They wanted the boy to be a genius,’ said artist Yvonne Thomas. ‘That’s what struck me. I felt uncomfortable with him because I felt he felt he had to be something.’

One acquaintance remembered the Baekeland’s ordering their young son to read aloud from the Marquis de Sade’s erotic writings. Another broke off contact with the couple after hearing Brooks’s evident pride as he described how Tony had pulled the wings off a fly to see how it would affect its balance. ‘That kind of sadistic behaviour is quite common in children, but one seldom sees a father who thinks it is marvellous,’ said the shocked friend. Read on… [Warning: Daily Mail]

The Film

A sick-room torpor hangs heavily about this masterfully controlled, elegantly composed movie by Tom Kalin. It is a sensational, lurid story: erotic and repulsive by overlapping turn. And it’s pulp fact. Barbara Daly was the would-be actress, artist and social alpinist who in post-war New York married wealthy Brooks Baekeland, a travel writer and heir to the Bakelite fortune.

Her drinking, her propensity for making a scene in public, and her weakness for pseudo-bohemian adulterous flings evidently made the marriage a living hell. She could find a smothering intimacy only with her gay son, Tony Daly. Mother, father and son created a dysfunctional love triangle which ended in violence and bloodshed.

It is a story of the very rich, a milieu rarely and not always convincingly rendered in the movies: a brittle world of selfish people who are never sympathetic and often never even comprehensible. Appropriately for the leisured classes, Kalin has an eye for the mood and feeling of ennui. When Tony helps his mother from the bath, the camera lingers on her knees and she looks as vulnerable as a sickly child. This is a gripping, coldly brilliant and tremendously acted movie. [Full Review]

Savage Grace Trailer


33 thoughts on “Savage Grace”

  1. Another weak excuse for an British publication (the Guardian in this case) to publish anything to do with preteen boy and nakedness /sex.
    In actual life, unlike what they suggest by adding a picture of a naked 12yo, the mother had not attempted anything with the boy until he was above 17 years-old. Something quite a few members of the family deny in any case.
    There is, though, quite a good amount of sordid activity to create a good film. Which is course the American film was keen to censor in good part.
    Censor Grace’s story? LIke making a film about the marquis de Sade, and avoiding the lurid bits.

    1. It’s the Daily Mail actually, so no surprises there. The people who comment on LGBT issues are some of the most virulent anti gay bigots ever.
      This article may be depressing for a Sunday, but avoid the Daily Mail comments section at all costs.

    2. “Another weak excuse for an British publication [whichever] to publish anything to do with preteen boy and nakedness/sex. . . . There is, though, quite a good amount of sordid activity to create a good film. Which is course the American film was keen to censor in good part.”

      While you’re quite right, that statement applies to any country/government in all fairness. That’s why those tacky society rags exist (paper or online) — to tittilate the the masses for the sales they most definitely get. And there’s no better tittalation for all of us than “news reports” about any preteens, boys or girls — but boys seem to generate the most sales — witness all the “reports” about the catholic church all around the world — not just the U.S.

      1. You are so right about boys generating the most sales. Boy beauty is one of the biggest denials (an enormous foreclosure) of our time. Especially in america.

        1. Working in films (seeing them speaking of them 24h/day), tv shows, etc. I can confirm there is a totally disproportionate amount of interest in 12yo boys in the last few years. It insane how much, and it seems to be getting worse. Funnily enough mostly from those very countries where it is most repressed (US, UK, France), never from Spainm italy, Argentina, where no one really bothers that much. I know also because my own films that feature boys sell massively in countries where it is most repressed, and hardly at all in other countries, including the country of origin of the films. Another proof, if we needed one, that the hysteria is caused produced by guilt of that very desire.
          A couple of the hundreds of example: the first truly interactive video game is created two years back. Who is the lead person they chose? ‘Milo’ …a cute 12yo boy. What was the catch phrase of the game ‘you can make him do anything’
          Or that British film about two brothers who discover a million pounds in a bag. A comedy. One brother goes back to see the bag, meets a rough homeless person, then leaves in a few seconds after. He meets his elder brother who then, COMPLETELY out of context asks his 10yo brother …if the man touched him ‘between his legs’.
          ?! wtf?
          what on earth was the script writer thinking about?!
          It’s extraordinary to what extent the repressed desires of a society shows up in these ways:

          Anyhow, enough of that. We already knew that. The question is when are the apologies going to arrive the way they did for crimes against ‘witches’, against ‘gays’, against ‘jews’…

          1. I would be interested if this were true but your post is all a bit anecdotal.

            In the last few years from Spain, for instance, there has been En Tu Ausencia (?) and the other films by the same director which featured here. From Italy, films like Respiro and so on.

            In fact the coming of age genre is well represented in all languages in all countries it seems. After all most filmmakers are men and most of them were once boys…

  2. Oh Josh!
    Too much black mood stuff for a Happy Sunday….
    Am still upset over your news of another young boy suicide in USA…
    Let’s take it easy .. no need to dwell on dysfunctional people such as this family…..

  3. Yes – we need happy news.

    Mikboys is a feelgood uplifting site –
    and has made my day many a time.

  4. “Other, potentially more disturbing stories began spreading about Tony. He would later tell psychiatrists that he’d had his first homosexual encounter at boarding school at the age of eight – and by 14 he was actively looking for sex with other males”.

    Guess that means I’m screwed then? What the f*** else is there to do at boarding school?

  5. Just watched this movie! So much fun! I wish I had more rich and eccentric friends. Although maybe a little less with the knife brandishing business. Julianne Moore gives another stunning performance.

      1. You have to excuse the Brits …. they’re too busy with their tea and crumpets to pay attention to what’s in front of them. :-)

        1. Sorry, I was too busy hunting an thrashing the servants to comment earlier. Bugger, this smog is killing me, not helped by the consumption we are suffering. Tally ho!

  6. Anyone who is a fan of “Eddie Redmayne” might want to checkout “Birdsong” a BBC drama just finished airing last night. His acting like that in “Savage Grace” is sublime. Maybe its his unconventional good looks but there is something about him that makes you unable to take your eyes off the screen.

    Youtube Trailer:

  7. I think both Barbara and Antony are pretty hot! I would love to have been in a threesome with them. I think reading from de Sade is also pretty cool although we could update date with some hot readings from Dennis Cooper.

  8. Those pictures of Tony have been in circulation for quite a while, I remember seeing them in the 70’s, in some sort of coffee-table book. I distinctly recall admiring both the subject and the artistry of the photos, and later feeling a little creeped-out when I discovered the pictures had been taken by his own mother.

      1. No more than other photos taken of nude children bathing. The pictures were shown in the context of an artistic presentation, and if my memory serves me correctly, the bathtub picture shown here was one of the tamest of the lot. I don’t honestly recall where I saw the book, but do remember that everyone was very casual about it; regarding it with the vaguest of curiosity. The prevailing attitude seemed to be that the Baekeland’s were one those “progressive” families where conservative social mores were things to be disregarded. I personally never met any of the Baekeland’s, but I have relatives who did, and most didn’t much care for them.

  9. One of the dozens of stories in America where generations of idle rich (from great past fortunes), meet other idle rich or the social wannabe. We’re meant to feel sorry for them, but in all honesty they made their own choices, if however tragically doomed. The only sympathy I feel is for the progeny born into these situations… this case Tony. But as an adult, you wonder why he didn’t seek help himself-he was 27 when he murdered his mother, not 16. The fatal codependency on his mother only explains part of it.

    American is full of stories from the robber barons forward; of wealthy children gone ‘bad’. In reality, this may be one of the more ‘tame’ ones. No doubt there always seems to be an audience to titillate somewhere with stories of the idle rich.

    1. The mother would likely be intrusive, ingulfing, manipulative, provokitive, antagonistic and controlling. The symbiosis between mother and son must have been merky and confusing if not, at times, spooky and scary. They were emotional siamese twins and filled with narcissistic rage. The paternal figure in his life was foreclosed and non-existant. There was no buffer between the boy and his mother and yet he had to share her. The boy was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic and most likely of a paranoid variety which is often late blooming.

      1. Agreed but unless you live a completely insular life or a life of institutional fare, your peer group by that age usually brings you into the real world to some extent. Perhaps it was too late for Tony, or he just wasn’t reachable and had real mental illness. It sounds like he had a good start with queer peers, but somehow that got completely derailed by mommy dearest. In the mostly autobiographical movie “Running With Scissors”, the protagonist, in spite of growing up in a virtual family ‘nut-house’ with an overbearing part-time psychotic mother, manages to find a modicum of happiness and what appeared to be a somewhat ‘normal’ adult life. So….you can’t always write somebody off because their parents are inadequate, soul-less rich fucktards.

  10. yes IWantToLive, “Birdsong” was a cine love fest to the gorgeous Eddie Redmayne.He even looked good covered in dried must and dust!

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