Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Release Date: October 5th, 1961 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Blake Edwards Actors: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, Alan Reed, Mickey Rooney
ot a strictly classic romance, though many of the scenes imitate older fare, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is still a charming and wholly satisfying film. It’s also something of a breakthrough for director Blake Edwards, who would follow this picture with the drastically different “Experiment in Terror” (1962) and the highly successful “The Pink Panther” (1963). Even if lead character Holly Golightly is annoyingly brassy at times and Mickey Rooney turns in an inexcusably pitiful (not to mention politically incorrect) supporting performance, it’s hard not to be entertained by the slowly blossoming love story and Henry Mancini’s catchy Academy Award-winning “Moon River” tune.
Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) can’t handle money, organization (her slippers are in the fridge and her telephone resides in a suitcase), responsibility, or the level of noise coming from her loud apartment parties. But she can handle men. She has a knack for taking advantage of her good looks and their affect on rich bachelors, and brags about effortlessly receiving $50 for the powder room and another $50 for a taxi while entertaining beaus. O.J. Berman (Martin Balsam in a scene-stealing, hilariously sarcastic performance) claims to have “discovered” her; apartment owner Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney) constantly puts up with her rackets and inability to keep track of her key; and Paul Varjak (George Peppard) takes an immediate interest in her just as he moves in.
Paul is a struggling writer, “sponsored” by the wealthy Patricia Neal (much like Jerry’s sponsorship in “An American in Paris”), but finds himself drawn to the spontaneous Holly. She also rapidly takes a liking to him, simply because he reminds her of her brother Fred, and goes on to call him Fred during much of the film. She’s playful and teasing, but every time Paul finds himself falling in love, Holly snaps him out of his reverie by announcing an engagement to another of the richest bachelors in America (under the age of 50). She’s clearly only interested in wealth, but Paul is determined to make her value real love – if love, in her eyes, can overpower the allure of opulence.
Audrey Hepburn is perfectly cast as Golightly, a woman who is as odd as her name is memorable. She’s crazy about Tiffany’s jewelry shop, a proud place where she can go to feel important even if she doesn’t spend any money; she keeps a cat that she refuses to name (she doesn’t have the right since the cat is its own master); and she’s paid to visit mobster Sally Tomato in prison, a task she innocently believes is to merely relay bizarre weather reports. She’s brazen and peculiar, but there’s a charm about her, even if her intentions are anything but noble.
The film starts with what is clearly a happy-go-lucky, budding romance, but it changes tone when Doc (Buddy Ebsen) is introduced – a character that completely transforms the image of Holly. As the comedic elements dwindle and heavier drama takes its place, Paul finds himself turning into one of the “super rats” that Holly describes – the ridiculous men she toys with solely for money. The details and twists keep coming, and initially their importance is difficult to sort out. But the complexities of Holly and the later complications with Paul and his benefactor make the characters infinitely more interesting.
Holly may not be a role model and she’s downright irritating at times, and Paul may be grasping at dreams that can’t be fulfilled, but it’s difficult not to be amused during the lighter scenes of flirtation when the playful couple engrave a Cracker Jack ring at Tiffany’s or make a day out of doing things they’ve never done before. It’s a consistently watchable mix of laughs, love, and heartbreak. Perhaps the best-known novel-turned-movie from writer Truman Capote, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was adapted by George Axelrod, who cleverly skirts some of the more controversial issues from the book without losing the message. The result is in an offbeat, unique, and unexpectedly bewitching production.
– Mike Massie