Monday, January 17, 2011

How "Breakfast at Tiffany's" changed our world forever

Until very recently I had never seen the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's." And I certainly wasn't aware of the impact on our culture that this movie had. Then I heard about a new book called, "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman" by Sam Wasson. The book was reviewed on one of my favorite websites, Head Butler, which I will talk about at length in another post.

Head Butler's author, Jesse Kornbluth, was so enthusiastic about this book that I picked up a copy, and I was not disappointed. In short chapters that read like a thriller, Wasson lays out chronologically what went into the making of the movie, convincing Hepburn to star, bringing Blake Edwards on board to direct, and convincing the studios that the film was a good bet. The really juicy layers underneath this story is how groundbreaking the film was. Wasson explains that up until that point, 1960-61, there were only two types of women portrayed in the movies. Think Doris Day, and Marilyn Monroe. Women were either saints or sinners. There wasn't too much in between. This new movie would be portraying a young woman who was ambitious, a dreamer, a hard worker, and a very high-priced escort/call girl. No one, including the producers and directors, knew whether America would fall in love with this girl and this movie. The studios were afraid of losing their shirts and their reputations.

Well, America did fall in love with the girl and the movie, and a new image of a grown woman was born. One who lived alone in a big city and supported herself. One who had no particular interest in marriage and family. One who had grand dreams of travel and adventure. And that dress. This movie saw the birth of the Little Black Dress. Up until then women rarely wore black in the movies or in real life, unless they were in mourning. Audrey Hepburn playing Holly Golightly made wearing black the height of glamor and sophistication, and the fashion world has never looked back.

I really loved this book, and I admit you have to be a movie geek to love a book like this, but I could also see it as required reading in a Women's Studies or Sociology curriculum as a grand example of how a film can change our world view.

Once I had devoured the book, I wanted to see the movie, and through the magic of Netflix it was in my mailbox within a couple of days. Well, I was in book/movie geek heaven. Knowing that George Peppard was an egotistical ass (who didn't get along at all with Patricia O'Neal) while making the movie and then watching his performance was fascinating. Watching the opening scene (it was shot on Fifth Ave., at 5 a.m., when Holly gets out of the cab, dressed to the nines, and stands in front of the Tiffany window eating her danish and drinking her coffee) and knowing what went into getting that shot, and what Hepburn was worried about concerning that shot, was golden. I could go on and on, and I didn't even talk about what Truman Capote thought of the movie, or what they had to clean up from the short story he wrote in order to please the censors. But it's all in the book.

I highly recommend, for the ultimate movie geek experience, that you read the book and then watch the movie, even if you have already seen it. And then warn your friends. Because you'll be talking about it for days.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds most intriguing! I will have to check it out and re-watch this film myself! I loved it the first time I saw it but it's been at least 20 years since then!