Anderson Cooper’s love letter to his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, is a documentary called Nothing Left Unsaid, which will premiere tomorrow on HBO. Vanderbilt, now 92, is a member of the storied Vanderbilt family, and has had an amazing life, which has included more than her share of love and loss. Her experience includes being the subject of a famous custody battle, and losing a child to suicide. Directed by Liz Garbus, Cooper walks Vanderbilt through their shared family history.
The Washington Post explains that the Vanderbilt/Cooper documentary shows Gloria Vanderbilt as amazingly down to earth and real, especially considering that she is from one of America’s royal families. Anderson Cooper explains that he has always been protective of his mother, and wary of letting people know that he comes from the Vanderbilt family, and Vanderbilt money. Cooper explains that people make a lot of assumptions if they have that information up front.
“I had a lot of anxiety early in my career about people knowing who my mother was or making assumptions about trust funds or my need to even have a job — which would be false assumptions, frankly. Some people knew a lot about my mom, and some people didn’t.”
Gloria Vanderbilt kept son Anderson Cooper in the dark about much of her past, and he knew little of the Vanderbilt family custody battle that took place during the Great Depression. At that time, Vanderbilt was nine, and was in line to inherit $3.6 million. It traumatized Vanderbilt, and made her cautious for the rest of her life.
New York Magazine explained that a lot of the stories in Nothing Left Unsaid were things Anderson Cooper discovered in his attempt to really know his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. Cooper’s father, Wyatt Cooper, was Vanderbilt’s fourth husband who died of a heart attack at age 50, when Anderson Cooper was still a child.
“You know, there’s nothing worse than having the regret of your parent dying and feeling like you didn’t know them or they didn’t know you as an adult.”
Vanderbilt shared her dating and marriage history, starting with her first marriage while she was still in high school. Perhaps it was the custody battle within the Vanderbilt family that caused Vanderbilt to have a real feeling of abandonment going forward. Gloria Vanderbilt dated many big named celebrities, including Howard Hughes. Before Vanderbilt’s 18th birthday, she married a 32-year-old Hollywood talent agent. They divorced four years later, after he gave Vanderbilt a black eye.
But it is a shared story between Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt that is the most traumatic part of the documentary. Gloria Vanderbilt witnessed the suicide of her other son, Carter Cooper, when he jumped from the balcony of her 14th story apartment. Vanderbilt had discovered Carter Cooper straddling the railing of her terrace balcony, and dropped to her knees, begging him not to jump, but he slid over the ledge to his death. Vanderbilt still struggles with regret that she could not stop Carter Cooper from taking his life.
But Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt both feel that they are more resilient because they have survived the deaths of Wyatt and Carter Cooper. And the shared losses have also increased the bond between Cooper and Vanderbilt as mother and son and friends.
But Vanity Fair believes that even though the Anderson Cooper/Gloria Vanderbilt documentary is called Nothing Left Unsaid, they could have gone deeper to really show a different side of the family stories. The magazine review believes that much of the documentary is soft pedaled, and perhaps a bit fluffy, as the viewer doesn’t really get a sense of the people involved. They wish that more time was spent telling the stories that made them Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt, and less time in the present. The reviewer, Richard Lawson, believes there was no attempt to cover anything up or mislead the viewer.
“It simply falls victim to a natural kind of familial self-regard, a belief that the bonds shared by us and our parents and siblings and aunts and grandparents are uniquely special.”
Nothing Left Unsaid is more a story of mother and son than a story of amazing American wealth and access within the Vanderbilt family.
Will you watch Nothing Left Unsaid, the story of Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt on HBO?
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