Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by George Axelrod based on the novel by Truman Capote
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The movie opens with Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy and you think you have found movie paradise. Then Mickey Rooney takes the screen in yellow face and buck teeth and you start to doubt it.
Holly Golightly (Hepburn) has the charm, beauty and sex appeal to easily score 50 dollar bills when she goes to the powder room while on dinner out on the town. What she does in addition to get the money is left unstated. She is slightly dotty and often loses her building key. Upstairs neighbor Mr. Yunioshi (Rooney) constantly is interrupted with her buzzing him to let her in. He is big on ineffectual bluster but will resort to calling the cops when Holly’s parties get out of hand.
Holly meets writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) as he is moving in to the building. They have a lot in common as he is being “kept” by his interior designer, a wealthy older woman (Patricia Neal). They bond early on. He reminds her of her brother Fred, who was her constant companion during her terrible childhood and she calls Paul “Fred” for the rest of the movie.
We learn that Holly is sweet and vulnerable but also a bit of a fraud. Her English accent and frequent use of French belie a hardscrabble Texas upbringing. Inevitably, Paul falls for Holly but she is more interested in marrying for money to support her brother, who will soon be discharged from the army,
I have a long-running love/hate relationship with this film. This is the iconic Hepburn performance and she is just perfect in it. My next favorite is Martin Balsam as Holly’s agent. It’s a good story which has me in tears by the end
The producer’s commentary expresses regret that they didn’t cast Rooney’s part with a Japanese actor. That would have helped a bit but the offensively stereotypical characterization of the man would still have been a gigantic problem. 1961 was the tale end of the time when White actors could play Asians and if the performance had not been so broad and obnoxious it might have been a mere footnote to discussions of this film.
Still, I recommend seeing this one before you die – or get much older.
“Moon River” won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song and Henry Mancini won for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was nominated in the categories of Best Actress; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color. How did it miss for Best Costume Design?