Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1961 American romantic comedy film directed by Blake Edwards, written by George Axelrod, adapted from Truman Capote's 1958 novella of the same name, and starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a naïve, eccentric café society girl who falls in love with a struggling writer. It was theatrically released by Paramount Pictures on October 5, 1961, to critical and commercial success.
Nominated for five Academy Awards (winning two), with the music (including "Moon River") nominated for six Grammy Awards (winning five), the film was selected in 2012 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
Early one morning, a taxi pulls up in front of the Tiffany & Co. flagship store and from it emerges elegantly dressed Holly Golightly, carrying a paper bag containing her breakfast. After looking into the store's window displays, she strolls to her apartment and has to fend off her date from the night before. Once inside, Holly cannot find her keys, so she buzzes her landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, to let her in. Later, she is awakened by new neighbor Paul Varjak(played by George Peppard), who rings her doorbell to get into the building. The pair chat as she dresses to leave for her weekly visit to mobster Sally Tomato, who is currently incarcerated at Sing Sing. Tomato's lawyer pays her $100 a week to deliver "the weather report".
As she is leaving, Holly is introduced to Paul's "decorator", wealthy older woman Emily Eustace Failenson, whom Paul nicknames "2E".
That night, when Holly goes out onto the fire escape to elude an over-eager date, she peeks into Paul's apartment and sees 2E leaving money and kissing him goodbye. Visiting Paul afterward, she learns he is a writer who has not had anything published since a book of vignettes five years before. Holly, in turn, explains she is trying to save money to support her brother Fred after he completes his Army service. The pair fall asleep but are awakened when Holly has a nightmare about her brother. When Paul questions her about this, Holly chides him for prying. She later buys Paul a typewriter ribbon to apologize and invites him to a wild party at her apartment.
There, Paul meets her Hollywood agent, who describes Holly's transformation from a country girl into a Manhattan socialite, along with wealthy Brazilian politician José da Silva Pereira, and Rusty Trawler, the "ninth richest man in America under 50".
Some time later, 2E enters Paul's apartment, worried she is being followed. Paul tells her he will investigate and eventually confronts Holly's husband, Doc Golightly, who explains that Holly's real name is Lula Mae Barnes and that they were married when she was approaching 14. Now he wants to take her back to rural Texas. After Paul reunites Holly and Doc, she informs Paul that the marriage was annulled. At the Greyhound bus station, she tells Doc she will not return with him, and he leaves broken-hearted.
After drinking at a club, Paul and Holly return to her apartment, where she drunkenly tells him that she plans to marry Trawler for his money. A few days later, Paul learns that one of his short stories will be published. On the way to tell Holly, he sees a newspaper headline stating that Trawler has married someone else. Holly and Paul agree to spend the day together, taking turns doing things each has never done before.
At Tiffany's, Paul has the ring from Doc Golightly's box of Cracker Jack engraved as a present for Holly. After spending the night together, he awakens to find her gone. When 2E arrives, Paul ends their relationship. She calmly accepts, having earlier concluded that he was in love with someone else.
Holly now schemes to marry José for his money, but after receiving a telegram notifying her of her brother's death in a jeep accident, she trashes her apartment. Months later, she invites Paul to dinner, as she is leaving the next morning for Brazil to continue her relationship with José. However, the pair are arrested in connection with Sally Tomato's drug ring, and Holly spends the night in jail.
The next morning, Hollywood friend O.J. Berman pays Holly's bail. Paul is waiting for her in a cab, bringing her pet, "Cat", and a letter from José explaining that he must end their relationship due to her arrest. Holly insists that she will go to Brazil anyway; she asks the cab to pull over and pushes Cat out into the pouring rain. Just after they get underway again, Paul storms out of the cab, tossing the engraved ring into her lap and telling her to examine her life. She goes through a decision-making moment, puts on the ring and runs after Paul, who has gone looking for Cat. Finally, Holly finds Cat sheltering in an alley and, with it tucked into her coat, she and Paul embrace.
Official trailer of film Breakfast at Tiffany's
Truman Capote, who sold the film rights of his novella to Paramount Studios, wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly, whom he had described perfectly in the book. He was cited as saying"Marilyn was always my first choice to play the girl, Holly Golightly."
Screenwriter George Axelrod was hired to "tailor the screenplay for Monroe". But when Lee Strasberg advised Monroe that playing a "lady of the evening" would be bad for her image, she turned it down and performed in The Misfits instead. Kim Novak also turned down the role of Holly, as well as Shirley MacLaine who performed in Two Loves instead. When Audrey Hepburn was cast instead of Monroe, Capote remarked: "Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey". Steve McQueen was offered the role of Paul Varjak, but declined the offer due to being under contract.
Axelrod worked with the original director of the film John Frankenheimer for a period of three months, but Hepburn's agent wanted a more known director, so Frankenheimer was off the project and replaced by Blake Edwards.
Filming began on Fifth Avenue outside the Tiffany & Co. flagship store on October 2, 1960. Most of the exteriors were filmed in New York City, and all of the interiors, except for portions of the scene inside Tiffany & Company, were filmed on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood.
According to one report, 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 shoot. 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, another report claims that the sequence was captured rather quickly due to the good fortune of an unexpected traffic lull.
Audrey Hepburn sings Moon River in film Breakfast at Tiffany's
During the film, Audrey Hepburn sang the film's signature song, "Moon River" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. The song was tailored to Hepburn's limited vocal range, based on songs she had performed in 1957's Funny Face. On the Anniversary Edition DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany's, co-producer Dick Shepherd says in his audio commentary that after a preview in San Francisco, Martin Rankin, Paramount's head of production, wanted "Moon River" replaced with music by somebody else but "Marty [Jurow, co-producer] and I both said 'over our dead bodies,'" – a remark attributed to Hepburn herself in another account.
According to Time magazine, Mancini "sets off his melodies with a walking bass, extends them with choral and string variations, varies them with the brisk sounds of combo jazz. 'Moon River' is sobbed by a plaintive harmonica, repeated by strings, hummed and then sung by the chorus, finally resolved with the harmonica again."
The soundtrack featured a score composed and conducted by Henry Mancini, with songs by Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Mancini and Mercer won the 1961 Oscar for Best Original Song for "Moon River". Mancini won for Best Original Score. There are also unreleased score pieces from Breakfast at Tiffany's in existence; "Carousel Cue" is from an unsurfaced scene, while "Outtake 1" is from a deleted scene in which Holly and Fred visit Tiffany's and is a variation of the main theme.
Breakfast at Tiffany's was theatrically released by Paramount Pictures on October 5, 1961, to critical and commercial success, grossing $14 million on a $2.5 million budget. Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly is generally considered to be one of her most memorable and identifiable roles. She regarded it as one of her most challenging roles, since she was an introvert required to play an extrovert.
The film received five nominations at the 34th Academy Awards; Best Actress (for Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, winning, Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "Moon River". It was considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2012.
Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, with her hair in a high chignon and carrying an oversized cigarette holder, is considered one of the most iconic images of 20th century American cinema.
The "Little Black Dress" worn by Audrey Hepburn designed by Hubert de Givenchy in the beginning of the film, is cited as one of the most iconic items of clothing in the history of the twentieth century and is, perhaps, the most famous little black dress of all time.
A second "little black dress" in Breakfast at Tiffany's, along with its wide-brimmed hat, was worn by Hepburn as Holly when she goes to visit mobster Sally Tomato at Sing Sing Prison. This dress was paid homage as one of the dresses worn by Anne Hathaway's character Selina Kyle, Catwoman's alter ego, in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises; the comic book Catwoman drawn by artist Adam Hughes, was based on Hepburn, creating a double homage to Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Hathaway's Catwoman.
One of three dresses designed by Givenchy for Hepburn for possible use in the film sold at auction by Christie's on December 5, 2006 for £467,200 (~US$947,000), about seven times the reserve price.
Another iconic item throughout the movie is Holly's sunglasses. Often misidentified as Ray-Ban, they are Manhattan sunglasses designed and manufactured in London by Oliver Goldsmith. In 2011 the model was re-released to mark the 50th anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
A diamond necklace at Tiffany's that Hepburn scorned as too flashy was the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, which she wore in publicity photos for the film. Tiffany's profile as a pre-eminent luxury retailer, while already established, was further boosted by the film.