Spoilers and such-if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, go do so now. Right now.
Like countless authors before and since, Truman Capote didn’t like what Hollywood did to his book. F. Scot Fitzgerald walked out on The Great Gatsby, Stephen King hated The Shinning, Anne Rice didn’t want Tom Cruise to play Lestat, and Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holiday Golightly, Traveling. I think she would have been brilliant in the role, just as she was in everything she ever did, but I’m not sure the 1960 edition of Marilyn would have been quite right for the role of 19 year old Holly.
I recently watched Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I loved just about every frame of it. It was filled with all the great bit players I grew up watching on TV, with Audrey and Mickey Rooney being the only real stars in the piece. Rooney has a small role as a Japanese photographer complete with Coke-bottle glasses and buck teeth. This wasn’t the only such portrayal of the time and to be honest, the role of Mr. Yunioshi is nothing more than a cameo, though he does get a couple more lines in the film than he got in the book. The film was directed by Blake Edwards and had Oscar winning music by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.
The novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s and the film differ in many respects, but a good deal of the dialogue from the book does find its way into the movie. The writing is crisp and clean and our never named narrator moves on the fringes of the whirlwind that is the life of Holly Golightly. In the film it’s pretty clear that Holly is a prostitute and there is no doubt at all that Paul/Fred is a gigolo. A favorite scene from the movie sees Holly picking up some money a woman has left on a table for Fred.
“She’s very generous. Three hundred dollars. Is that for the Month? The week? Or the hour?” Is this Holly comparing her own rates to Fred’s? Of course, this doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story. Why would the rich and powerful men Holly courts want to marry her if everyone knew she was a call girl? In the book, Fred doesn’t appear to be a gigolo, he talks about writing and mentions how he is forced to get a 9 to 5 job. A far cry from the life of extravagant luxury lived by Paul in the film. Holly also mentions that she has had a total of 11 lovers, a fairly low number for a prostitute.
The book also features a couple of additional characters, most notable a bartender named Joe Bell. Fred and Holly spend a bit of time in the bar next door. Joe shows up in the first scene where Fred hears the latest rumors about Holly and makes occasional appearances throughout the book.
I remember my impressions on finishing my first reading of Breakfast at Tiffany’s many years ago-it’s the story of a girl that everyone falls in love with as soon as they met her. That’s still my main impression. How many of us have loved someone and never seen them again? Stopped now and then to wonder what happened to them. The movie has that nice tidy happy ending, but the book leaves things a little more open to interpretation. The narrator goes about his life, the cat finds a home, and we never know what happens to Holly. Even the rumor of her whereabouts in the opening scene is only a rumor.