Use famed store as set for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
What happens when a Hollywood movie company storms New York’s Fort Knox, the fabulous Tiffany’s? For one thing, 12,000 strolling New Yorkers get the show of their lives, watching Audrey Hepburn portray Holly Golightly, the kookie heroine of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s sophisticated saga of a playgirl on the town.
Though Hollywood designers and property men claim they can reproduce anything from volcanoes to pyramids, they unanimously agreed there’s only one Tiffany’s.
So the movie company was moved from the California film capital to the big city and Audrey Hepburn had breakfast at the real Tiffany’s.
As the film opens, playgirl Audrey stands at the window of the historic jewelry establishment, munching an oozing Danish pastry, washing it down with coffee from a cardboard container, and staring hungrily at Tiffany’s Schlumberger necklace… made of no less than 4,000 diamonds!
When Paul (George Peppard), her fiance arrives, the two enter the store to make a strange request. Paul approaches a clerk, holding out a sparkling diamond engagement ring, and asks that Tiffany’s engrave it. He explains, however, that the ring was not purchased at the store, but found in a crackerjack box.
Fortunately, Tiffany’s clerks, having handled some pretty odd requests in the store’s history, have a reputation for being virtually shock-proof.
Mrs JW Mackay, grandmother of Mrs Irving Berlin, once turned over three tons of silver to Tiffany’s and ordered 1,000 articles fashioned from it.
Tiffany’s has made a sterling Silver pot de chambre for a romantic Frenchman, a gold bidet for an actress, and baffles for Jimmy Doolittle’s aeroplane engines used on the Tokyo raid. It also manufactured swords and rifles in the Civil War and surgical instruments during the First World War.
And so, with considerable dignity, the Tiffany clerk agrees to engrave the ring, which, by the way, is actually a crackerjack box prize.
But before the Breakfast at Tiffany’s prop procurers found the little item, they went through some 200 boxes of the sticky candy.
While the pair are in the shop, 20 Tiffany clerks, four of whom have been employed for 50 years, make their motion picture debuts, though they have no speaking parts.
All appear at their regular places, yet all declined to reveal their names to the movie company, becoming the only known “actors” to refuse screen credit!
Present behind the scenes during shooting, which took place on a Sunday while the store was closed to its regular clientele were enough armed detectives to win a small war.
Though the famous jewelers declined to break its 123-year-old tradition and give out approximations of the value of the gems on display, informed sources estimate that the guards protected between $10 and $15 million worth of jewels… in the main showroom alone!
The 100 by 85-foot showroom is probably the most expensive set ever used for one day of filming. And although the store had never been photographed for a motion picture before, it turned out to be ideal for the movie company’s purposes.
The 24-foot roof is supported by three steel trusses, instead of columns, so there was nothing to interfere with the cameraman’s lens as he scanned the showcases of the fabulous jewels.
The most famous of these is the rarely-seen “Tiffany Diamond,” which was worn by Audrey Hepburn (in the store only) to mark the occasion of Tiffany’s first filming.
The gem, largest and most expensive canary diamond in the world, is set in a platinum necklace of round diamonds… weighs 128.51 metric carats and is valued at $544,400.
It had been worn only once before, by Mrs Sheldon Whitehouse at the Tiffany Ball in Marble House in July, 1954… was placed around Miss Hepburn’s neck by Henry B Platt, great-great grandson of Charles L Tiffany, founder of the store.
Playing host to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s company was a pleasurable experience for Mr Platt even though, with close to 100 people in the store for almost 16 hours, he didn’t sell a thing!
Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie trailer
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Publication date: November 3, 1961