About ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ the 1961 movie starring the delightful Audrey Hepburn

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Breakfast at Tiffanys - Poster

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is offbeat & fun (1961)

Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Texas) November 3, 1961

Readers of Truman Capote’s wry novel may have a little trouble recognizing his celebrated heroine, Holly Golightly, when they meet her in this film version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but that certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t like her. Not by any means.

True, she may be a somewhat different sort of character than Author Capote had in mind, but as elfin Audrey Hepburn portrays her here, she’s a perfectly delightful creature all the same.

And the film she’s swinging through is hardly any less appealing, either, however it may have strayed from the original tale.

In this screen treatment, the irrepressible Holly is less of an amoral girl-about-town than a pixilated playgirl who lives as much by her wits as by her casual virtue — i.e., she makes living expenses by collecting powder room money (at $50 a trip) from big-spending escorts but usually manages to fend off their efforts to realize their investments later in the evening.

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It isn’t, of course, that Holly has a sense of morality about her. It’s simply part of her self-induced kookie belief that she is “a wild thing” who doesn’t want to be tied down by anybody or anything.

Be that as it may, she occasionally shows a yearning to “belong,” but when she gets these “mean reds” (which, she explains, is a condition far worse than the blues), she goes uptown to Tiffany’s and, while munching a bun and sipping coffee out of a carton, admires the sidewalk showcases full of jewelry. Then, the mean reds thus dispelled, she goes back into the night and blooms anew.

But along comes a sometime writer (George Peppard), who’s allowing himself to be kept in Holly’s apartment house by a wealthy woman (Patricia Neal). As soon as the unconventional heroine crawls through his window and into his bed one morning, it’s apparent that all of this is likely to change.

Sure enough, it does. But not before Holly has gotten entangled with a narcotics ring, a Brazilian millionaire and a few other escapades, and not before the writer into a self-examination of his own life which, in turn, brings Holly to a new understanding of her own self.

The plot here is even more slender than Miss Hepburn, but Director Blake Edwards, the “Peter Gunn” creator who has shown a stylish comedy hand in “Operation Petticoat” and “High Time,” manages to decorate it with some bright bits of stuff and nonsense.

Scene from vintage movie Breakfast at Tiffany's

He offers, among other things, a tremendously funny scene in which Holly and the writer talk a Tiffany’s clerk (John McGiver) into engraving a Cracker Jacks prize, another in which they shoplift a couple of masks from a five-and-dime store, and a frantic, freewheeling cocktail party.

Not the least of the film’s undeniable charm is Director Edwards’ use of actual Manhattan locations, splendidly photographed and looking, at various hours of the day and night, quite as sophisticated as the characters in the foreground.

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Virtually everything about “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” though, seems exactly right for what the picture intends to be. The dialogue is fresh, the settings are colorful, the performances are expert (Peppard, incidentally, shows up as a highly promising new start), Henry Mancini’s music is deftly conceived and the spirit is irresistible.

And with special credit to Miss Hepburn, who’s both kooky and wistful, and to Director Edwards’ good touch, the film is uniquely entertaining and thoroughly engaging. Like Holly herself, it’s completely offbeat, but lots of fun.

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Audrey Hepburn talks about Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

By Rick Dubrow – Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, New York) July 2, 1961

Audrey Hepburn says she wouldn’t mind playing a vamp. “I wouldn’t object at all in a good part,” the angelic-looking actress said in her dressing room at Goldwyn Studios, where she’s making her latest film, “Infamous,” with Shirley MacLaine. Miss Hepburn, 32, wearing a white sleeveless dress, said over lunch she doesn’t consider herself very exciting.

“When I’m not working, I don’t do any publicity, because I feel my private life is my own, and I prefer it that way — good or bad,” she said.

“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had to go through any of the cheap gags that some contract girls have to put up with things like being sent to premieres or being linked romantically with young men just to publicize a picture. “I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, but I never would have done such things — regardless of the consequences.”

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MSS HEPBURN escaped the usual starlet-to-star procedure by arriving in Hollywood a full-blown name. Her first major movie — “Roman Holiday” —- was made in Rome and established her. When she followed with “Sabrina,” her first big film in movietown, she already was on top.

“I started as a ballet dancer, and it’s often hard for me to believe I’m an actress — and have been so fortunate,” she said. And to this day, the Belgian-born actress, who is married to director-actor Mel Ferrer, honestly prefers the quiet life of her mountaintop cottage in Switzerland to the wilder shenanigans of Hollywood.

The cottage is in the village of Buergenstock — and, says Miss Hepburn: “We literally live on top of a mountain. There are three hotels nearby and a few farms in the valley below — and that’s all. It’s almost deserted between September 15 and June 1.

“We usually wake up about 7 or 8 in the morning. I cook and take care of our baby, Sean. If we’re there for a long time, we get a cook. If not, I do it.

“Mel plays tennis and does a lot of reading. We walk miles and miles, eat early and go to bed by 10 o’clock. Two or three times a week, we go down to Lucerne to market and make the rounds of shops. “We’ve lived there more than seven years, and it’s a marvelous life. I hate to leave there — even when we have to.”

MISS HEPBURN said Sophia Loren and her husband have rented a cottage on the mountain also. Actually, no one can buy a house in Buergenstock. All the property is owned by a Swiss businessman, but the Ferrers and others are able to lease their homes from his corporation. “People accept us as we are, and there are no ‘star’ problems,” said Miss Hepburn.

Miss Hepburn said Switzerland’s tax laws have nothing to do with her settling in that country. “Mel and I often have been lumped in with those other people who do live there for that reason,” she said. “But although I have a slight tax advantage, after all, I’m not even an American citizen. I carry a British passport.”

MISS HEPBURN, who during World War II danced at underground concerts to raise funds for the Dutch resistance movement, is a staunch defender of Hollywood, despite the fact that she does not live here.

“The technicians for movies are the best,” she said. “I love the climate — especially after being brought up in the lowlands of Europe, where you get accustomed to waking up to dark, dismal days. And I love the informal life, the wearing of slacks and the barbecues — the idea of not making it such a big thing to go out.

“On the other hand, there are things like the ugly advertising on signs and posters. People come to Southern California wanting to see orange groves, but all the way from the airport there are the ‘Mammoth Frankfurter’ signs and the bleak freeways.

“Personally, though, how can I complain? I live well. Everyone is nice to me. A car picks me up to come to work. If I complained after all of that, there’d be something the matter with me. It would hardly be fair to the people less fortunate than I.”

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How “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” used the famed store for their movie set

The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana) October 15, 1961

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.

No duplicate

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!

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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!

Stopping traffic to film Breakfast at Tiffany's movie - 1960s

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!



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