The most famous scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the opening one – the one from which the film (and the Truman Capote novella on which it was based) takes its title.
Holly Golightly emerges from a yellow cab, dressed in a floor-length black gown, elbow-high gloves, dark sunglasses and an extravagant pearl necklace, and nibbles her morning croissant and coffee while gazing into the windows of one of the most exclusive shops in Manhattan.
Even if you have never seen the film itself, you’ve probably seen this scene; it made the star, Audrey Hepburn, and New York synonymous, and Hepburn’s Holly Golightly has passed, happily, into cinematic folklore.
Director Blake Edwards’s hymn to New York high style and high living with its charming heroine, along with her cat (called “Cat”) and those wonderful Johnny Mercer Moon River lyrics, has hardly dated since its release.
Originally a creation of writer Truman Capote, Holly, as written for the screen by George Axelrod and portrayed by Hepburn, is quite enchanting, even though period censorship makes it rather unclear what she actually does for a living.
In Capote’s novel, Holly is clearly a call girl, but since this movie version was made in 1961, when such matters gave censors nightmares, Hepburn’s Holly is depicted as a bohemian gal living off the gifts of gentlemen.
Holly shares an apartment building with struggling writer Paul (George Peppard), who himself is a kept man thanks to a wealthy benefactress (Patricia Neal) with whom he is having an affair.
The delicate balance of both his and Holly’s relationships are placed under threat, however, when Paul falls in love with his beautiful, maddening, neighbour.
Only Mickey Rooney’s phoney (and now politically incorrect) caricature of a Japanese gent as Holly’s exasperated neighbour seems out of kilter in what is otherwise a thoroughly entertaining and wonderfully escapist movie.
José-Luis De Villalonga