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‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Crossed a Murky River in Style

When “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opened in October 1961, Variety reviewer Larry Tubelle predicted “great commercial success” for the romantic comedy. He didn’t know the half of it. The Paramount release was an immediate hit, but its popularity has increased over the years, fondly remembered as one of Hollywood’s most charming and fashion-setting movies.

Its success defies explanation because it’s basically the love story of a call girl and a self-loathing gigolo. That was especially daring when the Motion Picture Production Code was still in place, stipulating that promiscuous characters must come to a bad end. And Mickey Rooney’s performance, a holdover of Japanese stereotypes from WWII-era cartoons, is “unnecessarily incongruous,” said Tubelle.

But fans of the film overlook these things.

The film and the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer tune “Moon River” have become gold standards. Director Blake Edwards and writer George Axelrod glossed over the darkness in Truman Capote’s novella. When Axelrod completed the script in 1959, producers Dick Shepherd and Martin Jurow sent it to Marilyn Monroe (Capote’s choice for the film), as well as Shirley MacLaine and Joanne Woodward. But the casting of Audrey Hepburn is brilliant: Holly Golightly’s amorality seems somehow endearing.

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