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Truman Capote wasn’t happy over Audrey Hepburn being cast to play Holly Golightly in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffanys; he wanted Marilyn Monroe, who charmed him by privately auditioning. The heroine is a composite of Doris Lilly, Oona Chaplin, Gloria Vanderbilt and a few others of similar ilk, and a foundational steal from Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles, and more or less a philosophically trans version of the author. It’s providence on many levels Audrey won out: by 1960, Monroe was once more in psychological trouble and out of focus from the fog of prescription drugs; with neither swank nor lank, she was what Holly would have become had she hit the skids, the evidential epitaph of The Misfits. As the opening credits roll in Blake Edwards’ very pleasant movie, Audrey’s Holly is quickly affecting an image of a Givenchy-clad party girl living off the $50 powder room expenses provided by her rich suitors, as means to escape her depressing origins as hillbilly child bride to Buddy Ebsen’s Doc, apparently one of the root causes of her “mean reds.” Munching on a sweet role while gazing through Tiffany’s windows, she conquers most of the audience to accept the miscasting. (Just a year before we all needed shock absorbers to watch her as a “red-hide injun” deep in the sand pits of Durango in The Unforgiven and a year before that emergency acclimatizing to accept her and Anthony Perkins in the jungles of Green Mansions.) Not mentioned much by the urbanologists, Audrey’s Holly is also a distaff and makeshift answer to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy modus vivendi; with no money, with necessity demanding refreshed invention (like the sawed-off white tub-turned-sofa, crate box as coffee table and mailbox fitted with a vanity mirror), Holly becomes the epitome of 60s female submission to the lure of big city sophistication, to defy all the norms, to seek the Best of Everything by studying at the library the availables on the Sugar Daddy lists published in newspapers and periodicals. Without Audrey’s soft touch, the story would go pessimistic and venomous—the sorry-ass fate of Capote. George Axelrod did the adaptation of the novella, for which he won a Writers Guild award, despite the fact his concept was discarded by Edwards, with whom he repeatedly clashed. Considered a male diva, George Peppard probably a better choice than Steve McQueen as a writer of short stories supplementing his meager income by renting himself out to Sugar Mommas, one of them Patricia “You’re-entitled-to-a-vacation-with-pay” Neal in ugly Pauline Trigere attire. (There isn’t a writer as call boy in the novella; the closest we get to Truman in the movie is the altered persona of the character Rusty Trawler.) Martin Balsam having fun as the Hollywood agent and Mickey Rooney’s cameo, not in the novella either, forecasts the various masquerades Peter Sellers would later do for Stanley Kubrick and Edwards. The director throws for Audrey one of the most memorably squeezed-in parties in all of movies—featuring the towering Dorothy Whitney as a smashed Mag doing Geraldine Page—and finally given its due in the book Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson. Audrey later confirmed the threat attributed to her: overhearing a movie executive wanted to ax Henry Mancini’s Oscar-winning “Moon River,” she issued firmly, “Over my dead body.”

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2005 RALPH BENNER  Revised 10/2010 All Rights Reserved.