‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ at 50: Cool star, wet cat, hissing author


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‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ premiered Oct. 5, 1961, at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Half a century later, it conjures images among its fans of Audrey Hepburn with an updo and a cigarette holder, George Peppard in a skinny tie and a wet cat in the rain.

The film, nominated for five Oscars, was an unmitigated hit. But not everyone loved it.


Notoriously, Truman Capote, who wrote the novella upon which the movie was based, had a long list of complaints, including the casting:

‘It was the most miscast film I’ve ever seen,’ he said. ‘Holly Golightly was real — a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City. ... It bore as much resemblance to my work as the Rockettes do to Ulanova.’

Photos: Turning 50 in 2011

The film, with Mickey Rooney’s buck-toothed performance as Mr. Yunioshi, also was criticized as racist.

Turner Classic Movies notes that in his autobiography ‘Life Is Too Short,’ Mickey Rooney says he’s ‘downright ashamed’ of his role in the movie, ‘and I don’t think the director, Blake Edwards, was very proud of it either.’

That controversy is among topics touched on in a special-edition DVD that came out last month in time for the film’s 50th.

It includes, according to a recent article in the L.A. Times, ‘a warm commentary track with producer Richard Shepherd and featurettes that take a deeper look at Henry Mancini’s music, the movie’s famous party scene, the symbolism of Tiffany’s itself and Mickey Rooney’s controversial ‘yellowface’ performance as Mr. Yunioshi.’

Some trivia:

In the theatrical trailer for the film, Capote’s name is famously mispronounced (without the final long ‘e’).

Holly Golightly’s couch is a tub cut in half.

Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play his title character in the movie.

‘Moon River,’ which Henry Mancini wrote for Audrey Hepburn, won the Oscar for original song in 1962.


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— Amy Hubbard