Tuesday, October 11, 2011

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Open Thread

What did you think?

See more photos from the show over at Movie Club.


  1. This show is supposed to arrive for me tonight. It is a hopeful story about finding one's way, and helping those around you. Should be fun!

  2. Funniest line:

    Do you think she is handsomely paid?


  3. The handsome are cheap. Maybe quotidianly paid?

  4. Ah, the quotidian. Not so good-looking, but at least they aren't stingy. ;)

  5. It's the oddest thing -- I've had myself stymied over comments about the movie because I keep thinking about the differences I've learned of between the book and the film. I haven't read Capote's book, and don't know whether I will, as it sounds more grim and downbeat than I generally care for. Nonetheless, I keep trying to overlay some of the differences on the work the scriptwriter and director created. No, it doesn't make sense to me, either.

    Happily, the movie does make sense, and I enjoyed it -- especially with the happy ending. And the Cat. :)

    Even if you're not trying to, you come across a lot of comments about the Holly Golightly character -- she is so delightfully drawn, and the story is about her and her journey. And played by Audrey Hepburn, delicate, fragile, lovely, she is pretty irresistible.

    And she is an interesting character. We don't just want to enjoy her company, we want to get to know her. At least, we do once we learn that there is more to her than the charming eccentric that dates wealthy men for a living.

    I liked the way the viewer gets to know her past as Paul/Fred, Darling does, and we see the effect it has on him -- his feelings toward her, his understanding of himself -- as our own understanding of this girl grows.

    She learned early that attaching herself to a man of means was a critical survival technique, for herself and for the adored slow-witted brother Fred. Doc Golightly was the first savior, but he was as unrealistic about Lula-May's maturity as she was herself. "Going on fourteen" -- and he believed she was ready to be wife, homemaker, and step-mother, when what she and Fred needed was the shelter of loving parents, which they apparently had not had. She stayed in the "cage" Doc made her for less than a year before fleeing to California, where O.J. Berman spent a year grooming her, turning her into the sexy sophisticate she showed the world, only to have her fly his coop before becoming permanently fixed in Hollywood. And so we meet her in New York, a much-sought-after addition to elegant parties, where she has been hunting for a man of means to shelter her and Fred.



    But she does not understand that the kind of man who gives a girl fifty dollars for the powder room is most likely to view that fifty as an investment in the pleasures he assumes await him, and so she is continually disappointed that these men turn out to be "rats," if not "super-rats."

    She does fall in love with Paul as he falls for her -- and when she realizes it, it scares her into moving up the campaign on exotic, rich, Jose. She has to have money, as she tells Paul. She has to provide for Fred as well as herself, and the only marketable skill she has learned is being Holly Golightly.

    O.J. Berman claims he likes Holly; that although she is a fake, she's a real fake, believing all the stuff she says. But I think he's wrong; I think she knows clearly when she is being Holly -- whether engaging her audience one-on-one, as the dinner dates from whom she eventually must escape, or as a full house, like the the apartment-full of friends and acquaintances who quite literally party until they drop.

    Quite different from when she is being herself, the lonely, frightened, "no-name slob" that understands all too well Paul's situation in being financially dependent on someone else who has the money, and the power.

    That sympathetic understanding, that commiserating friendship with which she immediately embraces Paul, is the first reality check Paul gets about his arrangement with "E-2." Although it is as critical as Holly's change of heart, the change in Paul is played more lightly. He characterizes it as realizing that he can help someone else -- at least as important to him as the romantic feelings he has for Holly. But I think there is another element, too. I think his failure to live up to the "promise" of his first book, his view of himself as a failure, had left him open to the propositions from E-2, as if he is degrading himself as a sort of self-punishment.

    E-2's insistence that he have everything optimal for creating his Next Great Work is actually stifling, and she is in no hurry to see Paul successful, as success will make him independent of her. But Holly's belief in his abilities encourages him, his delight in getting to know her inspires him, and the growing success he achieves with the forbidden short stories brings him back to his natural hopefulness.

    Paul's hopefulness crashes head first into Holly's fears, and they part ways with Holly determined to marry Jose. The news of Fred's death tears Holly apart, and Paul makes sure it is Jose that stays to be there for her in her tremendous grief. When we next see Holly she is working on a revised version of herself, a Senora Jose version, learning Portuguese and knitting. She thinks she's finally headed for a future she wants, she's almost certain what Jose intends... and it is at that point that Jose defects over her arrest and the narcotics charges.

    She's too afraid of her own feelings, and the images she carries of relationships as traps, to accept Paul's proposal. I think it indicates how deeply she loves Paul that, abandoned and in jeopardy, she does not turn to Paul to rescue her; she's never had any doubt that he isn't one of her "rats," and it doesn't occur to her to use him.

    The last scene, the fight in the cab, has Paul's angry speech affecting her like cold water on a hysteric, she realizes that she can trust Paul, that she can stop running, and we all know the rest. (I hope! Boy, I forgot to say anything about Spoilers!)



    It isn't my favorite scene, even though I'm a fool for happy endings, and I love that shot of the two of them in the pouring rain "protecting" Cat. I've been trying to decide what is my favorite scene. I love the one where Holly comes in Paul's window from the fire escape, and they get to know each other in companionable sympathy until she curls up with him to sleep like an exhausted child.

    The party scene is notable, and amusing when Holly joins the festivities already in progress wearing... is it a shower curtain? Paul gets to see the working Holly: charm, flattery, teasing given in apparently nonchalant doses, happy to let guests fend for themselves (and over-fend, as the model, Mag, and the woman emotionally engaged with her reflection, most demonstrably do). But it isn't as amusing as I presume it was meant to be -- it's too good at showing a room full of people trying way to hard to be having fun. (Wow, the good old days, before Designated Drivers and drinking responsibly and Martha Stewart, when all you needed for a cocktail party was plenty of booze and a jar of olives.)

    I think my favorite parts center on Doc Golightly. Buddy Ebson is so beautifully sensitive as the gentle older man who has let Holly have her freedom for five years, but believes it is time for her to return. He gives Paul so much background on Holly -- but only as he understands it.

    I love the moment when Paul addresses Holly as "Lula-May" in a bitter "gotcha" moment -- only to have her beam happily and begin calling for Fred. She is almost as happy to see that it is Doc who has found her, and Paul is more confused than ever. The later scene, when she speaks with Paul almost franticly about the annulment Doc can't accept, and the need to send him away, shows the undeniable sweetness of Holly's heart -- the real love she has for Doc, and her desperation to make him understand that she cannot "come home" while hurting him as little as possible.

    Those moments in the train station were quietly heart-breaking (I think this is the first movie we've done that has made me cry!), but the following scene, when Paul is ensuring that Holly doesn't go home until she is "very drunk indeed" is wonderful comic relief.

    Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard were so good together in this. She captured the girl at turns artful and naive, and he made very real the transition from amusement to protectiveness to love that Paul experiences.

    Which reminds me of the wonderful scene at Tiffany's, capping off their day of "firsts" by trying to find something for ten dollars. Paul is so happy, discovering his feelings for Holly, and Holly is so happy just being happy. She's basking in being truly loved, and hasn't realized it yet.

    And Patricia Neal, so great as the gal you love to hate, whether being cooly brazen (like calling Paul to bow out of "girls' night out" in front of her husband), or coldly hateful in her jibes at Paul when he is ending the affaire.

    (I don't know why they went with Mickey Rooney as a ridiculously over-cliched Japanese neighbor, but... wow. Not so great.)

    I enjoyed this so much -- and I'm really looking forward to watching it again, with The Sister, or The Niece, or Both.

  8. For this viewing, I was stuck on something I read about Capote admitting to a small group at a party late in his life that the original story was really about people he had known in the gay scene in NY. Until that point, he always
    maintained that it was not--probably because Hollywood would have disowned him had he changed his story, at least in the Sixties. Thus, all the characters are really males, and all the bizarre behavior and "drama" is just part and parcel to that lifestyle. Capote was the struggling writer being subsidized by an older benefactor--although some elements there were composites of other men he had known. I don't believe the writer is more than the narrator of the short story and marriage isn't the ending. The "Holly" prototype was a tall, thin, muscular
    Texas cowboy who hooked up with the money set and was initially taken under the wing of a Hollywood type who turned him into a more-cultured Rock-Hudson-type character. He became the flavor of the season in the NY scene when the story takes place. "Doc" was the chickenhawk that initially preyed on that young boy in Texas and came to reclaim him. He was beaten to a pulp by the now grown man in Capote's party story. You can figure out the rest. The real life version supposed died of a drug overdose a couple of years later.

    Blake Edwards knew the backstory and inserted what he could to produce a more conventional and more commercial story for the time--even though the short story was written as a male/female relationship.

    I would not advise anyone to think of any of this while they watch the movie, not if you want to enjoy it. Forget I said anything.

    1. "Capote admitting ....... that the original story was really about people he had known in the gay scene in NY...........Thus, all the characters are really males"
      That makes the Character of Jose much more understandable. His fear of "scandal" was fear of being outed and then being thrown out of the family. Also, the high dramatics of some of the party guests were just not believable unless they were of gay males, especially the woman with the mirror. I guess they left in the name of "Irving" as a tip of the hat to the book,. I have not read it but I imagine that Irving would have been a drag queen.

  9. ;p

    (Sounds like George Axelrod should get a lot more credit.)

  10. I thought the "Doc" character as they presented him was creepy in his own right. She was 14 when they got married and he was, how old? That didn't fly in 1961 either and certainly not in Texas. If you want to "save" such a girl, there is always adoption or legal guardianship. And that passive/aggressive "blackmail" about taking care of her brother after his hitch only if she'd come back? What happened to the love and concern he felt for both of them? He couldn't take him into his veterinary practice or give hime a job as a farmhand and a bunk in the barn?

    1. I wondered the same thing. If Fred was a capable enough man to go into the army then why did he need his sister to take care of him?

  11. I have to admit, I didn't catch the touch of blackmail -- Holly was so excited at the idea of Fred coming to her in New York, I didn't pick up on it.

    So, tell me, tell me! ;) Did you have a favorite part?

    And where is James Nicholas? Hmmm??

  12. You know I love Audrey Hepburn. Every second of her screen time was my favorite part. Whe she "looked" to see if she was wearing a nightgown before turning her back to change in front of Peppard made me smile. Her more casual look when she went out with Peppard on the night before she was leaving for Brazil. Climbing on open drawers to search for that bottle of booze and winding up in the sink. Her
    guitar version of "Moon River." Good memories all.

  13. Oh, I agree -- all wonderful happy bits! (That deal with checking for PJ's cracked me up.)

  14. Oh, and The Cat on the bull's head when she is knitting.

  15. And where is James Nicholas? Hmmm??

    I think he's waiting for an apology for screwing up his thread. Fair enough. "I am sufficiently sorry!" No. Really.

    I need to filter more.

  16. Not at all, not at all. No, I've been working on a rather tedious internet encyclopedia. It can be consuming. But no, this was marvelous, absolutely marvelous, and Cathy has really offered some remarkably good comments on the story. We are lucky to get to watch these shows together! I do have things to say. In fact, I had a cracker jack response that I wrote elsewhere while photo fishing, but the comment disappeared after the fourth edit and the work of re-crafting it seemed to pull me up short. But this was a good one, and a lot of fun!

  17. I have to tell you, I loved the O.J. Berman character. The casual way he could pick up a conversation with anyone? And when Paul finds O.J.'s questions of interest a challenge, the effortless manner in which O.J. sets him at ease was a delight. But best was the smoothness he had speaking with that young woman at the party:

    "What's your name? What do you go by?"


    Irving. Oh, sure...sure. That's beautiful. Nice to meet you Irving-baby."

    You gotta smile. Not in the least bit thrown off. His presence was my favorite part of the party.

    Now Holly Golightly was a money loser for him, but was he angry with her over it? No. And didn't press on her. She went off to New York, missed the big screen test that he had been working towards, and he just let her go. He might come by to join her at her party, check in on her every now and again, and that's it. He had a real appreciation for Holly. When her visits with Sal Tomato got her in trouble, he was quick to send a lawyer and advised what she should do to minimize the impact. He never once believed she had been tied up in the narcotics racket. No, just knew she was in a jam. He liked her, but he kept himself at a distance. Doc would have been better off if he had shepherded his interests along a similar course.

    As to his question "Is she a phoney?" and the answer "Yeah, she is, but she's a real phoney." I took to mean that she could charm the socks off you, but underneath she was a genuine, caring, delicate creature. A person worth helping, worth looking out for.

    Darrell's right about Doc. Definitely a bit creepy. In fact, if anyone could be blamed for giving Holly the impression that men who wanted you would put you in a cage, it was Doc. She saw the situation far more clearly then Doc did, and still she had a kindness toward him, a desire not to hurt him, though she would not allow herself to be confined by him again. That's an unusual person. Brave, willing to do the right thing, yet still caring and compassionate.

    But it was Audrey that made the show. I loved her. And her anger at the end when Jose turned out to be a super-rat? Her insistence that Paul give her a list of "...the fifty richest men in Brazil. The fifty richest!"? So determined. But Paul knew, and she would realize as well, that you don't need the fifty richest men to get through life.

    Very nice.

    1. Berman is a jew, written to be what a southerner thinks a jew is.

  18. Did you catch when Holly was at the party and needed a light? That studio publicity photo above isn't right. Did you catch O.J.?

    "I got it" and blows Paul's match out?! Gave me a chuckle.

    And Holly: "He's a great agent. He knows a terrific lot of phone numbers!"

    I'll tell you something else. That E-2 picked Holly up on the radar but quick. She was angling to push her to the side, pronto. Should have taken a little more of a look around when she was picking that place out for Paul. And Paul... she had a cage set for that guy just as sure as anyone ever had for Holly.

    I read a little article on the movie in the UK Dailey Mail:

    In the wider world, most of the critics greeted the film with rapture. Not Truman Capote, though. When asked what he thought was wrong with it, he replied: ‘Oh, God, just everything. It was the most miscast film I’ve ever seen. It made me want to throw up.’

    What a clown, that guy. He has no idea how difficult it was to make what was a very seedy, sad character someone who is both superficial and yet layered, fragile yet strong. Why do you think so many young women want to emulate her? It ain't for pulling tricks. The Holly Golightly as played by Audrey Hepburn wasn't really a call girl. She was a girl looking to land a financially secure future, and she charmed her way to get along. Her feminine qualities empowered her, but she had to learn to trust and love. Don't think that was in the novella, so get over it.

    And Mel Ferrer. Don't even start with that Mel Ferrer.

    Henry Mancini was more perceptive:

    "I kind of knew what to write, at least what track I should I be on, by reading the script," he said. "And Audrey's big eyes gave me the push to get a little more sentimental than I usually do. Those eyes of hers could carry it I knew that. Moon River was written for her. No one else has ever understood it so completely. There have been more than a thousand versions of Moon River, but hers is unquestionably the greatest."

    After the screening, which Audrey saw for the first time with the score, she wrote the following letter to Henry Mancini:

    Dear Henry,

    I have just seen our picture - BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty.

    You are the hippest of cats - and the most sensitive of composers!

    Thank you, dear Hank.

    Lots of love, Audrey

    That's quite a gal. She made the film. But as to my favorite line? It had to be this...

    "I'll tell you one thing, Fred, darling... I'd marry *you* for your money in a minute. Would you marry me for my money?"

    "In a minute."

    "I guess it's pretty lucky neither of us is rich, huh?"

  19. What a clown, that guy.

    He was pushing to cast Marilyn Monroe as Holly, according to legend. Good thing he didn't have the clout to get what he wanted then. And Paramount's head of production wanted to replace Henry Mancini with someone "hotter" and more "New York" like Gordon Jenkins when the movie was being previewed. He had the clout, but thankfully Blake Edwards, the co-producer, and Audrey Hepburn refused to budge an inch. Patricia Neal (2E) was added by Blake Edwards to clarify that the writer had a sexual interest in women in the film version.

    Why do you think so many young women want to emulate her?

    The East side digs and Givenchy "rags" with no visible means of support might have had something to do with it--with a lot of help from Audrey Hepburn's attitude and presence.

    1. I think Marilyn would have been a very good Holy Golightly.

  20. I get ya, but what I am telling Capote is that the story in the movie is not the story he wrote in the book. Yeah, they lost the abortion scene, they lost the confused and uncertain ending. I shed a bitter tear. According to one of those articles, Capote wanted to play the role of Paul opposite Marilyn Monroe. Okay. That didn't happen, and they Hollywooded him off by telling him the role was beneath him, just a shoulder for Holly to cry on, no real meat there. And he agreed! The role was beneath him. Sheesh. But whether he agrees with those changes or not, it is imperceptive and rudely dismissive of him not to understand exactly what Audrey Hepburn did with the role.

    "Dammit. My movie got saddled with Audrey Hepburn."


  21. I could see him playing Mr. Yunioshi. In fact
    the real life version probably was a lot like Capote. I guessing that includes serving boys in geisha makeup.

    Yes I understand that he missed that Blake Edwards wanted to make an old-fashioned love story and anyone else but Audrey Hepburn would have played the role as ditsy-dumb, not free-spirited-- all-knowing but not caring.

  22. Where's Cathy to deliver the wrap-up?
    We don't want the world to end, do we?

  23. Wrap-up? You want me to talk more?!

    OK -- I no longer have ANY interest in reading the book! (But I may need to watch the movie again even sooner than I planned.)

    Whose turn is it to pick the next show?

    1. I think a gay version of the book would probably sell these days. Can't imagine a gay man going to hang out at Tiffany's though. Probably would be Sachs Fifth Avenue or Macy's. IN fact I bet in the gay world of NYC in Truman's time it was Macy's and he changed it to Tiffanies when he made the Golightly character a female. In fact, I know that gay men cruised the bathrooms at department stores. The REAL inspiration for this story was probably VERY seedy and slimy indeed!

  24. No, Truman Capote doesn't get to pick.

    Come on Cathy, pick one out for us. Surely you've got something in mind. These fellows can choose after you, if they like.

  25. It doesn't even have to be Charade. Or star Audrey Hepburn.

  26. Matt, you may not have cared much for this on the first go, but I'd lay odds that the wife would like it. There are so many blogs out there where women are talking about style and design, and this movie and the character Hepburn created comes up again and again. There may be more in here than you might guess on cursory inspection.

    Audrey Hepburn, yeah. I've been wanting to see 'My Fair Lady' again - that was a fun one! But hey now, there's no kibitzing!

  27. No bet - she loves it!
    But I knew that when I married her so I can't complain... (It's our first anniversary tomorrow - if I can be permitted a 'cute moment' amidst all this serious film talk...)

    I like most Audrey movies - Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon.. all charming. I even love her in War and Peace. And Charade is wonderful: the sort of film Hitchcock should and could have still been making in the mid-sixties instead of all that psychodrama nonsense. And Wait Until Dark - excellent, tense thriller.
    But Tiffany's has never really conveyed anything to me, I'm afraid. Very much a Blake Edwards movie: kind of second generation, Rank Xerox Hollywood sophistication. And I don't much like the rest of the cast, which is the clincher, I suppose.

  28. Well... it is almost Halloween. But I don't like horror, and I don't like gore, so my favorite Halloween movie is Arsenic and Old Lace. (Admittedly, some of Cary Grant's mugging is a bit unnerving, but it isn't actually scary.)

    On the other hand, if you're in the mood for scary, and you're not tired of Audrey Hepburn (you guys can have Charade or My Fair Lady next time, if you wish), there's Wait Until Dark. (Most effective if watched with the lights off.)

    Any preferences re dark comedy vs thriller?

  29. Hi, Matthew! Your comment must have loaded while I was writing mine. You know you can't go wrong announcing yourself an Audrey Hepburn fan around here. ;)

    But more to the point, Happy Anniversary!

    I hope all is going well with your new home and job. Are you enjoying the Jane Austen Centre? (And Bath overall?)

  30. I'm sure Matthew bathes completely, being married now and all. And I join in the Happy Anniversary wishes to Matthew and his lovely bride.

    Perhaps we can double or triple up for the holidays? Halloween and all those special witch's days . . . Didn't some Brit paper just say that Wiccan ways help us get in touch with our spirituality these days or some such rot?
    I haven't checked Netflix, but two more movies come to mind. After Life, a 2009 film with our friend Liam Neeson, and The Broken, a 2008 film with Lena Headey. Both falll into my "films you probably never heard of" category and neither is what I would classify as "horror," although the latter does have a body count. The former takes place in a mortuary so the bodies are part of the territory, so to speak. It also features more than a bit of nudity for the same reason, but no sexuality. I suggest both because we have a tendancy to concentrate on older films to the exclusion of all others. After Life may require a bit of discussion because the studio required it to be ambiguous as to not offend the non-Christian sorry lot.

    It's only a suggestion and both had been available at Netfix, although movie rights come and go there, especially for streaming.

  31. Well, absolutely, I am very happy to add my heartfelt congratulations to you and your lovely wife, Matthew. Could it have already been a year? Well, good on you both!

    Those look like good suggestions Darrell. Liam Neeson is great. I checked out Canterbury Law - it was quite good. Very edgy. I loved the opening sequence with that bluesy guitar. My favorite was her law partner, the former ADA, and the interplay she had with him. Six episodes and done. Too bad - that was a pretty good show.

    Now then, Arsenic and Old Lace and Wait Until Dark. I can't imagine figuring out how I would like either of those movies, but I am ready to be shown the way! Let's try Wait Until Dark. I'll have it up in a few days time.

  32. "...all that psychodrama nonsense"

    Yes, indeed. There were better things to do. But we get to pick and choose, and enjoy what we will. I am so glad he made such great films like 'Notorious' and 'North by Northwest'. Good stuff.

  33. Thanks all!
    And yes, we're loving living in Bath - it still feels like we're only starting to get to know the place...

    As for Wait Until Dark: let me echo Cathy's observation that it is most effective with the lights off - and this is not meant in the sense of the old cliche, ie: to mean 'it's scary'. I'll say no more than that so as not to risk spoiling it but seriously: do, if at all possible, take the advice of the film's title and then watch it without any lights on.

  34. "...all that psychodrama nonsense"

    Boy, if there's one thing Arsenic and Old Lace has plenty of, it's psycho-drama. ;)

    I'll have Wait Until Dark in a couple of days, too.

  35. But in a very heightened form!

    "Do you remember, Martha, once, a long time ago, we thought if he'd be George Washington, it might be a change for him, and we suggested it."
    "And do you know what happened? He just stayed under his bed for days and wouldn't be anybody."

    Infinitely better than Marnie!!!

  36. Okay, now you have me interested to see both pictures!

    See how this works!!