Friday, July 10, 2009

"Miss Golightly! I Must Protest!" Who Are You, Holly, Anyway?

In my book group we decided to read a book that has a well-known movie name attached to it, "Breakfast at Tiffany's." When I picked up the book from the library, I was surprised, first of all, that the movie is based off of a novella; second of all, that there were three other short stories published in the same book; and thirdly, but not finally, that my goodness, it was written by Truman Copote of all people. Now, I have heard of Capote from the movie that came out about him in 2006. I heard how he lived a flamboyant life, died alone, and his most famous book is, "In Cold Blood." How, I must ask, did he write such an endearing story such as Tiffany's?

Well, lastly, of all blows, the book is not an endearing story of sweetness and beauty. A shocker of all shockers is Ms. Holly Golightly is not all goodness and lollipops that I thought, and, obviously, the rest of the world perceived she was.

Enter Ms. Golightly, a glamorous prostitute, held in high regards. Her photo is slathered on millions of posters found dangling on tape or in frames on walls in teenage girls’ bedrooms all over the country. Were we all tricked into believing this character was something she was not? Did the movie make us believe something different? I would have to respond, Yes and No.

The book was published in 1958 when the country was watching “Leave It To Beaver,” “Howdy Doody,” “Dragnet,” “George Burns & Gracie,” and watched Fred Astaire make his TV debut. Couples were not seen in the same bed yet and women still stayed home while the spouse went off to work. The U.S. was in the worst recession since World War II, approximately 5.5 million people are out of work To give you the time frame, some famous people who were born that year were Sharon Stone, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Angela Bassett, Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Jackson (longer list than I wanted to give you, but who to take off this sampling?). The top grossing movie was South Pacific and the Best Picture was (drum roll please) Gigi! And sense I am at it, the top selling books that year, besides the Bible and the Qur'an, was "Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak, although it is the Betty Crocker Cookbook that had top record sells in 1955.

The movie, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" staring Audrey Hepburn came out two years later after the book in 1961. Why did the movie become such a big hit during that time period? Didn't they see what was going on in the movie? Didn't they see that there were no other movies out with such a provocative subject as Holly Golightly?

No. I don't think they did. Not to put them down, but maybe they did see it for what it really was about, but was not quite ready to accept it. And, with Audrey Hepburn dressed all glamorous and stunning, who cares what she was about anyway?

As one watches the movie one can get "caught up in her cadence and not the text or her words." Maybe they didn't catch the part when the "decorator" leaves $300 dollars to pay Paul for his "services" while Holly mentions, "I completely understand" indicating that’s how she receives her living as well. They might not have seen the "Irving" at the party as a transvestite (we are talking 1961 here) or what was going on at the big gathering at her house, for that matter, with people laughing in mirrors, laying on each other in piles, and completely hallucinating. They were all out of there minds in a blind stupor right there on the full movie screen. She talks about "Dykes," and how many men she has slept with, and refers to other people in a demeaning way. They might not have known what she was referring to when she said "I need money and I will do anything to get it."

The movie is based on the novella so there are some big differences between the two. The narrator has no name in the book, although Holly refers to him as "Fred." He is almost a bystander in the book captivated by Ms. Golightly. And in my book group, we are pretty sure that he is more interested in men than in women. At the end of the book [book spoiler alert] she chooses to leave the country and escape the law. She also ends up in a relationship with a married man who has kids and who of course has money to provide her living.

In the movie the narrator is the character named Paul Varjak and [movie spoiler alert] they get together in the end. "Maybe the movie was redeemed because they fell in love. What else can redeem it, but love."

How were we so captivated by this character of Holiday (Holly) Golightly? Does that happen in life? Do we not see things for what it is, captivated by the glamour of it all? What did you think of the movie, and if you have read it, what did you think of the book?

Note: Statements in quotes are taken from the wonderful people in my book group who knew I was taking notes and was unable to refer to them by name. A big thank you to them.
* If you enjoyed posts such as this one, receive the next one in your inbox by “subscribing” (which is totally free) by clicking here. Enter e-mail address in top right corner.


  1. Makes you wonder how many songs, movies, books one has heard, saw, read that pulled the wool over our heads and we fell for it in our gullible way. Just like kid movies when there is adult humor. When I watched Shrek one I couldn't believe how much they tried to sneak in hoping the kids wouldn't catch but wanted parents to watch it with the kids so added in the humor not acceptable to kids.

  2. I think I might just need to watch the movie again! :)