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June 21, 2010
Review - " breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) "  -  (on DVD)
Roland Hansen
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Star power is a key to Breakfast at Tiffany's
success. This is a showcase for Audrey
Hepburn, who, at age 32, was in her acting
prime. (Ironically, Capote championed giving
the part to Marilyn Monroe.) However Hepburn
possessed charisma and screen presence,
and this era was her time to shine. With
Sabrina, Roman Holiday, War and Peace, and
Funny Face behind her, and My Fair Lady still
to come, Hepburn was an undeniable box
office draw. Her interpretation of Breakfast at
Tiffany's lead, Holly Golightly, is nearly perfect.
And it isn't just the countless costume changes
(although style and elegance have always
been Hepburn's defining characteristics).
Actually, this is not an easy role; it requires
Hepburn to do more than smile at the camera and drawl her lines - although Holly at first appears to be little more than an
airheaded, jet-setting socialite, the more we get to know her, the more we understand the pain and loss that have led her to
embrace her current lifestyle. Holly has low self-esteem and a sordid past, and she has surrounded herself with bright, gaudy
things in an effort to give herself a level of comfort. She's a phony, but, in the words of a supporting character, she's a "real"

Breakfast at Tiffany's uses a simple story to good effect. The film starts by introducing  us to Holly as she window shops her
way through Manhattan. Paul, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is the new tenant in her building. The two meet on
the morning Paul moves in, when he drops by to use Holly's phone. Soon after, they become friends. One night, when a drunk
man is banging threateningly on Holly's door, she climbs the fire escape and slips into Paul's apartment. As thanks for
"rescuing" her, she invites him to a party, which turns into a loud, rowdy affair. He again comes to her aid when a figure
from her past shows up in New York. She inspires him to start writing again. And, for one memorable day, they go out on the
town together doing things that they have never before done, like shopping at Tiffany's (new for him) and checking out a book
from a library (new for her). Ultimately, their feelings end up running more deeply than normal friendship, but, when Paul
confesses his love, Holly rebuffs him. She has set her heart on marrying a rich South American (Villalonga) so that she will
have enough money to support herself and her brother, whose tour of duty in the army is nearly over.

Neither Holly nor Paul is a model citizen. In
order to finance her wasteful lifestyle,
Holly accepts a weekly payment of $100 to
visit an ex-mob boss in prison and carry a
verbal message to his "lawyer." It's a subtle
form of prostitution with no sex involved. The
same isn't true of Paul, who could charitably
be called a "kept man" (although a gigolo
might be more apropos). His lover (Patricia
Neal) is a well-to-do woman with a much older
husband. She sneaks out to see Paul
whenever she gets the opportunity, and his
latest apartment is a gift from her. Every time
she departs from his bed, she leaves behind
a care package of greenbacks.

However, although both characters have their faults and hard edges, Breakfast at Tiffany's is still first and foremost a fantasy.
The use of Henry Mancini's glorious "Moon River" cements the dreamy atmosphere which is introduced at the beginning of
the film with establishing shots of a New York City that never was. This is not the real world; it's another sort of place, where
Mafia dons are nice men, disappointed suitors react with grace, and improbable lovers can overcome the odds and live life
happily ever after. And Holly Golightly is a product of this environment.

own creation brings that into question. For the most part, Holly has done her best to forget the past, but there are instances
when it creeps into her mood, turning her sad and wistful.

Then there's the dialogue, which, although neither sparkling nor peppered with scintillating one-liners, is nevertheless solidly
written and enjoyable to listen to. The key to its effectiveness is that conversations do not feel truncated - they are allowed
to run on naturally. The film's best scenes involve Holly and Paul doing nothing more complicated than talking to each other.
Over the years, strong dialogue has been an important characteristic of all the great romantic comedies, from The
Philadelphia Story to Before Sunrise.

For a movie made in the early 1960s,
Breakfast at Tiffany's is surprisingly bold.
Audrey Hepburn is shown in a number of
provocative and revealing costumes (the trailer
trumpets that the film offers the actress "as
you've never seen her before"), and the
screenplay includes several forthright lines
with a clear sexual connotation. There also
isn't any beating around the bush when it
comes to the nature of Paul's secondary
profession. Throughout his career, Edwards
has never had difficulty pushing envelopes
(witness Victor/Victoria or the lightsaber
condom scene in the otherwise wretched Skin
Deep), and this tendency is evident even at
this early stage.

Breakfast at Tiffany's most glaring fault was not considered a problem during the movie's initial release. However, looking
back through a 40 year window, the inclusion of the stereotyped Asian character of Mr. Yunioshi (played by Mickey Rooney)
borders on offensive. Mr. Yunioshi's sole purpose is to provide cheap comic relief, but, what might have been funny in 1961
has long since lost its humorous edge. The character's presence is a double blow to the Asian community - not only is he
fatuous and uncomplimentary, but he is played by a Caucasian actor in heavy makeup.

Fortunately, Mr. Yunioshi is a background character, and his scenes are not plentiful enough to spoil an otherwise agreeable
tone. While Breakfast at Tiffany's probably would have been a more powerful and moving story had it stuck to Capote's
original storyline, there are advantages to the film's approach. The ending is a little silly and over-the-top, but, in the way of all
great romantic finales, it culls a smile and a somewhat wistful sigh from nearly everyone in the audience. For those who
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Directed By: Blake Edwards
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen,
Martin Balsam, Villalonga, Mickey Rooney

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a sixties milestone that captured the imagination of a
certain part of the population that craved stylishness and independence, the
glamour of the classy New York culture that revolved around show biz and
cocktail parties. Truman Capote purists complain that the movie is a
bastardization of Truman Capote's 1958 novel while others maintain that it
follows the story quite closely. With Blake Edwards directing a screenplay
adaptation by George Axelrod, the movie shifts erratically between
bittersweet drama and slapstick comedy. Despite some egregious racial
stereotyping, many who were of college age in 1961 considered Tiffany's the
height of sophistication.

Were it not for the Pink Panther entries, Breakfast at Tiffany's would likely be
the crown jewel of Edwards' career. Although the 1961 romantic comedy will
not appear on many critics' all-time best lists, it remains a favorite among the
general movie-going community and, over the years, has developed a legion
of die-hard supporters. The film has more charm than the average romantic
comedy, but, when considered from a bare bones perspective, it follows most
of the rules that define the genre. The ending, for example, is pure
Hollywood, as are many of the steps taken by George Axelrod's screenplay
to get us there from the opening credits.
Breakfast at Tiffany's is based on a novella by Truman Capote, and recounts one man's fascination with and love for a fellow
inhabitant of his mid-scale New York City apartment building. While many of the book's broad strokes (and even a few of the
details) were retained in Axelrod's script, changes were instituted to make the movie more palatable to a mainstream
audience. Chief of these is the nature of the relationship between the two leads, which results in a new, different, and more
optimistic finale.
Opposite Hepburn, playing struggling author
Paul Varjak, is George Peppard. Although
Peppard's star never ascended to the level of
Hepburn's (he is probably best remembered
for two TV programs: "Banacek" and "The
A-Team"), for at least one movie he gets to
stand in the spotlight (although about all he
does is "stand" - the script requires minimal
range from Peppard, and, as a result, his
performance comes across as somewhat
bland). He and Hepburn generate an
effective level of chemistry. Their on-screen
interaction has a breezy, natural feel to it,
allowing us to believe that their characters
Two particular attributes set Breakfast at
Tiffany's apart from the overfamiliar
continuum of romantic comedies. The first is
character depth, particularly where Holly is
concerned. Despite her name and her
lighthearted disposition, she is actually a
troubled individual. Orphaned at an early
age, she married the kindly Doc Golightly at
the age of 14, then abandoned him for a
stint in Hollywood. As played by Buddy
Ebson, Doc appears to be a genial elder
gentleman, but there's something
ambiguous and less-than-wholesome
about his relationship with Holly. There's
also a question about the status of their
marriage. She claims it was annulled long
ago, but her tendency to live in a world of her
considers themselves romantics, or for
anyone who just enjoys a simple love story
from time-to-time, Breakfast at Tiffany's
offers a few simple pleasures.

A near perfect blend of comedy, romance,
and minor tragedy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a
must-see classic that, despite diversions
from Truman Capote’s original novel,
remains his clearest statement on what it
feels like to be young, ambitious, and on the
make in a rapacious city full of hidden