Character Piece: Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) In Breakfast At Tiffany’s

February 19, 2019
Hooker or just a good time party girl? Either way, Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly is one of the most indelible cinema characters of all time.

The grand, regal, but sometimes tattered city of New York has been captured on film in a number of iconic movies, and has inspired a host of fascinating and unforgettable characters, from Travis Bickle and Annie Hall to Michael Corleone, Ratso Rizzo, Gordon Gekko and many, many more. One of the most indelible and utterly charming New York characters of all time, however, remains Holly Golightly, played with effortless grace, vulnerability, intelligence and innate humour by the lovely Audrey Hepburn, who was never served better by a film than she was with the 1961 classic, Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Though marred slightly by unfortunate trimmings of the time (the less said about Mickey Rooney – done up in Asian drag as Mr. Yunioshi – the better), Blake Edwards’ stylish, artful adaptation of the great Truman Capote’s novella will never date too horribly thanks to its luminous central character. The film’s opening scene, in which a taxi veers up an empty Fifth Avenue and drops Holly in front of the jewellery story, Tiffany’s, where she looks wistfully at the display windows while eating a Danish and sipping a coffee, is one of the greatest introductions to a character ever. It tells us so much about the enigmatic Holly Golightly, who lives a life filled with obvious joy, but who longs for so much more, both materially and emotionally.

An inveterate partygoer and it-girl on New York’s swinging social scene, there has been much debate over the years as to whether or not Holly Golightly is actually a classy call girl, or merely a young lady who likes the company of wealthy older men. The character’s creator, however, is probably the best place to start. “Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl,” Truman Capote told Playboy in 1968. “She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewellery or a check…if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night.” Holly’s real profession, however, is refracted through so much distracting glamour and sweetness that she never really feels anything like a prostitute. As the ever demure Audrey Hepburn told producer Marty Jurow upon being offered the film: “You have a wonderful script, but I can’t play a hooker.” Kooky, individualistic, and wonderfully free spirited (“I’ll never let anybody put me in a cage,” she says to George Peppard’s hopelessly smitten writer, Paul Varjak), Holly Golightly is the ultimate New York good time girl, whose influence can be felt today in high fashion, pop culture (she was an appropriate touchstone in Sex And The City) and everything in between.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s will screen at The Sydney Opera House with a live symphony score on May 4 and May 5. Click here for all information.

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