For today’s post, I have decided that I just needed to talk about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, both the novella and the film. This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately. The evolution of this literary classic to a classic film is one that had Truman Capote hating the casting for the movie.
Now, Truman Capote was a great writer who lived in New York and would go on to create the true crime genre of books when he researched and wrote his “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood! The research process and traveling Capote did in order to create his classic included having his good friend Harper Lee come along with him to interview people. This would inspire the biopic about him. But, before he would write this book, he was already a literary heavyweight.
During the time that Marilyn Monroe lived in New York City, she met Truman Capote. The two would become good friends and Capote would be incredibly inspired by his new friend Marilyn! This is where Breakfast at Tiffany’s would come into being. He wrote his protagonist Holly Golightly to be one day played by Marilyn in the film version (which he was sure there would be one). Marilyn was his only choice for Holly because she was Holly!
The narrator of the novel is a young gay man who is a writer. He meets and becomes obsessed with his neighbor and friend, Holly Golightly. She is blonde, beautiful, rebellious, and witty. It is not outright stated, but it is heavily implied that Holly is a sex worker. This implication is even more sanitized within the film, simply calling Holly a “playgirl.” Now, Holly’s personality is kept pretty much the same as she is written by Capote. However, Audrey admitted to being challenged in playing Holly because she was an extravert and Audrey herself was introverted by nature. This character was very different compared to others Audrey had played in the past. It was essentially her first bad girl, sex symbol type role. Holly was one of her only roles of this type, to be honest.
Capote was not happy with the idea that the studio insisted on casting the innocent and sweet Audrey to play his magnetic character of Holly Golightly. He outright stated that the character was written to be portrayed by Marilyn Monroe! The studio was unwilling to consider Marilyn in large part because Holly was obviously a sex worker and they did not want to amplify this sexed-up persona of the character by casting the supreme sexpot actress of the age!
Another change that the film made was to have the narrator be named Paul Varjak, having him become the love interest of Holly in the film. It does make sense to have this as a romantic comedy, as the original tale of a gay man who becomes obsessed with a straight woman would be confusing to audiences in the 1960s! Both the novella and the film have become iconic in their own right. I adore the film as much as the original source material, but I do wish we could have had Truman Capote’s original image realized. Marilyn certainly feels like a more ideal fit for the role than Audrey Hepburn. This may even be why I like this Audrey film best, as her normal roles are fun but much too buttoned up for me to relate to! Marilyn could have done such a great job as Holly, but I do still love Audrey’s work on the film, so I am conflicted.
At the end of the day, we have an iconic film made from a great work of literature. It still is fun to watch and read the works today. I just had to discuss the evolution of this work from its beginning as literary fiction to its status as Hollywood Classic. I hope that you have enjoyed my thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a book cover for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I found the image on https://www.amazon.com/BREAKFAST-AT-TIFFANYS-CAPOTE-TRUMAN/dp/0241951453.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)