I don’t think I know many women who haven’t watched and loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s a thousand times over. It speaks to the greatness of the film that it still resonates so much with women of every generation. It wasn’t until a couple of years after I first saw the movie that I read Truman Capote’s original book. There were some definite stark differences between the book and what eventually made it to screen. So when I was recently sent ‘5th Avenue, 5 A.M. Audrey Hepburn and the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, I couldn’t wait to read more of the story of how this cult classic came about.
The book gives some great background into how Capote dreamt up Holly. While it is somewhat danced around to an extent in the movie, Holly Golightly was a high class call girl. This is a character unlike any we’d seen really in literature up to that point – and most definitely in film. There’s a passage in the book where Capote explains it pretty perfectly:
Every year, New York is flooded with these girls; and two or three, usually models, always become prominent and get their names in the gossip columns and are seen in all the prominent places with all the Beautiful People. And then they fade away and marry some accountant or dentist, and a new crop of girls arrives from Michigan or South Carolina and the process starts all over again. The main reason I wrote about Holly, outside of the fact that I liked her so much, was that she was such a symbol of all these girls who come to New York and spin in the sun for a moment like May flies then disappear. I wanted to rescue one girl from that anonymity and preserve her for posterity.
It’s easy to forget what a groundbreaking film this was, but for its time, it ruffled more than a few feathers. It’s really interesting to read about how Audrey Hepburn, for whom this film became her defining role, wasn’t actually the first choice to play Holly Golightly. Truman Capote wanted it to be Marilyn Monroe and apparently to his dying day thought Hepburn, lovely as she was, was completely the wrong choice. She was the gamine, sweet, innocent gal who hadn’t really stood out too much in movies before this. Few people could imagine her playing a woman with a bit of an edge and Hepburn herself, when first approached about the role, said ‘You have a lovely script – but I can’t play a hooker.’ She was plagued with self doubt throughout filming about her ability to pull it off.
Reading about the filming of the party scene at Holly’s apartment is an absolute joy. One of the standout scenes in the movie, it took seven days to film and they basically threw a party to film a party. It was so tightly choreographed and there are some real nuggets in the book from some of the extras and how they felt doing it.
The dynamic in the film between Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard was apparently particularly well acted as [cue shocking 1960s gossip!] Peppard, it seems, was loathed by everyone on the movie. Even Hepburn, who didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone, couldn’t find a kind one for him.
If you’re a fan of Capote’s book and the movie, this is a really great read to get a fuller understanding of why it was such a crucial role for women in film. As the book says:
It was one of the earliest pictures to ask us to be sympathetic toward a slightly immoral young woman. Movies were beginning to say that if you were imperfect, you didn’t have to be punished.
Head on over to Amazon to get yourself a copy.
And of course, if you’re looking for another good read, you can always get yourself a copy of my eBook, Be Pretty on Rest Days.