Breakfast at Tiffany's
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It's hard to fathom the unanimous lack of faith that originally revolved around this now-beloved 1961 Blake Edwards-directed classic, but truth, as sages have often pointed out, is indeed stranger than fiction. Much of the initial hostility came from the picture's creator, writer Truman Capote, whose 1958 novella provided Breakfast at Tiffany's setting. He hated everything about the show, most prominently the casting of Audrey Hepburn. Talk about one extreme to the other; Capote insisted that he had only agreed to a screen version in the first place under the presumption that it be prepared for Marilyn Monroe! To the author's dying day, he hoped the work would be re-made correctly - updating his casting choice with Jodie Foster, whom he thought perfectly matched his original Lolita-esque conception.
But there was equal static on the home front. After several Paramount executive screenings, the general consensus was that while Breakfast at Tiffany's, as a whole, was okay, that damned song "Moon River" had to go. This wasn't simply a wish held by thickheaded suits, including co-producer Martin Jurow, but by the tune's lyricist, the usually perceptive genius Johnny Mercer. Mercer, depressed about the then-current state of the music business, felt that rock and roll would soon bring about his own demise. Writing three separate sets of lyrics, he told composer Henry Mancini, "...(W)ho's going to record a waltz? We'll do it for the picture, but after that it hasn't any future commercially."
For Mancini, who had a hit with TV's Peter Gunn theme, this would be his first time at bat attempting an original song for a big screen movie - his inspiration coming from it's charismatic star: "Normally, I have to see a completed film before I'll compose the music, but with Breakfast at Tiffany's I knew what to write for Audrey just by reading the script." It was the first of his many home runs. For the record, out of five nominations, Breakfast at Tiffany's won only for Best Song and Best Scoring for a Comedy or Dramatic Picture. Since 1961, "Moon River" has become not only a standard but one of the most recorded ditties of all time (Mancini figured that there were about 10,000 separate renditions - his favorite being the version sung in the movie by Hepburn on the fire escape). It also was listed high in a poll of the Greatest Songs of the Sixties, became Andy Williams signature tune, and, irony of irony, when Mercer's best selling biography was published, it was appropriately entitled Our Huckleberry Friend!
Hepburn, who, for movie fans the world over, owns the part of Holly Golightly as much as she does Sabrina (1954) and the leads in Roman Holiday (1953) and Funny Face (1957), too had reservations about the movie and her portrayal in it. Early test previews did not fare well, and it was only after a final married print was unspooled for the actress did her expectations do a 360 degree turnaround. Enthusiastically, she penned the following note to Mancini: "I have just seen our picture - Breakfast at Tiffany's - this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground...Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty. You are the hippest of cats - and most sensitive of composers." How classy is that?
Director: Blake Edwards
Producer: Martin Jurow, Richard Shepherd
Screenwriter: George Axelrod
Cinematographer: Franz Planer
Composer: Henry Mancini
Editor: Howard A. Smith
Production Designer: Roland Anderson, Hal Pereira
Songwriter: Johnny Mercer
Costume Designer: Edith Head, Hubert de Givenchy
Cast: Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly), George Peppard (Paul Varjak), Patricia Neal (2-E), Buddy Ebsen (Doc Golightly), Martin Balsam (O.J. Berman), Mickey Rooney (Mr. Yunioshi), John McGiver (Tiffany's Clerk)
by Mel Neuhaus