by Sam Wasson (HarperStudio)
This splendid new book is more than a mere “making-of” chronicle. It examines Breakfast at Tiffany’s in a variety of contexts, including the careers of its principals (Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn, Blake Edwards, Henry Mancini, Edith Head, et al), the state of American mores in the early 1960s, society’s view of single women at that time, and the exigencies of the still-potent Production Code in Hollywood.
To accomplish all this, Sam Wasson decided to tell his story from the inside out, attempting to get inside the heads of his central characters. This approach involves considerable presumption on the author’s part, but—
—Wasson has pulled it off with verve, intelligence, and a consistent ring of truth. It helps that he is a gifted writer with a sharp sense of humor. He is also a diligent researcher; I can’t imagine how many newspaper and magazine articles he absorbed (along with book-length studies of the principals and first-hand interviews) to tell every conceivable facet of this story, from Edith Head’s resentment of Audrey Hepburn’s insistence on using Hubert de Givenchy’s designs to the delicate negotiations that permitted the Paramount production to film inside Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue—with its valuable jewels on display the entire time.
Aside from being compulsively readable, the book is also instructive. While I’ve always liked Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I didn’t realize how (subtly) groundbreaking it was in depicting a woman living on her own terms—or how bold a decision it was for the angelic Audrey Hepburn to play a character who was, at least in Capote’s celebrated book, a call-girl. How screenwriter George Axelrod finessed that problem, to the satisfaction of Hepburn as well as the Production Code office, is just one of the many story threads Wasson traces for us.
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is both enjoyable and informative: everything a film book ought to be.(HarperStudio)