This movie opens with one of my favorite movie openings of all time, a scene where a single taxi drives down Fifth Avenue early in the morning and drops Audrey Hepburn off in front of Tiffanys in New York. It is a scene that encapsulates much of the secret desire I've long possessed for living in a big City and becoming proficient in its language and ways.
Audrey Hepburn in the role of Holly Golightly delivers such a nuanced and impeccable performance that it is surprising to know that she was not the first choice for the role. The producers wanted Marylyn Monroe to play the part, and I am sometimes divided about whether Miss Monroe would have been a better choice or not.
One of the flaws of the movie is the idea that the sleek sophisticated Holly would have ever, even in her most desperate of times, married Buddy Epstein's character, a Texas farmer and veterinarian named Doc Golightly. He appears one day and tries without a chance of success to guilt Holly into returning with him back to Texas. The scene reads false because it is impossible to picture Holly, even a young, impoverished Holly, to have married such a sad character and living on a farm in Texas. Monroe on, the other hand, could have pulled it off because of the earthy sensuality that she possessed in spades.
But Monroe would have been much harder to imagine playing the part of a chic, sophisticated urban beauty who could request her dates pay her $50 for her visits to the powder room. They would have paid Monroe the money all right, but not for a trip to a powder room.
Hepburn is perfect for that part, Blake Edward's light handed treatment of the story makes it all seem like a frothy bad dream created by desperate choices and unchecked desires. Hepburn became known for the role and rightly so. In her hands, Holly becomes a mythic heroine flying through life in search of a forgiveness she believes she'll find when she has accumulated enough wealth to buy her salvation while knowing full well that the effort to accumulate that wealth will only drive her deeper into oblivion.
Thinking about what Monroe could have done with the role is a compelling enterprise as it leads one to imagine a completely different film, one more grounded in the reality of skin, blood, and bone, much more like Truman Capote's book I've been told.
And the decision to cast George Peppard in the role of Paul Varjak is also kind of strange. He is so handsome in the movie with large blue eyes and handles the role of Holly's savior so effortlessly that the viewer has to wonder why he never became a bigger star. Yet, he doesn't seem blemished enough to play Paul Varjak, a writer who survives on the money provided by his wealthy, married, older lover played by the great actress Patricia Neal.
Peppard and Neal both do not seem desperate, or hardened enough for their roles. Peppard's character switched over from the dark side far too easily and Neal's character was far too stoic and accepting of her fate as the jilted lover. If we are still imagining here, I like to think about what a young Warren Beatty or a Steve McQueen could have brought to the role, actors more capable of providing a deeper, more conflicted hero who sacrificed a hell of a lot more in order to save Holly from herself. There was no need to even change Patricia Neal, just tell her to a be bit more like the character in her gritty Academy Award winning performance in the movie HUD. What a movie that could have been.
Don't get me wrong; I love the movie even while recognizing its faults, and for some strange reason the flaws have never seem to bother its popularity among movie goers. I suspect the scenes of the beautiful parts of New York has something to do with it, also the beautiful score by Henry Mancini, and the fact of Audrey Hepburn's on screen presence, insists, no, demands that the viewer take notice her. She could have recited the New York phone book, and we would watch contentedly.
Instead of a gritty, realistic story about corrupted angels and their very bloody redemption, we are left with a pretty dream world where fair maidens are allowed to not recognize their complicity in their own captivity and their saviors, wearing highly polished and only slightly dented suits of armor, rescue them at no great cost to themselves by simply believing in the power of love.
When I look at the move like this, I can see that it was the template for Pretty Woman, also a movie more about a dream world than reality.
It's funny that I didn't see that before.