Matthew Bunkell from the Picturehouse phone room previews our Vintage Sundays presentation Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I remember being sat on a friend’s bed when I first saw that image. A large poster hung from the opposite wall. On it, a young woman with a wry smile, her head cradled in one hand, a long cigarette holder in the other, and around her neck a set of pearls. A statement of sheer class and grace. This was my first introduction to effervescent Miss Holly Golightly. Breakfast At Tiffany’s is one of the most abiding Hollywood classics of the 20th century. Truman Capote’s short novella, revolving around the exploits of a young New York socialite, has burrowed its way into the cinematic lexicon and beyond. Its influence and romantic, rose-tinted imagery translates down through further generations of film watchers.
However, a much-disgruntled Truman Capote did not take as well to this adaptation. In fact, he claimed the film made him want to vomit. Some could say for good reason. Firstly, Blake Edwards’ take on the story differed vastly from the source material, favouring a far more satisfying conclusion and lighter tone than offered by Capote’s novella. Secondly, the author was adamant about the casting of his central character going to Marilyn Monroe. However, both of these changes benefitted the film so greatly that this delicate story remains lodged in the public consciousness, enduring more than the original text.
Holly Golightly is hiding a secret. As buried under make-up and pearls as she is a veneered personal turmoil, the precocious Golightly navigates the social landscape of the tobacco-and-booze-drenched New York elite with the grace and composure of a veteran. Add to this George Peppard’s Paul Varjak, a struggling writer infatuated with Hepburn’s anti-hero, who acts as our eyes into a much-sought-after lifestyle of the wealthy and the wily.
Audrey Hepburn turns in a career-defining performance as Holly, providing a nuanced and operatic take on this morally ambiguous and complex character. Golightly’s reincarnation as an it-girl of The Big Apple has an accent and mannerisms as well orchestrated as her eyeliner. Hepburn, complimented by the pitch-perfect direction of Blake Edwards, brought about a new kind of female protagonist rarely seen before the ’60s: a sparky and compelling woman of exceptional charm.
This comedic melodrama is certainly a film of its time. Despite its anachronistic pitfalls, Edwards’ classic holds up due to Hepburn’s central performance, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s delightful song Moon River and two-time winner of the PATSY award, Orangey the cat.