Book vs. Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s



This year Breakfast at Tiffany’s celebrates its 55th Anniversary.  It became an instant classic largely due to Audrey Hepburn’s charm, grace, and style as Holly Golightly, but can you believe that it almost wasn’t made? Cross my heart and kiss my elbow! I had a hard time believing this, too. That is until I re-read Truman Capote’s novella. Technically, the book is about a gay man in love with a straight-ish woman, and doesn’t have much of an ending. And while the writing is beautiful, Holly does come across as a very complicated and often unlikable woman. It is a credit to Paramount and the filmmakers who worked their movie magic to adapt Truman’s book for the big screen.

When you first saw this movie, did you realize Holly was a prostitute? If you answered, yes, good for you! However, I did not. Director, Blake Edwards and screenwriter, George Axelrod, masterfully crafted this film to keep the censors at bay. Looking back now, the “$50 for the powder room” reference makes so much more sense. Edwards’ casting of the beloved and innocent, Audrey Hepburn, was genius because her performance as Holly is so captivating that you almost forget about her occupation. Anticipating the censors reaction to Holly’s profession, Paramount issued a press release prior to the premiere stating Audrey’s beliefs did not reflect that of Holly’s.  Hard to believe, but the censors even feared the shoplifting scene would trigger a rise in crime amongst young people. Can’t imagine what they would think of today’s films?!


In spite of the all the drama in getting this film made, Breakfast at Tiffany’s paved the way for the modern, independent woman in film. In 1961, audiences were not used to seeing the female lead as a single woman who lived alone, drank, smoked, and had sex outside of marriage. Holly was a self-made woman. She had already been married and divorced and was still a teenager, at least in the book. She came to New York from backwoods Tulip, TX, and rose to the rank of “It” girl amongst Manhattan’s social elite. Women were drawn to Holly’s glamorous life and it seemed attainable to them. Holly didn’t have tons of money, but she was able to create a style all her own and make it work. Add in the dreamy, George Peppard, as her kept man love interest, the Oscar-winning music by Henry Mancini, the Givenchy clothes, and Paramount adds another classic to its collection.

Get a copy of Truman Capote’s novella on Amazon or reserve a copy at your local library.  If you are interested in more behind-the-scenes information about the film,  check out Sam Wasson’s book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is playing now on EPIX and

  • Alisa Gannon

    I’m sorry to criticize, but this post is severely lacking. I find the movie and novella so different I can’t believe they have the same title. I like the movie. It’s cute and iconic. But even the lead character, Holly, is not even half like the print version. When I saw the novella was written by Truman Capote I was surprised. The movie didn’t seem like something he would write. Turns out it wasn’t.