Break out your pearls and coffee because it’s time for another installment of Classic Movie Monday, where I sift through Netflix’s Classic section so you don’t waste another weekend bingeing 1990s RomComs like I did. This week I took a look at the 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s which is based on a novella by Truman Capote.
The film stars Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, George Peppard as Paul Varjak, Mickey Rooney in very racist yellow face as landlord Mr. Yunioshi and Orangey as Cat…the cat. Now the film and the novella are different when it comes to some of the details. The film portrays Holly as a popular socialite, only giving very subtle nods to her profession but in the book she’s clearly a hooker. The movie makes a lot more sense if you see her as a hooker so we are just going to continue with this article assuming the movie is crystal clear on that part. Holly Golightly gets paid for sex. Moving on.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s opens up with breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the wee hours of the morning we see an elegant Holly Golightly in a black dress wearing pearls eating a pastry and drinking coffee in front of the display window at the store. Music sweeps, title credit roll, and we get introduced to our second main character in this film. Paul Varjak (George Peppard) is a struggling writer living off the dime of an attractive lady patron (hint hint, Holly and Paul aren’t so different). Paul has just moved into Holly’s building and he’s immediately intrigued by the gorgeous “socialite”.
And why wouldn’t he be? Holly is full of life, insists on calling him ‘Fred’, and is gorgeous. She also has a fat orange cat cleverly named Cat. It’s only a matter of time before Paul/Fred catches Holly somberly singing “Moon River” on the fire escape and falls madly in love with her. Hijinks ensue, we get a titular line, Fred/Paul and Holly hit up Burlesque shows and steal things from the local Five n Dime. It’s a true love montage we all didn’t know we needed.
But Paul/Fred is a poor writer, Holly has expensive tastes, and Mickey Rooney can’t stop being racist. Holly is having fun but as soon as she stops running she realizes that she is miserable and that life is a lot easier when you have money to pour into lavish distractions. Pretty soon Holly has her sights on Rusty Trawler (Stanley Adams), one of the wealthiest men in Manhattan and Jose (Jose Luis de Villalonga) a Brazilian millionaire. Fred/Paul tries to convince Holly that only he can make her truly happy but life’s a lot easier when you have food on the table and Tiffany jewelry on your body. Pretty soon Fred/Paul finds out why Holly is the way she is and tries desperately to save her from herself.
Every girl goes through their Breakfast at Tiffany’s phase. I’ll admit it, my MySpace photo was Holly and Fred/Paul kissing in the rain for a month or so in High School. It’s a fun film even if it erases most of the social commentary and weight of the novella. If nothing else, watch this film for the amazing costume design. Let’s just ignore Mickey Rooney pulling an Asian Jazz Singer for as long as we can (it’s awful.)
– Henry Mancini specifically wrote “Moon River” for Audrey Hepburn
– Looking back, director Blake Edward’s biggest regret was casting Mickey Rooney in an Asian role.
– Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the role of Holly
– Audrey Hepburn felt that she was miscast as Holly Golightly and suffered performance anxiety on set because of it.