Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman


 True to the title, “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.” provides a rare inside look at Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman with excitement that could only exist in New York!  Wasson masterfully weaves together biographical details about Hepburn, social norms, and Hollywood power struggles to create a comprehensive look at every girl’s favorite movie: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Truman Capote’s book by the same name was completely revamped by Hollywood writers, producers and directors to create the Breakfast at Tiffany’s version we have come to love.  Initially Paul, played by George Peppard, was homosexual, and Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, was much more sexually crass.  Hollywood would change Paul to a man living off a much older woman who is scared to fall in love and leave her safety.  And Hepburn’s influence would soften Holly’s character, turning her into someone who naively sputters around New York while relishing the freedom of living on her own.  This change may be one reason why Capote initially wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly, as it is undeniable that Monroe would have approached the role with more sexuality, particularly since she was coming off “The Seven Year Itch.”

It was interesting to learn that Hepburn, who despised danish, asked the director if she could eat an ice cream cone in front of Tiffany’s, but given that it was supposed to be 5 a.m., the director emphatically denied her request.  I was surprised to learn that the cast spent only one week in New York filming, since the movie seems so authenitically New York!  This was also the first time Tiffany’s allowed a movie to be filmed inside the store on 5th Avenue.

The black dress worn by Hepburn in the opening scene was created by none other than her favorite designer, Givenchy.  But several people on the film didn’t want her wearing anything from a French designer because Holly’s character would not have been able to afford such expensive clothes.  The color of the dress was also highly unusual for a Hollywood heroine, as most women were wearing bright, frilly, or floral dresses.  The choice of color made a huge statement at that time and, as we know now, revolutionized the fashion industry and forever agave us “the little black dress.”

The Director Blake Edwards ingeniously created the party scene by requiring that actors, not merely extras, be used in the scene so they could ad lib a party.  This decision would prove to be highly successful.  At one point during the shooting, a woman took of her shoes because they hurt her feet.  When Edwards learned she was doing this, he told her to keep her shoes in her hands for the rest of the scenes because it gave the party an authentic feel.  Other acts and dialogue were completely ad libbed, with actors honestly reacting to things that happened!

Apparently, Capote was extremely upset that Mickey Rooney played the role of the Japanese photographer, a role he did not intend to be humorous.  Manicini’s song, “Moon River,” which was written specifically for Audrey in this movie almost landed on the cutting room floor. Despite several arguments about Audrey’s singing, the necessity of the song, and the style of the song, it remained in the movie, and would go on to win Mancini the Oscar for Best Song!

Wasson provided a thorough, yet interesting background about women’s roles in the early 1960’s so the reader could appreciate that the themes in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” were quite controversial at the time.  The book was extremely interesting and informative.  I would highly recommend it to any fan of Audrey Hepburn, old Hollywood, or “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

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