I watched “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” last night - we’re going to be reading Truman Capote’s book after the break and I wanted to start thinking about it. The movie rewrites Truman Capote’s story, turning it into a romcom, completely eliminating the book's gay themes. I’d seen ‘Breakfast’ before, but now I’m a little older, and as a single woman, I can better appreciate it. I’m looking forward to studying its socio-****** themes. These are some first thoughts.
Let’s take the opening of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The images are iconic and some of the most widely repeated in pop-culture today (Hello, ubiquitous dorm room decor), but they’re never used in a way consistent with their function in the film. Instead of seeing a horribly depressed girl who has nothing left in her life but pure escapism, people see a beautiful woman with apparent access to luxury.
When “Breakfast” came out (in 1961) there was a sense, within the press and wider public, that even a neutered version of Holly Golightly represented a cinematic moral nadir that posed a threat to society. Whether Holly was a “moral character” was up for debate in countless reviews of the film. Today, this seems absurd.
Today, Holly is seen as an aspirational figure. With her opera gloves, her intricate updo, pearls and Givenchy little black dress, she looks like someone who belongs at Tiffany’s (of course, the casting the euro-elegant Audrey Hepburn didn’t hurt). Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe as Holly - that would have been a very different movie.
Watching the film, I was struck with how contemporary Holly felt. She seems so familiar - so similar to the countless imitations we’ve seen since. People watching the movie for the first time today may be underwhelmed, but Holly seems so contemporary now, because she was so ahead of the curve back then (just over 60 years ago).
If you look at the popular romantic comedies that surrounded ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, like “Pillow talk,’ ‘Gigi,’ and ‘Giget’ - their leading ladies were nothing like Holly. Being a heroine in those films meant you strived for marriage, you saved yourself for your one true love and, as a woman, you avoided certain subjects altogether. They imply happiness only comes from following a certain good girl ethos.
An example of what could happen to a girl, if she strayed from that path, was shown in Elia Kazan’s ‘Splendor in the Grass’ which also came out in ‘61. Its theme is the consequences of ****** repression, and it outlines a specific cinematic binary. There are good girls and bad girls. The bad girls were usually presented as sad and mentally unstable - and they paid for their sins in the end - usually by dying by some karmic punishment (car wrecks usually).
Holly sits somewhere in between good and bad, complicating the cinematic binary. Because Audrey’s elegance plays her as classy, warm and accessible, she doesn’t come across as a dangerous wild child - although she makes all of the bad girl choices - like partying, drinking and having ***.
For women who grew up in the repressive 1950s, Holly represented a new path forward. Holly lived on her own, she didn’t crave marriage above all else, she didn’t want to live in a cage, and she managed to have a good time without being victimized or doomed. Holly was noticeably different. The pill came out in May of 1960 (one of the watershed events in human history). Holly was Hollywood's first post-pill heroine, representing the ****** revolution before Betty Friedan’s ‘Feminine Mystique’.
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Nadir: the lowest or worst point of something.