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Truman Capote wasn’t particularly happy that Audrey Hepburn was cast to play Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffanys because he wanted Marilyn Monroe—who even charmed the author by privately auditioning—but, in that the heroine is a composite of Doris Lilly, Oona Chaplin, Gloria Vanderbilt and probably a direct steal from Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles, and is more or less a fantasy philosophical version of the author himself, it’s providence on many levels that Hepburn won out. By late 1960, Monroe was once more in deep psychological trouble, dependent on booze and barbiturates; with neither swank nor lank, she was what Holly would have become had she hit the skids, as evidenced as epitaph in The Misfits. Hepburn’s Holly has been gushed up in the customary Hollywood tradition, so the character’s fear of “the mean reds” gets junked just in time for her to find happiness. In Blake Edwards’ very pleasant movie, Holly escapes from her depressing hillbilly origins, and while Hepburn could never be countrified, she’s instantly our vision of a freedom seeker living off the $50 powder room expenses provided by her suitors—albeit an altogether too fashionably Givenchyed one. In ways unintended, Hepburn’s Holly is the distaff answer to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mantra; 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 clamor for liberty, to submit to the lure of big city sophistication, to flippantly defy all the no-nos. Holly’s party, for example, became every studio apartment bash ever thrown by the newly independent during the 60s. (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.) Because of Hollywood’s penchant for sentiment, Hepburn’s a more poignant Holly than Capote’s yet if there hadn’t been Hepburn’s touch of distress, of the heartfelt, the story could easily go bohemian chilly and pessimistic—the fate of the author. George Axelrod adapted the novella—about which Norman Mailer said came from “the most perfect writer of my generation.” With George Peppard and Patricia “You’re-entitled-to-a-vacation-with-pay” Neal in awful Pauline Trigere attire. The Oscar-winning “Moon River” almost didn’t make the cut: Audrey, overhearing a movie executive bitching that the tune would have to go, reportedly said, “Over my dead body.”

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