Saturday, April 3, 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Despite what viewers might expect from a film with “breakfast” in the title, there is no large breakfast scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (nor much emphasis on food at all). The film opens with Holly Golightly (Hepburn) nibbling on a Danish and sipping coffee as she gazes into the windows of Tiffany’s, the famous New York City jewelry store and landmark. The film implies a wistfulness that is more fully explained in Capote’s novel: that Holly wants to be so wealthy that even Tiffany’s would allow her to breakfast there among the jewels.

Holly passes herself off as a young New York socialite, but in reality, she is an escort, or some might say a “call girl.” Her sham comes apart when Paul Varjak (Peppard) moves into the apartment upstairs; he sees through her façade because he himself is a “kept man,” set up in his apartment by Mrs. Failenson (Neal) in exchange for sex, though the story, not entirely false, is that she is a wealthy patron of his budding writing career. Over the course of time, Paul falls for Holly, but she is on the lookout for a wealthy husband because she needs money to take care of her brother Fred, a special-needs young man, when he leaves the army. When Doc Golightly (Ebsen) unexpectedly shows up in New York, Paul discovers that Holly is really Lulu May, married when she was only fourteen to the much older horse veterinarian. Doc wants Holly to return home, but Holly’s choice is not that difficult: she had abandoned Doc and their life in Oklahoma a few years earlier, and she sets her sights on Rusty Trawler, “the ninth richest man in America under 50.” When he ends up marrying a rich heiress, Holly pursues José Luis de Villalonga, a wealthy Brazilian businessman.

In the meantime, Paul and Holly spend time together, even browsing through Tiffany’s, where they ask to have a Cracker Jack ring engraved, and looking up Paul’s book of stories at the N.Y. Public Library. Having sold another story, Paul breaks it off with Mrs. Failenson, even refusing her money, and professes his love to Holly. But when Holly indicates that she’s going to marry José, Paul angrily gives her $50 “for the powder room”—her usual fee, and the amount he had just received for his story. That evening, Holly receives a telegram informing her that her brother had been killed in an accident.
Months later, after Paul has found another apartment and has begun to make a living at writing, Holly invites him to dinner. While she is cooking, she explains how happy she is to be going to Brazil with José, though apparently as his mistress and not his wife, and how diligently she’s trying to learn Portuguese. When she ruins dinner, Paul takes her out, but upon their return home, the police narcotics squad arrests Holly for carrying the weekly “weather report” from Sally Tomato in Sing Sing to his lawyer, another job for which she had received $100/week. Paul arranges for her release from jail on bond, and Holly insists they take a cab directly to the airport so that she can fly to Brazil.

But Paul hands her a letter, in which José breaks off his “engagement” with Holly because of the scandal. Yet Paul tells her that he loves her and wants her to belong to him—but Holly wants to belong to no one, and she puts her cat (whom she always called simply Cat, because she didn’t want to be attached to anyone) out on the street in the rain and has the cab drive away. Paul stops the taxi, gives her the engraved Cracker Jack ring at last, and goes to look for Cat. After several long moments, Holly puts the ring on her finger and runs after Paul, helping him to find Cat. Drenched and crying, she clutches the cold animal to her breast, and she and Paul kiss.

Fun Fact:
According to Hollywood gossip, Audrey Hepburn detested Danish pastries, but during the filming of the opening scene, she had to act as if she loved them, not merely for the camera but in front of hundreds of onlookers. Her nervousness resulted in many mistakes and many “takes.”

Released October 5, 1961
Starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, George Peppard as Paul “Fred” Varjak, Patricia Neal as 2-E (Mrs. Failenson), Buddy Ebsen as Doc Golightly, and Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi
Directed by Blake Edwards
Based on the novel of the same name by Truman Capote
Theme song “Moon River” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer
Academy Awards: Best Music, Original Song; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture

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