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Film / Breakfast at Tiffany's

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"If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name."
Holly Golightly

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1961 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Blake Edwards, loosely adapted by George Axelrod from Truman Capote's 1958 novella of the same name. Audrey Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly; also in the cast are George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam, and (in a notorious yellowface role) Mickey Rooney.

Well-known for being the movie in which Hepburn wears a fabulous black Givenchy dress and holds a cigarette in a holder, and introduces Henry Mancini's Academy Award-winning song "Moon River" while strumming a guitar on a fire escape. In this version Holly probably isn't a hooker (though she does seek out wealthy men to have flings with, more like an old-world courtesan), while the story's nameless gay writer is now a straight gigolo (or something close to it) named Paul Varjak, who has a tumultuous relationship with Holly.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Paul's "decorator" says to him, "I do believe love has found Andy Hardy." Andy Hardy was the lead character of a series of films (including Love Finds Andy Hardy) portrayed by Mickey Rooney, who plays Mr. Yunioshi.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the ending of the original novella, Holly leaves New York for good on her own.
  • Adaptational Sexuality:
    • The unnamed narrator in Capote's novel has an ambiguous sexuality, but it's fairly certain that his feelings for Holly are asexual. In the film, he becomes a straight love interest, Paul.
    • In the novella, Holly has a line or two suggesting she is bisexual. Being that this was 1960s Hollywood, any mention of this is removed in the film aside from taking off her sunglasses at a stripper.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Holly is blonde in the novella but brunette in the film.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Holly first calls Paul "Fred" after her brother, whom Paul reminds her of.
  • All There in the Script: According to the screenplay, 2-E's real name is Emily Eustace, hence the nickname "2-E."
  • Ascended Extra: Mr. Yunioshi is an extremely minor character in the original novella, and while he has a slightly awkward, over-formal syntax ("[y]ou must please, please have yourself a key made"), he speaks English fluently and with perfect grammar in his brief exchange with Holly.
  • Asian Buck Teeth: Mr. Yunioshi's upper teeth are pronounced.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The Asian Mr. Yunioshi speaks in this manner.
  • Attentive Shade Lowering: Holly Golightly lowers her shades when talking at a restaurant to someone.
  • Beehive Hairdo: Holly even sleeps with her hair up.
  • Big Applesauce: Unlike the original novella, set in New York though it was, the film is, as Truman Capote said, "a mawkish valentine to New York City".
  • Blithe Spirit: As evidenced by her name, Holly Golightly is a free-wheeling sort of girl.
  • Book Dumb: Holly is pretty smart, but almost entirely uneducated.
  • Canon Foreigner: Emily "2E" Eustace does not appear in the source novella. The subplot of Paul serving as 2E's "kept man" was apparently added to the movie to establish Paul's heterosexual credentials. This then allowed for the movie's boy-gets-girl climax, something also not found in the novella. It also parallels Holly's career of living beyond her means through handouts for her looks, putting the pair on equal footing. It doesn't hurt that it gave George Peppard a chance to appear bare-chested in a bedroom setting.
  • The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: In spite of the fact that Holly is shown trying to learn Portuguese before her trip to Brazil, everyone in the film pronounces her Brazilian lover José's name the Spanish way, "Hoe-Say" instead of the Portuguese way, "Zhoo-Zeh." The actor was himself Spanish.
  • Caught in the Rain: Holly and Paul, in the climax, find themselves caught in the rain while looking for her cat.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The moment you see Paul getting a ring from a Cracker Jack box, you know it'll be important.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The first thing Holly does after meeting Paul is go to meet Sally Tomato. Though he appears later and is talked about a bit early on, he has no real bearing on the plot until the third act.
  • Compensated Dating: What Holly does to live as a New York socialite without any savings or marketable skills. The compensation is $50 "for the powder room", which in 2020s dollars is about $500, and 20 - 30 dates a month, which works out to around $10,000 - $15,000.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mag Wildwood is cut down to just another colorful extra during the party scene in the film.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original novella, Holly's brother Fred is killed in World War II. The film having given the story a Setting Update from 1943 to the contemporary early '60s, this no longer makes sense, so he instead dies in a jeep accident while serving in the peacetime army.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Do not call Holly "Lula Mae." She doesn't like to be reminded of her real name and personal history.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Holly's cat is named... Cat. She states, "The way I see it I haven't got the right to give him [a name]".
  • Doppelgänger Dating: Holly's major love interest, Paul, looks just like her brother and she refers to him by her brother's name, Fred, throughout the movie.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After an emotional reunion with her ex-husband, Holly goes out with Paul "until she gets very, very drunk." She can barely stand by the end of night and kicks Paul out of her apartment when he refuses to have another drink with her.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Holly loves jewelry so much that her favorite activity is browsing the display cases of Tiffany's. However, Holly thinks that only older women can wear diamonds without looking "tacky."
  • Five-Finger Discount: Holly claims to have shoplifted for years (makes sense, she was reportedly a child thief before meeting Doc). In a humorous scene, she dares Paul to shoplift from a dime store with her, but they are constantly stymied by the world's most astute store patron. They ultimately grab two Halloween masks and hustle out, giggling.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The male lead is more or less a prostitute, but the film never openly admits as much; when the Hays Code allowed prostitution to even be mentioned, it was only permitted as a contrast to positive social values.
  • The Ghost: Fred, Holly's brother who joined the army is discussed throughout the film and appears only in an old photograph. He dies before making it onto the screen.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Once she gets tired of Compensated Dating, Holly aims to make money by marrying a rich man. Unfortunately, one of her targets (who was broke to begin with) gets married, and another gives up once she is arrested.
    • A male example of the trope appears in the character Rusty Trawler. While once one of the richest men in the United States, he is secretly broke during his appearances in the film. A newspaper reports his marriage to a particularly wealthy woman, and Holly casually explains that Rusty was marrying her for her money.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Holly guzzles quite a lot of booze throughout the film. One of her first scenes is waking up with an implied hangover. Oddly, one of the first times we see her take a sip of liquor, she winces.
  • Heroic BSoD: Holly, after learning that her brother died in an accident. And also after "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Hayseed Name: Holly was originally a farm girl from the South, and her real name, Lula Mae Barnes reflects this.
  • High-Class Gloves: Holly's fancy evening dress is paired with long, black gloves.
  • Hollywood Kiss: The kiss between Holly and Paul at the end is quite grand and romantic, though ironically contrasted with the fact that it's performed in the rain, outside a trash-filled alley, with a wet cat between the pair.
  • Invisible Backup Band: When Holly performs her "Moon River" song on the window ledge, her guitar is accompanied by a string orchestra.
  • ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: Paul is seen carrying home a grocery bag with a baguette in it.
  • Kick the Dog: When Holly abandons her cat in an alley, it's the ultimate sign that she's selling out for a soulless life of luxury. And going back to find him is her redemption. Audrey once said that this was the most distasteful thing she ever had to do on film.
  • Little Black Dress: Holly wears one; it's probably the most iconic example of the trope in film history. It was designed, like all of Audrey Hepburn's costumes for the film, by Hubert de Givenchy.
  • May–December Romance: Holly's husband was much, much older than her, and had several kids before marrying her. Holly was 13 when they got married, and it sounds like their marriage was relatively innocent, with her doing nothing but sitting around at home all day. Most of the chores were done by the children.
  • Meaningful Name: What better surname than "Golightly" could there be for a free-spirited ditz with an unserious approach to life? Ironically, it's her former husband's name.
  • Modesty Bedsheet
    • The first time we see Holly sleeping in her apartment, she had one draped around her, since she Sleeps in the Nude.
    • When Holly sneaks into Paul's bedroom, he's naked in his bed save for a bed sheet around his waist, since he had just finished having sex with his lover.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Paul is a writer who has not had anything published in five years since writing a book of vignettes titled Nine Lives.
  • Motor Mouth: O.J. Berman talks a mile a minute and once the introductory pleasantries out of the way, he talks to Paul non-stop for several minutes he finds someone else to blab to.
  • The Muse: Holly for Paul. Paul reportedly published a well-received collection of short stories in 1956, but has not managed to complete any work since then and seems to have given up on his writing career. Shortly after meeting Holly (and after she deduces that he is lying about working on a novel), he starts writing a new story based on his impressions of her. He gets it published and earns 50 dollars in payment. Later in the film (after an apparent Time Skip), Paul has managed to get several new stories published in at least two major publications.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Holly, after Paul's "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Holly is kind of smart... but not enough to notice she's been helping the drug dealing activities of the convict she often visits.
    "Snow flurries expected this weekend in New Orleans." Isn't that just the weirdest? I bet they haven't had snow in New Orleans for a million years. I don't know how he thinks them up.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: One morning, Holly drowsily answers the door to Paul while obviously naked, holding a nightgown to her chest rather than wearing it. When she notices her state of undress, she asks him to turn while she properly puts the nightgown on, but then changes her mind, saying "That's a corny line" and turns around herself, with him and the audience getting a brief Toplessness from the Back shot as she dresses.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Justified. The film presents Holly as an Oklahoma country girl who was trained to speak with a British accent, though Hepburn can occasionally be heard slipping out of the British accent.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Holly spends most of the movie calling Paul "Fred" and a lot of people come to think that's his real name. Her agent only recognizes Paul on the phone once he introduces himself as Fred.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Paul to Holly, in the penultimate scene of the film.
  • Redemption in the Rain: The climax of the film is Holly and Paul accepting each other and searching for Cat in the rain.
  • Romantic Rain: The final kiss between Paul and Holly takes place under the heavy rain.
  • Running Gag: Holly answering the door with her sleeping earplugs still in.
  • Sealed with a Kiss: The film ends with Paul and Holly kissing in the rain.
  • Setting Update: To 1960, from the story's setting of 1943.
  • Sleep Cute: In one scene, Holly climbs into Paul's apartment through the window (while he is in bed) to escape a drunken client. Eventually, she cuddles up to him and falls asleep on his chest, emphasizing that it is okay because they are friends. Curiously at this point in the film, Holly and Paul know each other for a few hours, have barely interacted, and Paul is naked (after having sex with another woman) and she's only in a bathrobe. It is Holly who insists that they are friends.
  • Sleep Mask: Holly has one, styled to look like sleepy eyes over her own.
  • Sleeps in the Nude: Save for her Sleep Mask and earplugs, Holly sleeps naked in her untidy apartment, seemingly to illustrate her wild, unconventional personality.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Ironically, Holly's cigarette stick was supposed to be an affectation that Holly assumes to cover her insecurity. It backfired. Audiences didn't get it, probably at least in part because of the choice of Audrey Hepburn for the role.
  • Social Climber: Holly is a former farm girl who loves the glamorous New York City social scene. She's just barely treading water financially but plans on eventually marrying rich.
  • Spy Speak: Sally's "weather reports" which Holly passes forward. Basically Holly is getting paid to visit imprisoned crime lord Sally Tomato every week, receive from him strange weather reports about Palermo (in Sicily), Cuba, and New Orleans, and pass forward the reports to Sally's supposed lawyer. Later in the film, Holly is arrested for participation in a drug-smuggling ring. The weather reports were actually coded messages concerning shipments of drugs.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While Holly Golightly is definitely the main character, her love interest Paul Varjak is the protagonist.
  • Timber!: Holly shouts "Timber!" as a woman at her party passes out and falls face-first to the floor.
  • Trash of the Titans: Holly's room is an untidy mess with garbage and clothes being strewn around everywhere,
  • Wakeup Makeup: You try sleeping not only in full, perfect makeup with your hair done up, but also with a sleeping mask on.
  • Wife Husbandry: Holly married Doc Golightly when she was thirteen, with the implication that young Holly was a rural Street Urchin and it was simpler for him to marry her than adopt her.
  • Writer's Block Montage: Not a montage, but a panning shot with the same effect as we see the classic crumpled-up balls of paper under Paul's desk as the camera pans upward.
  • Yellowface: Mickey Rooney's role as the buck-toothed stereotype-Japanese Mr. Yunioshi is a notorious example. Recent DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film have people involved with its making apologizing for this as well as a featurette titled "Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective" discussing the depiction of Asians in Hollywood.