Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

114 mins | Comedy-drama | 5 October 1961

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HISTORY

Paramount Pictures’ feature film adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was announced in a 12 Jan 1959 NYT news item, which stated that John Frankenheimer would direct for the producing team of Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd, who had recently signed a three-year, six-picture deal with Paramount, as stated in the 8 Feb 1959 NYT. John Frankenheimer’s name received no mention in later sources, suggesting that his involvement was short-lived. Meanwhile, Audrey Hepburn’s casting as “Holly Golightly” was first announced in the 30 Jan 1959 DV, which stated that her participation “look[ed] certain.” A conflicting report in the 19 Feb 1959 DV indicated that Brigitte Bardot was under consideration for the role, and another in the 29 May 1959 DV named Marilyn Monroe as the top contender.
       Sumner Locke Elliott was initially contracted to write the script, according to a news item in the 4 Feb 1959 DV. However, the 25 May 1959 DV stated that George Axelrod had been hired to write the screenplay, to be filmed later in the year. Elliott received no mention in the item, and was not credited in the final film. Axelrod’s script was completed by 14 Aug 1959, when DV reported that Shepherd and Jurow sent the finished screenplay to Marilyn Monroe, and other leading actress contenders including Shirley MacLaine, Joanne Woodward, Suzy Parker, and May Britt. Audrey Hepburn was named again as the “definite” star of the film in the 22 Apr 1960 LAT, which also reported that Blake Edwards was on board to direct. ... More Less

Paramount Pictures’ feature film adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was announced in a 12 Jan 1959 NYT news item, which stated that John Frankenheimer would direct for the producing team of Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd, who had recently signed a three-year, six-picture deal with Paramount, as stated in the 8 Feb 1959 NYT. John Frankenheimer’s name received no mention in later sources, suggesting that his involvement was short-lived. Meanwhile, Audrey Hepburn’s casting as “Holly Golightly” was first announced in the 30 Jan 1959 DV, which stated that her participation “look[ed] certain.” A conflicting report in the 19 Feb 1959 DV indicated that Brigitte Bardot was under consideration for the role, and another in the 29 May 1959 DV named Marilyn Monroe as the top contender.
       Sumner Locke Elliott was initially contracted to write the script, according to a news item in the 4 Feb 1959 DV. However, the 25 May 1959 DV stated that George Axelrod had been hired to write the screenplay, to be filmed later in the year. Elliott received no mention in the item, and was not credited in the final film. Axelrod’s script was completed by 14 Aug 1959, when DV reported that Shepherd and Jurow sent the finished screenplay to Marilyn Monroe, and other leading actress contenders including Shirley MacLaine, Joanne Woodward, Suzy Parker, and May Britt. Audrey Hepburn was named again as the “definite” star of the film in the 22 Apr 1960 LAT, which also reported that Blake Edwards was on board to direct. As mentioned in a 25 May 1960 NYT brief, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was set to be Hepburn’s first production after the birth of her first child with then husband Mel Ferrer, due that summer.
       Hepburn eventually confessed in interviews that she had been reluctant to take on the role of Holly Golightly, and continued to question her involvement throughout filming. The actress was quoted in the 16 Jun 1961 NYT as saying, “This part called for an extroverted character. I am not an extrovert… It called for the kind of sophistication I find difficult. I did not think I had enough technique for the part.” In an interview in the 9 Oct 1960 NYT, Hepburn credited Blake Edwards with finally convincing her to take the part, and stated that his directing style emphasized a spontaneity that suited her talents. Nevertheless, Hepburn claimed she lost weight as a result of her anxiety during production.
       Several actors were in contention to play Hepburn’s romantic interest, according to items in the 25 May 1960 DV, which noted that Jack Lemmon had been approached but was unavailable, and Robert Wagner was under consideration; and the 7 Jul 1960 LAT, which stated that Steve McQueen was reading for the role. George Peppard’s casting as “Paul Varjak” was announced the following week in the 14 Jul 1960 LAT. With the two lead actors in place, filming was expected to begin in Sep 1960.
       The 11 May 1960 DV indicated that talent representative Bullets Durgom, who was in talks with producers regarding a role for his client, Eva Gabor, was unexpectedly approached to play fictional Hollywood agent “O. J. Berman.” Durgom was reportedly told that if he was not interested, filmmakers wanted another real-life talent agent, Irving Lazar, for the part. The character was ultimately played by actor Martin Balsam. Although Fernando Lamas was said to have been cast in the role of “José da Silva Pereira,” in a 27 May 1960 DV brief, the part went to José Luis de Vilallonga, who was credited simply as “Vilallonga.” Olivia de Havilland was also said to have been cast, with Tony Franciosa under consideration for a role, but neither received onscreen credit. Likewise, the 7 Jun 1960 DV named Dean Martin as a potential cast member; the 14 Sep 1960 DV stated that Kay Stevens, a comedienne-singer who recently performed a successful lounge act in Las Vegas, NV, was set to audition for the film; and the 8 Aug 1960 DV named Celeste Holm, Joan Fontaine, and Jane Greer as candidates for the “second female lead.” None of the aforementioned received credit in the final film. According to a 2 Dec 1960 DV article, actor James Garner had been offered a role in the picture but was unable to take it due to a force majeure clause exercised against him by Warner Bros. Pictures.
       For the role of “Cat,” 300 felines were brought to an open casting call, as noted in a 5 Feb 1961 LAT item. The winning cat, Putney, appeared in location scenes shot in New York City, while a trained “movie feline” was used during West Coast shooting.
       As noted in various contemporary sources, Truman Capote’s novel was altered significantly in the film adaptation. The 9 Oct 1960 NYT indicated that a love story and certain plot elements were added for commercial purposes. Holly Golightly’s promiscuity was also toned down, as was much of the dialogue found in the book. The 6 Jan 1961 NYT listed the following discrepancies in the film: Holly “no longer discusses her experiences with men in detail,” and is shown to be a “patroness of the arts,” a tactic devised by Axelrod to make her more likeable; Paul Varjak, originally “an aloof observer,” is presented as a romantic interest; and, while Capote’s novel offered an unhappy ending in which Holly Golightly disappeared, in the film she reunites with Varjak and her cat instead of fleeing from New York City. Despite the changes, Capote gave filmmakers his blessing, acknowledging that the screenplay was more “a creation of its own than an adaptation,” and that, most importantly, “Holly is still Holly, except once or twice.”
       On 7 Jul 1960, DV reported that location scouting was underway in New York City. Two months later, Hepburn arrived in Los Angeles, CA, on 14 Sep 1960, according to that day’s issue of DV, and was set to report to Paramount Studios for costume fittings the next day. Principal photography began shortly thereafter, on 2 Oct 1960, with eight days of location shooting in New York City. The budget was estimated to be around $2 million, as cited in the 9 Oct 1960 NYT and 1 Nov 1960 DV.
       Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the first film to shoot at the 123-year-old Tiffany’s jewelry store on Fifth Avenue, according to the 9 Oct 1960 NYT. Other Manhattan locations included the Mall in Central Park, the New York Women’s House of Detention on Tenth Street, a brownstone residence on the Upper East Side, and the exterior of the New York Public Library. Once the New York shoot was completed, cast and crew returned to Los Angeles for filming on the Paramount Studios lot, which was still underway as of 14 Dec 1960, when LAT reported that Hepburn’s six-month-old baby and his nurse were en route to Los Angeles from Hepburn’s home in Switzerland, for a set visit.
       In late-Dec 1960, striptease dancer “Miss Beverly Hills,” who played the “Nightclub dancer,” was called back to set to perform additional striptease moves in a nightclub sequence. The 27 Dec 1960 DV explained that Blake Edwards planned to include the extended striptease sequence in an alternate version of the film for European release.
       Principal photography ended on 3 Feb 1961, according to a DV item published that day. Martin Jurow’s partnership with Richard Shepherd dissolved upon completion of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961, see entry), as indicated in the 13 Dec 1960 DV. Jurow planned to vacation before taking up his new post as president of Famous Artists talent agency.
       Two sneak previews were held on 7 Apr 1961 at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, CA, and on 8 Apr 1961 at an unnamed theater in Palo Alto, CA, according to the 10 Apr 1961 DV. The San Francisco preview was attended by Edwards, Hepburn, Mel Ferrer, Paramount production chief Martin Rackin, and composer Henry Mancini, who was also set to debut his score ahead of the film’s release, at a 23 Sep 1961 performance at the Hollywood Bowl amphitheater, as noted in the 1 Sep 1961 LAT. George Peppard engaged in an East Coast publicity tour in support of the film, according to an 11 Sep 1961 LAT item, after requesting time off from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with whom he was under contract. The tour included stops in New York City, Philadelphia, PA, and Boston, MA. In another promotional gimmick, Hepburn was slated to attend an actual breakast at Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, on her way home to Switzerland following the conclusion of her latest production, The Children’s Hour (1961, see entry), as noted in the 16 Aug 1961 DV.
       A 5 Oct 1961 world premiere took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, as noted in the 6 Oct 1961 NYT review, with a stage show presentation featuring the New York Naval Shipyard Choir, singer Everett Morrison, the Corps de Ballet with dancer Istvan Rabosky, the Mathurins, and the Rockettes. The same presentation was reportedly offered at subsequent screenings at the venue. In Los Angeles, an invitation-only benefit premiere was held on 17 Oct 1961 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, followed by a “WAIF Ball” benefitting the World Adoption International Fund. Screenings at Grauman’s Chinese, where the film was booked in an exclusive engagement, opened to the public the following day.
       Critical reception was mixed. In a mostly favorable assessment, the 24 Sep 1961 LAT review singled out Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of the “buck-toothed Japanese photographer [Mr. Yunioshi]” as the worst supporting performance and termed it “inexcusable.” Although a separate review in the 19 Oct 1961 LAT called Rooney’s casting “a novelty but that’s about all,” the white actor’s depiction of Holly Golightly’s Asian neighbor gained notoriety over time, as an example of “yellowface,” the offensive portrayal of Asians by white actors. In a 14 Jan 1990 article, Newsday described Rooney’s characterization as “a grotesque parody,” and likened Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Gone with the Wind (1940), Stagecoach (1939), and Casablanca (1943, see entries), as a classic film that nonetheless reflected antiquated social attitudes and prejudices. A 13 Oct 2006 LAT item noted that a clip of Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was included in The Slanted Screen, a 2006 documentary about the racist portrayal of Asians in Hollywood films.
       The picture achieved commercial success, with strong ticket sales in Los Angeles, as reported in a 16 Jan 1962 DV brief, citing a “smashing” $175,000 gross at twenty-five theaters. The 23 Oct 1962 DV listed Breakfast at Tiffany’s as one of 1961’s top thirteen first-run films in Los Angeles, with cumulative earnings of $244,838.
       Audrey Hepburn received Best Actress accolades from Film Daily’s annual poll of an estimated 2,000 film reviewers, according to the 15 Jan 1962 NYT. Henry Mancini won an Academy Award for Music (Music score of a dramatic or comedy picture), and Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” won an Academy Award for Music (Song). Academy Award nominations also went to Audrey Hepburn for Best Actress; art directors Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson, and set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer for Art Direction (Color); and George Axelrod for Writing (Screenplay based on material from another medium). Music from the film won the following five Grammy Awards: Record of the Year (“Moon River”); Song of the Year (“Moon River”); Best Performance by an Orchestra – for other than dancing (Breakfast at Tiffany’s); Best Arrangement (“Moon River”); and Best Soundtrack Album or Recording of Score from Motion Picture or Television. “Moon River” was ranked #4 on 100 Years…100 Songs, AFI’s 2004 list of the top movie songs of all time; and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was ranked #61 on 100 Years…100 Passions, AFI’s 2002 list of the greatest love stories of all time.
       A 31 Aug 1961 NYT news brief stated that TransWorld Airline (TWA) planned to screen Breakfast at Tiffany’s as part of its newly launched “midair film projection” program, which had begun on 19 Jul 1961, and had included showings of By Love Possessed, Tammy Tell Me True, Romanoff and Juliet, The Naked Edge, Two Rode Together, and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961, see entries).
       Al Avalon appeared in a scene but was cut from the final film, according to an item in the 2 Sep 1961 LAT, which noted that Breakfast at Tiffany’s would have marked his theatrical motion picture debut. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1959.
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Daily Variety
4 Feb 1959.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1959.
---
Daily Variety
25 May 1959
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 May 1959.
---
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1959.
---
Daily Variety
3 May 1960.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1960.
---
Daily Variety
25 May 1960.
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1960.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1960.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Aug 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 Sep 1960
p. 15.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1960
p. 8.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1960
p. 8.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Oct 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Dec 1960
p. 1, 9.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1962
p. 74.
Los Angeles Times
22 Apr 1960
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jul 1960
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1960
Section A, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1960
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
5 Feb 1961
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1961
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1961
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
11 Sep 1961
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
24 Sep 1961
Section A, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1961.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Oct 1961
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
19 Oct 1961
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 2006
Section E, p. 12.
New York Times
12 Jan 1959
p. 31.
New York Times
8 Feb 1959.
---
New York Times
25 May 1960
p. 42.
New York Times
28 Jul 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
19 Aug 1960
p. 14.
New York Times
9 Oct 1960.
---
New York Times
16 Sep 1960
p. 25.
New York Times
6 Jan 1961
p. 20.
New York Times
16 Jun 1961
p. 27.
New York Times
31 Aug 1961
p. 24.
New York Times
2 Oct 1961
p. 36.
New York Times
6 Oct 1961
p. 28.
New York Times
15 Jan 1962
p. 22.
Newsday
14 Jan 1990
p. 70.
Variety
11 Oct 1961
p. 7.
Vogue
15 Oct 1961.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Paramount Picture
A Jurow--Shepherd Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Technicolor col consultant
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Miss Hepburn's ward principally by
Miss Neal's ward principally by
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstyle supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Cat trainer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (New York, 1958).
AUTHOR
SONGS
Song - "Moon River" by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini.
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 October 1961
Premiere Information:
World premiere at Radio City Music Hall: 5 October 1961
Los Angeles premiere: 17 October 1961 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Production Date:
2 October 1960--3 February 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Jurow--Shepherd Productions
Copyright Date:
5 October 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20389
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
114
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Holly Golightly lives in a brownstone on Manhattan's swank East Side. Totally madcap, she has a partially furnished apartment, owns a cat with no name, gets rid of the "mean reds" by visiting Tiffany's, and is forever misplacing her door key, much to the dismay of her upstairs neighbor Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese photographer. Holly makes her living in two ways: she receive $50 from her gentlemen escorts whenever she needs powder room money, and she is paid $100 for each weekly trip she makes to Sing Sing, where she visits Sally Tomato, an ex-mobster. One day Paul Varjak, a young writer who is supported by an older woman nicknamed "2-E," comes into Holly's life. Following one of Holly's wild cocktail parties, Paul unexpectedly meets Doc Golightly, a gentle Texan whom Holly married when she was only fifteen years old. Holly explains to Paul that the marriage was annulled long ago, and he helps her send the heartbroken Doc away. After a day on the town together, Paul realizes that he is in love with Holly and proposes to her; but she is determined to marry José, a South American millionaire. However, when it is publicly revealed that Holly has been innocently carrying narcotics ring information from Sally Tomato to his New York lawyer, Mr. O'Shaunessy, the stuffy José abandons her. Furious at everything and everyone, Holly throws Cat into the rain and decides to leave town, but Paul lectures her and then goes out to find Cat. Holly realizes how much she is giving up and races through the wet streets to a happy reunion with Paul and ... +


Holly Golightly lives in a brownstone on Manhattan's swank East Side. Totally madcap, she has a partially furnished apartment, owns a cat with no name, gets rid of the "mean reds" by visiting Tiffany's, and is forever misplacing her door key, much to the dismay of her upstairs neighbor Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese photographer. Holly makes her living in two ways: she receive $50 from her gentlemen escorts whenever she needs powder room money, and she is paid $100 for each weekly trip she makes to Sing Sing, where she visits Sally Tomato, an ex-mobster. One day Paul Varjak, a young writer who is supported by an older woman nicknamed "2-E," comes into Holly's life. Following one of Holly's wild cocktail parties, Paul unexpectedly meets Doc Golightly, a gentle Texan whom Holly married when she was only fifteen years old. Holly explains to Paul that the marriage was annulled long ago, and he helps her send the heartbroken Doc away. After a day on the town together, Paul realizes that he is in love with Holly and proposes to her; but she is determined to marry José, a South American millionaire. However, when it is publicly revealed that Holly has been innocently carrying narcotics ring information from Sally Tomato to his New York lawyer, Mr. O'Shaunessy, the stuffy José abandons her. Furious at everything and everyone, Holly throws Cat into the rain and decides to leave town, but Paul lectures her and then goes out to find Cat. Holly realizes how much she is giving up and races through the wet streets to a happy reunion with Paul and Cat. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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