Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fifth Avenue, 57th Street

I just finished Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., Sam Wasson's splendidly-entertaining chronicle of the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.  (The book doesn't mention the Tailored Woman store, located on the opposite corner from Tiffany, but this article does.) 

I've watched Breakfast at Tiffany's too many times to count.  I don't agree with Wasson's assessment (and that, apparently, of the movie's producers and costars) that George Peppard was a weak link as the love interest of Audrey Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly.  He is slightly wooden, but for me it works for his character, a conflicted young would-be writer who believes himself to be an upstanding citizen even as an older woman (the splendid Patricia Neal) keeps him as her plaything.

The original Truman Capote tale involved an unrepentant golddigger and an unnamed narrator who befriends her.  In the cleaned-up (though still racy, for 1961) movie version Peppard's character gradually falls in love with Holly, leading to a romantic ending.  I re-read the novella this weekend and it left me with a case of the blues, or the mean reds, as Holly Golightly would say.  It's a tawdry story, though beautifully written.  In the book Holly never does have breakfast at Tiffany's.  That's why I'll always stay true to the movie version instead, with its sweeping opening shot of 5th Avenue at 5 AM.  Holly's true love affair is with New York itself, and this wonderful corner in particular.

4 comments:

Sadia in LA said...

You are such a great writer that I always want to go out and read the literature that has inspired you!

Anonymous said...

You aren't the only person to be a little disappointed by the hard-edged book after the seeing the enchanting film. But don't be too quick to dismiss Capote's Golightly as a mere "golddigger." Thats what Patricia Neal's character would have said.
Remember, Holly was an applachian child bride whose spirit could not be constrained by class or authority or even reality. I haven't read it in years, but doesn't she pass into myth as an African goddess or something, in the end?
Perhaps the book is comparable to another of your favorites, The Great Gatsby. I would argue that Holly is only money hungry is the same sense that Gatsby is a mercenary gangster.
Holly's blinking green light is herself, her freedom to create that self. The real sadness is the suggestion that this is a doomed quest, that she is just trading one master for another, the powerless can not overcome power. But we're not sure in the end, I think. A little tawdry, but still very romantic to some of us, this idea that an ignorant hillbilly can evade the worst the world can throw at her, including the illusion of love, and escape undaunted into the wild.

Its been a while, let me know if I got something wrong.

The Unstructured Male

The Tailored Woman said...

You are correct, the story opens with the narrator seeing photos of an African bust that he believes must be Holly. So her last sighting was riding out of the brush along with two white men, whom the African villagers save from fever (while Holly allegedly entertained herself with the sculpto). As an aside, I forgot that she is an accomplished rider and I enjoyed the runaway horse sequence when she and the narrator go riding in Central Park. (Another metaphor about wild things that can't be harnassed.)

As usual, the Unstructured Male gives a closer reading than the Tailored Woman... well said!

Anonymous said...

I hope your blog is not developing a "Sports Illustrated" curse; Blake Edwards, the film's director, died yesterday. Julie Andrews was by his side: whatever else one says of their relationship, loyalty at least should be mentioned.

H.M.