Is it any wonder I was driven to transform myself from shy Catholic school bookworm, a new kid that no one wanted to touch, to a guy who was rubbing elbows with major movie stars on his own national talk show in New York City? I had compassion for Holly. So did BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S director Blake Edwards, screenwriter George Axelrod and star Audrey Hepburn. The opening credits scene alone of the 1961 movie is more memorable than a few feature length films I've paid to see in the last five years. It's daybreak, probably on a Sunday morning, in New York City. Fifth Avenue is free of traffic. It's quiet. A gorgeously gowned Holly Golightly emerges from a taxicab with a take-out order coffee and a pastry. That's her breakfast as she stands looking at diamonds in a window at Tiffany's. "Moon River," a wistful tune later to be sung by Holly, is the background music. With such an ultra-chic Manhattan visual, the harmonica solo in the music calls us the rural reality of Holly's past. Visually, she seems to have made a dream come true. Fabulous clothes. A swell cosmopolitan life. But there's a sense of longing in the composition.
Hepburn physically and movie image-wise was not the Holly Golightly of Truman Capote's novella. His muse was Marilyn Monroe. Had the film adaptation adhered closely to Capote's work, Tuesday Weld would've been a great choice to play Holly. In the under-appreciated 2006 drama, INFAMOUS, Toby Jones plays Truman Capote and Daniel Craig plays one of the convicted Kansas killers Capote interviews for his masterpiece, IN COLD BLOOD. In a letter from prison, the convict remarked that he read BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. However, he didn't feel that Capote had true compassion for Holly. He was, to a degree, laughing at her. He wasn't totally kind. I read the novella and I agreed with Daniel Craig's character. Blake Edwards, George Axelrod and Audrey Hepburn were kind in their interpretation of the story. Hepburn was kind -- and brave. She took a risk with her successful and Oscar-winning image. She was perfectly cast as the runaway princess who delightfully learns about the joys of ordinary life. Outside of the castle, she finds romance and finds her true, independent voice as a royal who now has a personal connection to the people. This was in William Wyler's ROMAN HOLIDAY co-starring Gregory Peck. The 1953 film brought the new star an Oscar for Best Actress. In films to follow, Audrey Hepburn would again play the intelligent young woman attracted to the older, mature man. As the Greenwich Village bookstore clerk who majored in philosophy, she's Jo Stockton in the musical comedy, FUNNY FACE. Fred Astaire stars as a Richard Avedon-ish fashion photographer who sees what Jo doesn't see -- that she's got the right stuff to be a new model. He feels she'd be a breath of fresh air with her "character, spirit and intelligence." Those three qualities were hallmarks of a Hepburn character. The men her age come off as unimaginative, juvenile and responding to her looks more than her "character, spirit and intelligence." We saw Audrey Hepburn opposite Fred Astaire (FUNNY FACE), Humphrey Bogart (SABRINA), Gary Cooper (LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON), Cary Grant (CHARADE) and Rex Harrison (MY FAIR LADY). In each one, she's attracted to the older man even while a younger one pursues her.
Blake Edwards' BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S presented the chance to depart from the Audrey Hepburn film template. In this production, the older man could lead her to a life of heartbreak. There's Doc, played by Buddy Ebsen. Doc knew Holly before she fled to New York and reinvented herself. He wants her to return to her rural origins. There's José, the handsome and mature South American visitor. He has money and position. He'd want Holly solely for amusement. She gives off the hipster attitude that she'd be cool with that because she's a free spirit who just wants money and fun. She plans to fly overseas to hook up with José. The young man who is Holly's neighbor is just like Holly. Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard, is a struggling new writer who's being kept by a well-to-do middle-aged married woman. Paul Varjak gets money for sexual favors so he can get by. He puts an end to that when he falls in love with Holly. This time, the qualities of the Audrey Hepburn character would be noticed and fully appreciated by a man her age. The actress flipped the script on her screen image.
Audrey Hepburn received another Best Actress Oscar nomination thanks to this performance. I love BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S. I came to love it even more thanks to a waiter in the West Village who served me a cheeseburger deluxe.