Sam Wasson’s fascinating little bio of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s ‘Fifth Avenue 5am’ not only made me want to review the film it also made me want to re read the book.
On doing both I began to realize how different they were from one another and how right Wasson is in declaring that the film was harbinger of a certain kind of modern women who felt it was ok to have sex.
Ironically the sweetest of stars played the role. Audrey Hepburn is eternally adorable but probably not he first name on my lips if someone mentions loose morals.
Yet the character she plays is based on a prostitute. This was what had put the kabosh on Capote’s original choice for Holly Golightly Marilyn Monroe
(indeed Holly Golightly is described as being blonde in the book.)
Capote who was friends with Monroe undoubtedly felt a kinship with her. They had both had unstable backgrounds and been shunted around from home to home, seemingly unwanted by anyone. But when her handlers read the book their answer was an unequivocal no. ‘Marilyn Monroe does not play prostitutes.’
Personally I’m glad it was Hepburn instead.
Hepburn’s strong relationship with designer Givenchy meant that she would look like the very definition of chic. Her inherent quirkiness, which the studio attempted to play up (Look! She has a cat called Cat! ) in order to draw attention away from exactly how the character was supporting herself, charms and makes us love her regardless.
In the book Holly disappears with her Latin lover and the budding friendship and possible romance between her and her impoverished writer neighbor never materializes. Capote describes it as quite a bitter book, which escaped me on the first read but now seems very apparent. It contains the sadness that money often makes certain kinds of deep connection an impossibility ,particularly in a place like New York that worships it.
The film in a way is the ‘Pretty Woman’ of its day, selling the fantasy of the young girl living the life in the greatest city on earth. But unlike Pretty Woman, that seems to pedal the idea that maybe you should be streetwalker, as you might get picked up by a multi-millionaire, Breakfast at Tiffany’s offers women a role model they can get with. Elegant, witty, appealing quirky and most importantly unafraid to take what she wants from the men who fawn over her without shame.
This guiltless, seemingly scatty but secretly quite calculating woman seems as relevant today as the moment she was created on film and for that matter on paper.