As part of Film Mention’s Classic Review, I picked the iconic film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ to watch and write about first. This may make me a terrible movie buff but I have never seen this movie before, nor have I seen any starring Audrey Hepburn. At least now I know what I have been missing and I sure was missing a great film! As one of the most iconic films ever made, it continues to dazzle audiences with its glamour and romance more than 50 years after it was released.
Based off of a novella by Truman Capote, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is about a socialite living in New York City who find herself bouncing from wealthy men to even wealthier men as a way to fund her lifestyle. This socialite, of course, is played by Oscar winning actress Audrey Hepburn.
Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, is a ball of light who is obsessed with the finer things in life. Throughout the movie, she finds herself assuming she will marry one of the many rich men she meets including the 9th richest man in American and the next President of Brazil. Her life changes when she meets a writer by the name of Paul Varjak (George Peppard) who moves into the same building as her.
Paul, whom is called Fred throughout the movie because he reminds Holly of her brother, is not so different from her. He is having a secret affair with a very wealthy woman (Patricia Neal) who gives him money and housing for his company. Paul has published a book of short stories before but hasn’t released anything new for quite a long time. Holly coaxes him into writing again by buying him a ribbon for his typewriter, leading him to make a lot of changes in his life by the end of the movie.
Audrey Hepburn isn’t the only legendary actor staring in this film. The great Mickey Rooney plays the part of Mr. Yunioshi, a very grumpy neighbor who is often terrorized by Holly’s constant parties and having his door buzzed because she forgot her keys. In this case, Rooney’s character is of asian descent but the actor is not. Also, Rooney is wearing makeup to look asian and takes on a very camp accent. While at the time this would have seemed like a very funny thing to do, and it isn’t a new practice to hire white actors to play characters who aren’t white, by today’s standards, its racism.
So with that said, I want these reviews to also act as a critique on what society was like at the time and how things have changed. Even though this was the norm back then, I have to address this because it would be wrong of me not to. If this film was released today, it would have faced the same criticism that ‘Exodus’ received for casting two white actors to play people of color. I’m sure this won’t be the first time I have to write this whilst doing this series.
Despite the racism, Hepburn is truly deserving of her status as a Hollywood legend. Ranked at #3 on American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female screen legends, she portrayed a character that has become the epitome of the cosmopolitan woman. Whether is is that iconic little black dress, the hair, or her authentic portrayal of someone who is trying to find themselves, she makes you feel like you are looking at a version of yourself.
Whilst watching the film, I found myself relating to the many things that she was doing and saying. I’ve only recently turned 21 and I’m very much still trying to figure out who I am. I do not relate to, however, is how naive she can be. I have quite a cynical view of people’s intentions, so when she tells Paul that she is going to the famous Sing Sing prison to visit “a dear friend,” who also happens to be a mafia boss, I can already tell it will end badly (spoiler: it ends very badly).
As previously mentioned, Hepburn’s looks are the focus of this and many other films. This is unfortunate because I resent the fact that many people only remember Audrey Hepburn for being pretty. Being remembered for your beauty is great, but she was such an extraordinary woman who gave some much of herself to people.
Her amazing acts came as result of endured the German occupation of her home country during World War II. Since she felt extremely grateful to have survived this ordeal, she dedicated much of her life to helping those less fortunate as a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF. As a result of her actions, she was awarded the highest civilian honor given in the United States – the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Posthumously, she also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
After a battle with Appendix cancer, Audrey Hepburn died on January 20, 1993 at the age of 63.
Her memory lives on in the many roles she inhabited and the lives she touched. ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is just one of what is hopefully a long list of amazing Audrey Hepburn movies that I am grateful to review.
‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ was released on November 5, 1961 and stars Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Mickey Rooney, Martin Balsam and Patricia Neal. The film was directed by Blake Edwards.