Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Controversial, But Marketable Screenplay

By Sarah Campos · February 23, 2015

Anywhere you go, you are guaranteed to run into some sort of Audrey Hepburn merchandise from her significantly famous look in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. It’s deemed one of the most iconic films ever made starring the seminal Audrey Hepburn.

The movie, based on the novella by Truman Capote, follows 19-year-old Holly Golightly, a tortuous café society girl, as she fumbles through her share of men until she meets her handsome neighbor, Paul Varjak. Paul is a writer who is supported by a wealthy woman in exchange for intimacy. We explore their relationship as it evolves from friendship into something more. The opening scene is one of the most memorable ones. Hepburn’s character, Holly emerges from a cab in the bare streets of New York City in her little black dress and lavish jewelry, nibbling on her Danish as she gazes into the window of Tiffany’s. We can tell she has a fondness for expensive things as we get further engaged with her character.

Holly Golightly is a party girl who has an eye for rich men, hence getting $50 from the powder room. She is one of the first party girls to be shot for the screen. This consisted of her wild lifestyle as an avid drinker, smoker, and temptress often referred to as a call girl, but Capote referred to Holly not as a prostitute or gold digger, but rather an American geisha. She’s seemingly shallow and materialistic, but we learn there’s much more behind her party facade. Like O.J. Berman says, “She’s a phony, but she’s a real phony.” It’s hard not to fall in love with her and it sure didn’t stop Paul from doing so. Although Audrey Hepburn never felt she was right for the role, I beg to differ.

Audrey Hepburn found her niche playing high society women, however this role was unlike any other she did. Her character is quirky, an odd ball, kooky, loony, etc. She is a hot mess to sum it up. She claims to belong to nobody and nobody belongs to her, therefore dubbing her cat, “Cat.” They’re beyond perfect for each other. Despite Audrey being an iconic actress, Capote originally wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role. Considering screenwriter George Axelrod cleaned up the screenplay and made it PG, I believe it was the right call for Audrey to take the role. She gave Holly a sense of class without appearing licentious. Casting Marilyn would have been archetypal and audiences would have associated Holly’s character as being much more promiscuous. Audrey Hepburn flourished in her role; the way her diction rolled off the tongue with such idiosyncratic elegance was brilliant. I do pity Hepburn for having to play opposite George Peppard whom I have a completely different perspective on.

George Peppard was miscast and besides being handsome and having piercing blue eyes, he fell flat and was a complete dud onscreen. He wore a melancholy face the entire film. Director Blake Edwards wasn’t happy with Peppard taking the role. In concurrence, I thought Mickey Rooney was miscast as Mr. Yunioshi. As of 1990, his role has been deemed racist and stereotypical. It was Blake Edwards’ decision to cast an American to render a Japanese man because he prevailed as a comedy director and wanted his film to possess that comical side. Rooney portrayed an Asian man by wearing yellow face makeup, coke bottle glasses, and buckteeth. It was cringeworthy and painful to watch, but you have to keep in mind this was made in 1961 when it wasn’t considered racist, but entertaining. Looking back now, Edwards’ regrets casting Rooney in that part and if he could change it, he would.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s is a film that will always hold relevance and popularity. What made it paramount was the romanticism and relationships portrayed onscreen, even though it deviated from the book considerably. The ending was changed completely to fit Hollywood’s standards. In the book, Holly and Paul don’t end up together, but for the sake of a Hollywood ending George had to change it. Imagine how unsatisfied the audience would have been if Holly and Paul didn’t fall in love after all that flirting. From a screenwriter’s point of view, it was the right one made. Breakfast At Tiffany’s wouldn’t be as wildly successful as it was without that kiss. That kiss is what made this film so marketable. The portrayal of the film was rather audacious for 1961. It was risqué in the sense that a haut monde party girl and playboy are living off other people’s money. This concept derived from the mind of Capote but was interpreted on film by Blake Edwards. He is best known for directing comedies, which aided him in the direction of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

The famous party scene was all Blake Edwards’ comedic farce. The scene wasn’t written into the screenplay, it was wholly Edwards directing everyone’s shenanigans, from the crying woman to the eye patch guy, to Paul crawling on the floor answering the phone. George Axelrod accommodated the script to make it more marketable, almost completely overlooking the sexual innuendos from the book. Nevertheless, this landed him an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

This film was the birth of various fashion trademarks. The “little black dress” and fashion accessories such as the oversized sunglasses, oversized cigarette holder, and her ostentatious jewelry, made this feature aesthetically significant. The little black dress became one of the most prominent fashion choices in cinema history.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s will forever go down as being one of the most memorable (and marketable) movies of all time.



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