The year 2013—until now, one has witnessed several love stories, romantic comedies, or date movies that travel from friendship to love, then adversity, until the eventual strike of love bites whither into permanent bonds of everlasting romance. It sounds all too cheesy, yet very common that what started as moving picture and fictional put-together has now enslaved itself into normal anxieties of love at first bite. The movie that started the trend of immortalizing romance would probably be wearing the hat of Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939). Nonetheless, a movie with a character so immortal that the storyline—despite dead in the depths of time—carries on with elegance and poise, it truly remains one of the most important movies in the history of Hollywood. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the yesteryear classic that gave viewers the personality, albeit the legendary sophistication of charms and illusion, the ravishing and dramatic Academy Award-winning, Audrey Hepburn as Miss Holly Golightly in a movie triumphantly resorting to the undying chemistry of the two leads. Starring Audrey Hepburn as the mythical New York socialite specializing in gold digging and prostitution, and another Academy Award-winning actor, George Peppard as the struggling writer/boy toy, Paul Varjak, Breakfast is a movie one would watch with their loved one and simply learn to adore the beauties of the two characters contrasted by presentation and resembled by execution.
Breakfast epitomizes characterization, probably the strongest tool of storytelling—establishing the two lead characters along with an array of complimentary characters that deliver the intended as in Patricia Neal as 2E, and at times, come off as stereotyped, irritating, and annoying such as Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney). The complimentary characters, per se, draw a wonderful background for the lead pair, with each character adding something exceptional to advance the story and instigate Miss Golightly further into her path towards diplomatic immunity, or simply, dream for prosperity. The character of Doc Golightly portrayed by the legendary theater guru Buddy Ebson works stigmatically in favor of Fred Darling as Holly referred to George Peppard as, due to his similarity to her brother, Fred. For the character of Peppard, this event served as the turning point for an otherwise confused man, in his deluded ways. Likewise, the Hollywood agent, OJ Berman (Martin Balsam) effectively retells the transformation of Lula Mae Barnes, a rural Hillbilly and teenage wife of Doc Golightly into the glamorous and suave New York socialite and the “inner circle” bombshell, Miss Holly Golightly. The role of Jose da Silva Pereira (Jose Luis de Vilallonga) served as a fulcrum in bringing together two machinery objects and jolting them realize the destinies of the wheel of time. Although, the performance of Jose could do with major tweaks, as Jose sounded confused, lost many times during the story—maybe that confusedness added to the overall aloofness of his character and Holly’s tragedy.
With all the background sewn up, the center stage now zooms into the two prodigal characters that personified the Golden Era of Hollywood (Mid 20s until the early 60s), Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak. Similar in too many ways, the character of Holly Golightly goes through a revelation in the movie—whether the girl that was Lula Mae, or later—in the penultimate scene, the woman who strived to become a social figure internationally. On one side, there was the vulnerable, innocent, in many ways, Miss Golightly—who wanted to fit in the mold of New York social elites, worked as a highlight call girl, and remained the keen aspiring wife of top 50 rich men anywhere. Coincidentally, she remained fond of the jewelries at Tiffany & Co. With exotic idiosyncrasies and a smile pure enough to wipe one’s sanity, Holly Golightly ended the movie as one immortal personality in the rich heritage of Cinema. Without doubt, the role of Miss Golightly is Audrey Hepburn’s most famous role and without surprise, it is the movie that defines her as an actor and legend. The suave grace of Hepburn, whether just after a night of wooing, or sitting by her window signing the Oscar-winning track, Moon River, by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, Hepburn as Holly is an embodiment of stylish presence, whether in a sleeping gown or the trademark damsel in black knockout incarnation. During those chirpy moments with Varjak, or the reflective soulful tunes she channeled during nostalgic and the rare moments when she showed her inner essence, Hepburn catapulted into the character, the sweet Hillbilly girl—no longer, but rather a mixture of somebody whom she always was, and now whom she wished to be. That line of puzzlement always present in her throughout the movie made her character so polarized, and it made Hepburn as Golightly even more unfathomable and charismatic.
The second half of the movie, the object that gave meaning to Miss Golightly’s magnetism, of course the man who played the sentimental role of Paul Varjak. Similar to Holly, as both relied on selling themselves to make a living and turn their heads up, Paul—a struggling writer without a book published for 5 years—found redemption when he met this completely magnetic and addictive woman, for whom nothings exists but rats and super rats, along with a nameless cat! Shallow within, such as Golightly, but without the eyes of innocence—in spite of her desire, something that made Holly just indestructible—Varjak found a friend, a motivation, and finally love in this dangerously safe woman. As with many of Golightly’s rats, Varjak was not a rat, but the Cat who drove home a girl much needed to return and leave the space of escapism to the thin air. Varjak worked with sentiments in bringing the bird that feared the cage into home, the sweetness of love and Nature. Thus, the tale of Golightly and Varjak—bringing the best out of one another and helping each other realize the fantasy of living—that is what the entire movie is all about.
Going straight back to Mancini, there is little surprise why this movie won the Academy Award for Best Score, as the musical score typifies the emotions of the movie—whatever the characters feel, the viewers empathize. The highs of Hepburn’s odyssey, or the lows of her travesty, and many times, the reality of Golightly’s spiritual humanity, Mancini works with magic in getting across what they feel to the psyches of those who watch.
Breakfast, as known, is based on the novella by Truman Capote and adapted by George Axelrod, who was nominated for the Oscars. Director Blake Edwards (Pink Panther series) uses his wits and early acting knowledge, to transform a movie with an ordinary script into an extraordinary development of two characters, especially Golightly, and extracts all the juices from every action, every intention to produce one of the finely character-driven and self-realization movies of all time. For a movie with a storyline beaten until death in the present era, Breakfast holds well in the piles of history on the sheer merit of Audrey Hepburn and her everlasting aura as Holly Golightly. The rest of the cast and crew, especially director Blake Edwards and Audrey’s costar, George Peppard shape this story to flatter the sensational performance by Audrey Hepburn.
Along with the characterization, execution, and background score, the cinematic portrayal of New York City makes the otherwise soulless city of New York appear warm, heart touching, and as Varjak puts it—friendly. Cinematographer Franz Planer and Art Directors Roland Anderson and Hal Pereira deserve the utmost appreciation for depicting New York as a romantic town, but the true honor might last with the labor of Set Decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer. In the studio era of Hollywood, Breakfast is one amazing display of cinamscopic beauty and embodiment of the spirit of the movie that transformed a ruthless city into a serving and selfless one.
At the end, there is a saying, “The imperfections of Moon make it perfect for the beholder.” Despite everything, viewers will only take the positive from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and make no mistake—Breakfast is one of the finest movies in the history of Cinema for a learner of Cinema, and in terms of the way Audrey Hepburn assumes her role. Also, all of this, in terms of the beautiful scenic views, the background score, editing, and the embodiment of characterization that this movie is completely about. A gem of a classic—one of the best, ever!
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