BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S. (1961) BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY TRUMAN CAPOTE. DIRECTED BY BLAKE EDWARDS. MUSIC BY HENRY MANCINI.
STARRING AUDREY HEPBURN, GEORGE PEPPARD, PATRICIA NEAL, MARTIN BALSAM, BUDDY EBSEN, MICKEY ROONEY AND ‘ORANGEY’ THE CAT.
A CHRISTMAS FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This iconic romantic comedy with the surprisingly seedy underbelly was my Christmas night viewing of choice in 2016. Happy Christmas, by the way! I chose it because I really just wanted to watch something beautiful and elegant from the absolute ‘Golden Age Of Hollywood’ featuring Mickey Rooney with yellow face make-up and an oral prostethic to simulate a bucktoothed and myopic Japanese chappie, haha. More about that later…
Do we all know what Tiffany’s is? Of course we do, but I’m not wasting the time I spent on Wikipedia so you’d all better pay extra-careful attention to my findings, y’all…!
Tiffany’s, of course, is the world-famous jewellery and luxury goods emporium whose flagship store operates at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City. Tiffany’s was established as far back as 1837, believe it or not, by an olde-timey chap by the name of Charles Lewis Tiffany.
Their stuff is super-posh and so expensive and exclusive that comedian Chris Rock was once heard to make a remark about those ‘rich white motherf***ers who own the colour blue…!’
Let me make it quite clear here and now that I have never been the recipient of the famous robin’s-egg-blue boxes or bags from Tiffany’s that get all those women on TV so excited. Charlotte from SEX AND THE CITY, Reese Witherspoon in the movie SWEET HOME ALABAMA, Holly Golightly from BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and so on.
I was given a blue-and-white striped plastic bag once from a fellow, containing the sweet and sour chicken balls I’d sent him to the Golden Dragon to buy for me. I’m well aware that it’s not the same thing so please don’t bother pointing that out, haha.
Remember when Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS made some extra money panhandling (at least, I think it was that episode!) and he presented Marge with the signature blue box and she said: ‘It’s a Tiffany’s box, and the thing inside is from Tiffany’s…!’ That’s how big a deal this stuff is.
By the way, hands up who here thinks that Tiffany Lamps, another of their elegant and unaffordable products (unaffordable to regular Joe Soaps like us, anyway!), sounds like one of Krusty the Clown’s porn star consorts, you know, like Charity Titters or one of those…?
Remember the pop band DEEP BLUE SOMETHING who made a career out of their ‘Nineties hit referencing the movie? In fact, it was actually called BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and it seemed to centre around a couple whose only point of commonality (that’s a word, right?) seemed to be that they’d both seen the film and, as I recall, they ‘both kind of liked it.’ Better start buying hats for that wedding, so, folks…
More Presidents of the United States than you could shake a stick at have shopped for their wives at the legendary jewellery store. Even Her Madge, the Queen of England, once received a Tiffany’s make-up mirror from the Obamas. Lucky Queenie. Also, the Tiffany’s Blue Book is the equivalent of the Argos Catalogue to us povvos, which is so reassuring to know, don’t you think?
That’s pretty much everything I’ve ever known about Tiffany’s. Are ye ready to move onto the movie now? Oh, ye’ve already buggered off to wolf down leftover-turkey sambos and finish off the eggnog, have ye? Oh well, I guess I’ll just chat away to myself, then. It won’t be the first time…!
The film is the story of Holly Golightly, beautifully played by Hollywood style queen and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn. Those wide eyes and that fabulous smile are to die for, I can assure you. Holly Golightly is, in fact, the name the character gives herself after she runs away from a life of boredom and poverty in the sticks to a supposedly better one of glamour and excitement in New York, leaving her past behind forever. Or so she thinks…
Holly is the kind of flighty, eccentric, free-spirited and highly irresponsible brat I’d normally loathe on sight if she wasn’t being played by Audrey Hepburn. But Ms. Hepburn imparts to her a charming naiveté (goddammit, that word is so hard to spell!) and graceful innocence so that you tend to pretty much forgive her all and any transgressions.
She doesn’t seem to go out to work in the traditional sense or, indeed, have any confidence in her ability to earn a living in a way that doesn’t involve sponging off men. Men pay her for her time and maybe even for her sexual favours too, though all that’s alluded to with a very light hand in the film. After all, one of the most iconic female characters in film of all time couldn’t possibly be a call girl, could she? Well, you guys will have to make up your own minds on this one…
Holly’s game-plan for life is to marry a rich man. If only women today could get away with that kind of thing. But, oh no, we have to be independent and feisty and make our own bloody money from the sweat of our brows and the labour of our hands. Poxy, isn’t it? Maybe if I had an elegantly upswept hairstyle and a ridiculously over-long cigarette holder, I could bag me a millionaire…
Anyway, Holly’s game-plan is thrown for a loop when she meets a man who’s not rich at all, but who in fact is more similar to her than she even knows. A gigolo-cum-aspiring-writer (believe me, gigolo pays better!), Paul Varjak could just be the man to shake up Holly’s rather limited and even tragic ideas about life, love and who just exactly she’s meant to be, under all the bright and brittle Sally-Bowles-from-CABARET- style manic prattle and ‘Oh darling, aren’t we simply having THE most tremendous fun all the time?’- type forced, even desperate gaiety and bravado.
Martin Balsam does a great job as Holly’s Hollywood agent O.J. Berman ‘Baby.’ He’s certainly a darned sight safer here than he is when he’s climbing the dark staircase in the Bates House as the marvellously-named Milton Arbogast, Private Investigator, in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror classic, PSYCHO.
God forgive me, but I absolutely love Mickey Rooney’s hilarious portrayal of Holly’s long-suffering upstairs neighbour, Mr. Yunioshi. Yes, it’s racist and offensive to Japanese people and probably to Asian people everywhere but he does it so well, goddammit.
The non-inclusion of an actual genuine Japanese actor in the film has been giving offence to Asian people since the film was released, and I heard that legendary actor Bruce Lee even walked out of a screening of the movie, he was so upset about the stereotyped and racist portrayal of Asian people.
I understand that the director regretted using a non-Japanese person in the role forever afterwards, while Mickey Rooney himself always maintained that he’d received nothing but praise and positive feedback, even from the Asian community, for his portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi. Well, you just never know how people will react to things, do you?
Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer won the Oscar in 1961 for BEST ORIGINAL SONG for the wonderfully dreamy and sensually romantic MOON RIVER. Henry Mancini won the Oscar overall for BEST ORIGINAL SCORE too. Audrey Hepburn, while I suppose she’s no Beyoncé, does a lovely job nonetheless of singing the theme song with a loneliness and yearning in her voice that would bring a tear to a glass eye.
The phrase ‘BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S’ refers to Holly’s walk of shame along the Manhattan sidewalks as the sun is rising over that famous city. We see Audrey Hepburn, togged out in full evening dress in the early morning, alighting from a yellow cab and going to stand outside Tiffany’s with takeaway coffee and croissant in hand. She’s looking in the window of the store as if it’s the only place in the world that matters to her at that point in time. She’s completely lost in thoughts of Tiffany’s. It’s marvellous to witness.
She actually says the words ‘I’m crazy about Tiffany’s!’ in another clip. She’s more simply garbed in a plain white shirt and sleep mask on top of her head, kneeling in front of the fridge with charmingly sleep-tousled barnet to get out milk for the cat, the ‘no-name slob’ with whom she so strongly identifies. What a glorious sight, and what man wouldn’t immediately want to whisk her off to Tiffany’s and lavish her with the most beautiful jewels imaginable…?
Speaking of which, the jewels themselves are so fabulous they almost defy description. I do believe I came no fewer than six or seven times during the film in my excitement at the sight of ’em, haha.
The final scene, with the cat and the lashing rain and everything, is superb. A splendid ending to a glossy and charming romantic comedy with a surprisingly dark side to it. Seriously guys, miss it at your peril…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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