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Truman Capote wasn’t particularly happy that Audrey Hepburn was cast to play Holly Golightly in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffanys; he wanted Marilyn Monroe, who charmed him by privately auditioning. In that the heroine is a composite of Doris Lilly, Oona Chaplin and Gloria Vanderbilt and probably a foundational steal from Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles, and is more or less a fantasy philosophical version of Capote, it’s providence on many levels that Hepburn won out. By late 1960, Monroe was once more in psychological trouble, in and out of rehab for barbiturates and booze; with neither swank nor lank, she was what Holly would have become had she hit the skids, evident as epitaph in The Misfits. As the opening credits roll in Blake Edwards’ very pleasant movie, Hepburn’s Holly has already affected an “image” of escape from her depressing origins and it will be a while before those beginnings reappear to play their part in “the mean reds.” It’s clever and safe that she’s instantly our vision of a fashionably Givenchyed freedom seeker living off the $50 powder room expenses provided by her suitors. Because of the preface as comfort, we don’t need much of a cushion in the discovery she was a hillbilly child bride to Buddy Ebsen’s Doc, unlike the way we need shock absorbers to deal with her generally unsuccessful acclimatizing to the jungles of Green Mansions or the sand pits of Durango in The Unforgiven. In ways unintended, Hepburn’s Holly is the distaff makeshift answer to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy modus vivendi; with no money, with necessity demanding invention (like that white tub turned into a sofa, crate box as coffee table and mailbox as emergency makeup area), Holly became every 60s girl’s submission to the lure of big city sophistication, to flippantly defy all the no-nos. Holly’s party, for example, became just about every studio apartment bash thrown by the newly independent. (That movie party, which includes Dorothy Whitney as a smashed Mag doing Geraldine Page, is finally given its due in Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson.) Without Hepburn’s poignancy as Holly, the story could easily go pessimistic and venomous—the fate of Capote. George Axelrod is credited for the adaptation of the novella, about which Norman Mailer said came from “the most perfect writer of my generation.” With George Peppard, Patricia “You’re-entitled-to-a-vacation-with-pay” Neal in ugly Pauline Trigere attire, and Martin Balsam as a Hollywood agent. The Oscar-winning “Moon River” almost didn’t make the cut: overhearing a movie executive bitching that the tune would have to go, Hepburn confirmed the warning attributed to her, “Over my dead body.”

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