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Breakfast at Tiffany's
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Richard ShepherdMartin Jurow
Written by Novella:
Truman Capote
Screenplay:George Axelrod
Starring Audrey Hepburn
George Peppard
Patricia NealBuddy Ebsen
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Franz F. Planer
Editing by Howard Smith
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release October 5, 1961
Running time 115 min.
Language English
Budget $2.5 million
Gross revenue $14 million
Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1961 American film starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, and featuring Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, and Mickey Rooney. It was directed by Blake Edwards and released by Paramount Pictures.

Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly as the naive, eccentric socialite is generally considered to be the actress's most memorable and identifiable role. She herself regarded it as one of her most challenging roles to play, as she was an introvert who had to play an extrovert. Hepburn's performance of "Moon River" helped composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer win an Oscar for Best Song. The film also featured what was arguably George Peppard's greatest acting role and the high point of his career. The film is loosely based on the novella of the same name by Truman Capote.


Early on a fall morning, a lone taxicab deposits Holly Golightly at Tiffany's jewelry store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Holly eats a breakfast pastry and drinks coffee while admiring the window displays, then strolls away for home. At her brownstone apartment block, Holly successfully fends off her date from the night before, who has been waiting in his car outside her residence all night and is angry that she disappeared during the course of their evening out together. Holly then meets Paul Varjak, a new tenant. After feeding her pet cat (simply named "Cat"), Holly chats with Paul as she hurriedly prepares to visit Sing Sing prison, a weekly routine from which she earns $100 for an hour's conversation with Sally Tomato, an incarcerated mob boss. Holly does not seem to realize that she is passing coded messages for Sally's drug ring. Outside the brownstone, Mrs. Failenson (referred to as "2E" throughout the movie) arrives and is introduced as Paul's "decorator."

Later that night, Holly visits Paul to escape a drunken date and sees Mrs. Failenson leave money and kiss Paul goodbye. Holly wakes up Paul and they talk. It is revealed that Paul is a writer but hasn't been published since 1956 and that Holly ran away from home at age 14 with her brother Fred, who is in the army.

The next day Paul attends a party at Holly's where he is introduced to José da Silva Pereira, a handsome, rich Brazilian; and Rusty Trawler, a pudgy, rich American. Paul also meets O. J. Berman, Holly's agent. O.J. tells Paul about Holly's transformation into a classy woman, but that she is a wild spirit and difficult to pin down.

Another day, Holly and Paul are visiting Sally at Sing Sing. Back home, Paul writes a story while Holly sings "Moon River" on her windowsill. Suddenly Mrs. Failenson rushes into Paul's apartment, worried about a strange man outside. Paul is trailed by the man when he leaves the apartment, and eventually the men confront one another in Central Park. The man introduces himself as Doc Golightly. Doc and Holly were married when she was turning 14, and Holly's real name is Lula Mae Barns. Doc has come to New York to take Holly back home to Texas, where he feels she rightly belongs. But Holly later explains to Paul that the marriage was annulled. A dejected Doc returns to Texas.

Holly and Paul go to a bar, and a drunken Holly explains that Fred is now her responsibility. She plans to marry Rusty for his money, but discovers the next day that Rusty has just gotten married. Holly and Paul spend the day together doing things they never did, among others going to the library and to Tiffany's where they have a ring from a box of Cracker Jack engraved. They share a kiss when they arrive home. It is implied that Holly and Paul spend the night together. The next day, Paul informs Mrs. Failenson that he no longer needs her. A confused Holly now plans to marry José, angering Paul.

Another night, Holly and José return home and find a telegram informing them of Fred's death. Holly trashes her apartment in grief. Paul tries to calm her down but her behavior concerns José.

Months have passed. Paul has moved out of the brownstone but has been invited to dinner by Holly, who is leaving the next morning for Brazil. After Holly's dinner preparation goes awry, they decide to go out to dinner and, upon returning, are arrested in connection with Sally's drug ring. Holly spends the night in lock-up. The next morning, Paul is waiting with a taxicab when she is released from jail. As the cab enters the traffic, Paul reveals that he is in possession of both Cat and a letter to Holly from José, in which the rich Brazilian breaks off the relationship due to her headline-making arrest. An emotional Holly impulsively orders the driver to stop and she throws Cat out into the pouring rain from the cab. Paul leaves the cab after confronting Holly for being afraid to accept Paul's love. Holly runs after him and together they find Cat. Holly and Paul kiss.


Capote's novella is more explicit when detailing both Holly and Paul's sources of income. While the film never directly states it, it is implied that Holly is merely providing men with platonic company or, at the very most, is a courtesan. Paul's role as a kept man while a struggling writer is also never discussed in great detail, although in one scene his female companion is seen leaving money for him on his nightstand as she exits his apartment after a late-night encounter.

The Hays Code of 1930 may have also played a role in the specious interpretation of their shared occupation.


The ScreenplayEdit

The Oscar-nominated screenplay was written by George Axelrod, loosely based on the novella by Truman Capote.

Capote, who sold the film rights of his novella to Paramount Studios, wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the role of Holly Golightly in the film. Barry Paris references a quote by Capote: "Marilyn was always my first choice to play the girl, Holly Golightly." Screenwriter Axelrod was hired to "tailor the screenplay for Monroe." When Hepburn was cast instead of Marilyn, Capote remarked: "Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey."

A number of changes were made to the storyline to adapt the story to fit the medium of cinema. Capote's novella included language that was toned down for the film. The character of 2E (Patricia Neal) was invented for the movie. This character, Mrs. Failenson, is called 2E because her real name is Emily Eustace. In the novella, Mag Wildwood, a model with a stuttering problem, moves into Holly's apartment after Holly falls out with the novelist upstairs. Wildwood appears briefly in the film, as a guest at the party at Holly's, with her stutter intact. The film also changed the novella's unresolved, open ending to a more conventional "Hollywood" romantic happy ending.



Originally producers Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd had picked John Frankenheimer as the director, but as production began they replaced him, fearing that Frankenheimer would make the film "too dark".

Kim Novak was approached to play the role of Holly Golightly, but she turned it down, for fear of being typecast as a scared sex kitten.

Hepburn introduced the film's signature song, "Moon River", by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Sung by Hepburn herself, it was written to her singing range based on the vocal solos she had performed in 1957's Funny Face. According to Mancini and Edwards, a studio executive hated the song and demanded it be cut from the film; Hepburn, who was present when this proclamation was made, responded to the suggestion by standing up and saying, "over my dead body."


Most of the exteriors were filmed in New York City, except the fire escape scenes and the alley scene at the end in the rain where Holly puts Cat out of the cab and then Paul and Holly look for Cat. All of the interiors, except for portions of the scene inside Tiffany & Company, were filmed on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood. It has been rumored that the film's on-location opening sequence, in which Holly gazes into a Tiffany's display window, was extremely difficult for director Blake Edwards to film. Although it was simple in concept, crowd control, Hepburn's dislike of pastries, and an accident that nearly resulted in the electrocution of a crew member are all said to have made capturing the scene a challenge. However, Edwards, in an interview given for the 45th anniversary DVD, said that the sequence was captured rather quickly due to the good fortune of an unexpected traffic lull despite the location in the heart of Manhattan.


Hepburn as Holly, carrying a cigarette holder, is considered one of the iconic images of 20th century American cinema.

One of three dresses designed by Givenchy for Hepburn for possible use in the movie sold at auction by Christie's on December 5, 2006 for £467,200 (~US$947,000), about seven times the reserve price.

The film rejuvenated the career of 1930s movie song-and-dance man Buddy Ebsen, who had a small but effective role in this film as Doc Golightly, Holly's ex-husband. His success here led directly to his best-known role as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.


The film has been criticized for its portrayal of the character Mr. Yunioshi, Holly's bucktoothed, stereotyped Japanese neighbor. Played by Caucasian Mickey Rooney, Rooney wore Yellowface makeup to change his features to that of a Japanese person. The issue was raised in the 1993 film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, when Bruce Lee and his girlfriend Linda Emery (portrayed in the film by Jason Scott Lee and Lauren Holly) watch Breakfast at Tiffany's in the theater, but Linda suggests they leave midway through the picture after she notices that Bruce is upset at the stereotypical depiction of an Asian man portrayed by Mickey Rooney. In the 45th anniversary edition DVD release, producer Richard Shepherd repeatedly apologizes for this, stating, "If we could just change Mickey Rooney, I'd be thrilled with the movie." Director Blake Edwards has stated in regards to Rooney's yellowface character, "Looking back, I wish I had never done it...and I would give anything to be able to recast it, but it's there, and onward and upward". In a 2008 interview about the movie, 87-year-old Rooney said he was heartbroken about the criticism and that he had never received any complaints about his portrayal of the character.

A free outdoor screening in Sacramento, California, scheduled for August 23, 2008, was replaced with a screening of the animated movie Ratatouille after protests about the character Mr. Yunioshi. The protest was led by Christina Fa of the Asian American Media Watch. In light of the protest, Sacramento vice mayor Steven Cohn stated that "the intent was never to create controversy, to make political statements or to be on the avant garde of the movie world, let alone to offend significant members of our community."

Awards and HonorsEdit

Academy AwardsEdit

Award Person
Academy Award for Original Music Score Henry Mancini
Academy Award for Best Song: "Moon River" Johnny MercerHenry Mancini
Academy Award for Best Actress Audrey Hepburn
Academy Award for Best Art Direction Hal Pereira
Roland Anderson
Sam ComerRay Moyer
Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay George Axelrod

Other AwardsEdit

American Film Institute recognition

DVD availabilityEdit

Breakfast at Tiffany's was one of the first Hepburn films to be released to the home video market in the early 1980s, and is also widely available on DVD. On February 7, 2006, Paramount released a 45th anniversary special edition DVD set in North America with featurettes not included on the prior DVD release:

  • Audio Commentary - with producer Richard Shepherd
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Making of a Classic - a making-of featurette with interviews by Edwards, Neal, the "laughing/crying" woman from the party, and Sean Ferrer, Hepburn's son.
  • It's So Audrey! A Style Icon - a short tribute to Hepburn.
  • Brilliance in a Blue Box - a brief history of Tiffany & Co.
  • Audrey's Letter to Tiffany - an accounting of Hepburn's letter to Tiffany & Co. on the occasion of the company's 150th anniversary in 1987.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery

On January 13, 2009, a remastered Centennial Collection version of the film was released. In addition to the special features on the 45th anniversary edition, this version includes:

  • A Golightly Gathering - Reuniting some of the past cast members from the party with interviews on their experiences filming that segment.
  • Henry Mancini: More Than Music - A featurette about Henry Mancini, "Moon River" and interviews with Mancini's wife and children.
  • Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective - Documentary discussing the reaction and Asian perspective of the character of Mr. Yunioshi, one of the most controversial characters in film.
  • Behind the Gates - A tour through Paramount Studios

Musical AdaptationsEdit

In 1966, David Merrick produced a Broadway musical of the same name starring Mary Tyler Moore as Holly Golightly. The troubled production closed after four previews.

In 2004, a new musical adaptation of the film made its world debut at The St. Louis Muny.

In May 2009, actress Anna Friel confirmed that she will star in a West End adaptation of the movie. The show is due to start in September 2009 at the Theatre Royal.

Further ReadingEdit

  • Breakfast at Tiffany's, by George Axelrod. Published by Paramount Home Entertainment (UK), 1960. (film script)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote. Published by Random House, 1958.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: Complete Dialogues

External LinksEdit

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