Film Review: ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’

Whitewashed and solidified for the screen, Truman Capote’s “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” emerges an unconventional, but dynamic, entertainment that will be talked about and, resultantly, commercially successful.  Out of the elusive, but curiously intoxicating negative of Capote’s fiction, scenarist George Axelrod has developed a surprisingly moving positive, touched up into a stunningly visual motion picture experience by the screen artisans assembled under the aegis of producers Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd and surveillance of director Blake Edwards.

Capote buffs may find some of Axelrod’s fanciful alterations a bit too precious, pat and glossy for comfort, but enough of the original’s charm and vigor have been retained to make up for the liberties taken with character to erect a marketable plot.

What makes “Tiffany’s” an appealing tale is its heroine, Holly Golightly, a charming, wild and amoral “free spirit” with a latent romantic streak.  Axelrod’s once-over-Golightly erases the amorality and bloats the romanticism, but retains the essential spirit (“a phony, but a real phony”) of the character.  And, in the exciting person of Audrey Hepburn, she comes vividly to life on the screen.  Miss Hepburn’s expressive “top banana in the shock department” portrayal is complemented by the reserved, capable work of George Peppard as the young writer whose love ultimately enables (in the film, not the book) the heroine to come to realistic terms with herself.

Especially excellent featured characterizations are contributed by Martin Balsam as a Hollywood agent, Buddy Ebsen as Miss Hepburn’s deserted husband, and Patricia Neal as Peppard’s wealthy “sponsor.”  Mickey Rooney’s participation as a much-harassed upstairs Japanese photographer adds an unnecessarily incongruous note to the proceedings.  Others prominent and valuable in support are John McGiver, Vilallonga, Dorothy Whitney, Stanley Adams, Elvia Allman and Alan Reed.  Putney, as Miss Hepburn’s symbolic no-name feline pet, is definitely PATSY bait.

Cinematically, the film is a sleek, artistic piece of craftsmanship, particularly notable for Franz F. Planer’s haunting Technicolor photograhy and Henry Mancini’s memorably moody score.  The latter’s “Moon River,” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, is an enchanting tune with great commercial prospects.  Other ace contributions are those of art directors Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson, set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer, editor Howard Smith and wardrobe designer (for Miss  Hepburn) Hubert de Givenchy.

Credits:

Paramount release of Martin Jurow-Richard Shepherd production.  Stars Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard; features Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, Mickey Rooney; with Vilallonga, John McGiver, Dorothy Whitney, Stanley Adams, Elvia Allman, Alan Reed, Beverly Hills, Claude Stroud.  Directed by Blake Edwards.  Screenplay, George Axelrod, based on the novel by Truman Capote; camera, Franz F. Planer; editor, Howard Smith; art directors, Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson; music, Henry Mancini; sound, Hugo Grenzbach, John Wilkinson; assistant director, William McGarry.  Reviewd at the studio, Oct. 5, 1961. Running time: 115 mins.

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