Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961). Director: Blake Edwards.

Paul Varjak (George Peppard) is an author being kept by the married Mrs. Fallenson (Patricia Neal). Paul meets his slightly kooky neighbor, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), who has no desire to talk about her past. Holly makes her living accepting gifts from men. Will these two hustlers triumph over their demons and find true love? Breakfast at Tiffany's is the kind of utterly artificial movie that only Hollywood could churn out, not dealing with reality on any particular level. Part of the problem, of course, is that the film is a complete bowdlerization of Truman Capote's novella, on which this was very loosely based. (In turn, Holly was inspired by Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles). Hollywood needed to "straighten" out the Paul character so a romance between the two main characters was fabricated. Hepburn's performance is more than adequate for this, but Holly never seems like a real person. Often through the movie Hepburn is self-consciously "cute" and seems over-rehearsed without a moment of spontaneity. Peppard [The Carpetbaggers] does the best he can with his own underwritten and dishonest role. Patricia Neal [Diplomatic Courier] adds a degree of class in the thankless role of the "cougar" (as we would say today) with a hankering for Paul. To say she is one-dimensional is a major understatement. Mickey Rooney is surprisingly good in his way as Holly's excitable upstairs neighbor, but others have also noted that he is an hysterical Japanese caricature. The movie does have some nice moments, such as an excellent scene between Holly and her ex-husband, Doc (Buddy Ebsen, who would star in The Beverly Hillbillies one year later), when they say farewell at a bus station. And cat fanciers will go "ahh" over the shot of Holly's poor cat sadly looking after her after she (temporarily) sets her free. Mercer and Mancini's "Moon River" is possibly the best thing about the movie.

Verdict: Bohemians strictly from Hollywood. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Agreed, Bill, Mancini's score and the Oscar-winning song can still bring me to tears. I like this movie a lot more than you do, even though I have read--and love--the Capote novella. But you are right - it is NOT the same story or the same characters--Hollywood liked to gloss over gritty truths like prostitution and homosexuality. Capote also disliked the film and the casting of Hepburn, said he pictured Marilyn Monroe as Holly.

That said, I do adore this movie, Hepburn and Ebsen are very moving, Peppard is gorgeous and Patricia Neal is, as always, brilliant, and Blake Edwards' directs it with heart as well as humor.

William said...

I think it would have been interesting to see Monroe in the lead, but it was not to be. I suspect Ebsen's brief but excellent portrayal of the quaint country "doc" led to his being cast as Jed Clampett -- a more caricatured version of Doc.