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BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (director: Blake Edwards; screenwriter: George Axelrod/from the novel by Truman Capote; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Howard A. Smith; music: Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer; cast: Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly), George Peppard (Paul Varjak), Patricia Neal (Mrs. Failenson, 2-E), Buddy Ebsen (Doc Golightly), Martin Balsam (O.J. Berman), Mickey Rooney (Mr. Yunioshi), John McGiver (Tiffany’s Clerk), José da Silva Pereira (Jose Vilallonga); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Martin Jurow/Richard Shepherd; Paramount; 1961)
“Pleasantly chic but harmless Hollywood bauble.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Blake Edwards’ (“The Perfect Furlough”/”Victor/Victoria”/”This Happy Feeling”) adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella by writer George Axelrod lacks the book’s punch even though it’s faithful to its words and keeps some of the fun. But it bowdlerizes and whitewashes it into an asexual farce leaving it as a pleasantly chic but harmless Hollywood bauble. Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the free-spirited Holly Golightly, who was modeled after a composite of Gloria Vanderbilt, Ona O’Neil and Carol Marcus (wife of Walter Matthau). Blake Edwards and the studio wanted Audrey Hepburn, but the fawn-like upbeat popular actress clad in high-fashion designer clothes is just too sugary and unconvincing for the amoral hipster part.

It won Best Score for Henry Mancini and Best Song for Johnny Mercer’s classic tune “Moon River.”

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) lives with her unnamed cat in a bare luxury brownstone apartment on Manhattan’s ritzy Upper East Side. She earns enough to live on from $50 nightclub powder room trip money by gentlemen dates (which can only mean one thing, but here it’s meant as just innocently that) and gifts given her by rich gentlemen escorts whom she refuses to return any favors to and is paid $100 for each Thursday’s trip she makes to Sing Sing to visit elderly mob boss Sally Tomato. Because she always loses her outside door key and has to buzz, she gets under the skin of her upstairs neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney), a grouchy Japanese photographer. His role is not only lacking in humor but is a prime example of Hollywood’s Asian stereotype racist ethnic humor, as he’s done up with prosthetic eyepieces, overlarge black-framed glasses, big buck teeth, crossed eyes; and, talks rapidly in a derogatory hysterical Japanese accent.

Holly lets her new neighbor, the handsome unsuccessful writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard), use the phone and learns he’s supported by an older wealthy married socialite patroness Mrs. Failenson (Patricia Neal) whom she gives the nickname of “2E.”

After a party, Doc Golightly (Buddy Ebsen), a gentle Texan horse doctor whom Holly married when she was 15 years old, suddenly shows up and meets Paul. Holly tells Paul their marriage was annulled some time ago, and they gently get him to leave after he pleads to get back together again. We also learn that Holly was an unsophisticated hick, nee Lulamae Barnes from Tulip, Tex., who was transformed to a chic Manhattanite by Hollywood agent O.J.Berman (Martin Balsam) among others.

Paul and Holly spend a day in the city and fall in love, but she’s set on marrying Brazilian millionaire diplomat Jose. But when a newspaper story breaks that Holly was innocently carrying narcotics ring information from Sally Tomato to his New York associates, the mousy Jose dumps her to protect his family name. It leads to a happy ending as Paul and Holly decide to get together (their romance was not in the book), after she was so despondent that she was set to leave the city without even her pet cat.

All the hip party scenes look hopelessly dated and square when viewed presently, Hepburn’s acting is annoyingly phony, and the director was the wrong one for this pic. Though the fluff film looks good in Technicolor and Hepburn gazing at Tiffany’s street window with a coffee and a pastry in the morning is cutesy, the film sits inside my stomach as if I had rotten eggs for breakfast.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”