‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ on Broadway: Not Your Mother’s Holly Golightly

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With all due respect to Ford Madox Ford, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the saddest story I’ve ever read. Black hats and mid-century New York aside, the story of “living by your own rules…loving on your own terms…and wearing your heart on your sleeve” (as the official Broadway site enthusiastically describes the plot) was never meant to be happy. Expecting it to be, as the heroine Holly Golightly herself might have said, would be tres fou.

The popular Audrey Hepburn / George Peppard movie abandoned gloom in favor of a happy ending but now, thank goodness, with the Sean Mathias directed production that premiered last night, there is finally a play that encompasses the intended pathos of the novella.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is, at least in my mind, always a story about Truman Capote’s fantasy of having a relationship with his mother.

On the book’s release, there was great controversy over who Holly Golightly was modeled after. Capote basically told every woman he knew that she was the inspiration for Holly, but he also contended that anyone who really knew him would recognize the character easily.

Since Truman, like Holly, had few real friends, not many people considered the fact that Holly clearly seems to have been based on the author’s mother. While Holly’s original name was Lula Mae Barnes, his mother’s was Lillie Mae Bart. She was a Southern orphan who, after a brief teenage marriage, left young Truman behind with relatives and fled to New York. Truman claimed his earliest memories were of her having affairs with strange men in hotel rooms. In New York she did have a successful run as a social climber. She changed her name to Nina and married a dashing Cuban businessman who, unfortunately, later ended up in Sing Sing. After she ran out of money, she committed suicide.

His lover later recounted Truman waiting to take a bus home—he could only afford a bus—to attend her funeral, plaintively saying, “She didn’t have to do it. She didn’t have to die. I’ve got money.”

If that’s true, it’s an autobiographical tale—and a terribly sad one.

Truman always said he wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly. I don’t think that’s because she would have made a good Holly—she wouldn’t, even in the much cheerier movie version there is a certain toughness to Holly that the actress could never have summoned—but because Marilyn Monroe also understood what it was to be motherless. She might not have embraced the character, but would have understood the themes of the story perfectly.

The novella works very well because it plays so closely upon the themes of loneliness and the desire to belong that Capote experienced throughout his life. The movie works very well because Audrey Hepburn looks dishy in a black dress, and because Henry Mancini composes lovely music.

The play works well—very well—because it is true to the original theme.

Emilia Clarke is playing a very different character than the one Audrey Hepburn made her own. Hepburn’s Holly charmed the viewer, Clarke—and Capote’s—Holly is faceted; she charms one minute and then repulses the next. She is astonishing in her ability to seem utterly warm and convivial with Fred (Cory Michael Smith), and then convincingly turn on him, telling him that he’s an intellectual snob, or she finds his stories boring, or has no desire to support him.  

Much of the play, and the novella, hinges upon Fred’s unsuccessful attempts to convince Holly that she should feel some manner of connection or loyalty to him, a goal in which he never quite succeeds. She is not, as Hepburn’s Golightly, simply playing at being a wild thing. She is truly feral, and giving everyone around her sound practical advice when she tells them, “If you try to love a wild thing, you’ll just end up looking at the sky.”

She also has an utterly insane voice, which is fitting if you assume that this is a character desperately trying not to be from any one particular place. And she is naked in a tub at one point. You’ll see much more skin on any episode of Game of Thrones, but if you are the kind of person who looks for nudity at the theater, well, it is there.

Cory Michael Smith, similarly, is not playing a dashing George Peppard character although, mercifully, neither is he channeling Truman Capote directly. (There are moments in the play, such as sending out a deliberately provocative picture of himself to go along with his stories, that are pulled straight from Capote’s life). He plays Fred as a fresh-faced young lad excited to be in the city. You are left wondering why Fred remains so desperate for Holly’s approval. If the character is heterosexual it’s enough simply to say that he desires Holly. However, having him, accurately, played as a homosexual demands a greater explanation as to why he remains so devoted to a woman who so frequently turns on him. There is something about Smith’s entirely likeable performance that seems, perhaps, not quite damaged enough to answer this question.

“Abandonment was the theme of the evening,” Fred says at one point in the play, when Holly has, only recently, abandoned him. “Oh, were you abandoned? By who?” she replies.

So: abandonment and its lasting impact are the theme of the evening and that of the play. You should expect to hear many women, all from Dubuque, leaving the theater and murmuring forlornly that it was not a happy play.

It may be best to combat that reaction by not expecting it to be a happy play. It is not a love story. It is a story about longing for love. And it plays that out perfectly.

Jennifer Ashley Wright is Editor in Chief of The Gloss. Follow her on Twitter.

Cats on Broadway Get A Whole New Meaning With Adorable Audition

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Last week, BlackBook Senior Editor Tyler Coates, who also mans the Cats beat so no one else has to, informed us about a special production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary musical featuring more than 3,000 performers. But what about a New York theatre outing for those lovers of the stage who are feline-friendly, but find the idea of a megaproduction of Cats utterly terrifying? Thanks to the newly revived Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’re in luck.

The NYT (ON IT!) sent an intrepid reporter to visit the auditions of two rescue cats competing for the role of Holly Golightly’s cat in the show. The ginger Vito Vincent is levelheaded and curls gently into the male lead’s arms. His competition, Monty, is a bit more of a diva—leaping off stage mid-scene, ignoring the commands of his trainer and carrying himself like he owns the place. Please. Get a few more credits under your belt before you have that kind of attitude, Monty.

While Monty steals much of the screen time, Vito would be more of a traditional casting decision, with a coloring closer to that of Orangey, who played the role alongside Audrey Hepburn in the film. Orangey also won two Patsy awards, the animal kingdom equivalent of the Oscar, so, you know, the bar’s pretty high, cats. You’ve gotta earn that kitty EGOT. Watch Vito and Monty act their tails off below.

[via Jezebel]

Should Movies Featuring Cigarette Smoking Garner R-Ratings?

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Holy smokes! The MPAA is in the headlines again: this time, concerned moviegoers have their sights set on the other kind of fag—cigarettes, that is. Because of the surge in teen smoking, the almighty ratings board is coming under fire for allowing smoking scenes to show up in PG-13 movies.

PG-13 rated movies account for nearly two-thirds of the smoking scenes adolescents are exposed to at the theaters, according to a survey of roughly 5,000 children ages 10-14. These movies apparently hold the same sway as an R-rated movie when linked to the rate of real-world experimentation. Hopefully, this wasn’t the reason why that 2-year old Indonesian toddler started his nasty nicotine habit.

"Adolescents are trying to figure out what they’re all about and what their identity is," Dr. Michael C. Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research, in Madison. "They figure this out by watching their parents and their friends, and movie stars are like very high-profile peers. When they see people [smoking a cigarette], they think this might make them look cool. As they become more convinced there’s something in it for them, they become more likely to try it."

Here is a list of movies that have likely caused impressionable hellions to light up—after all, le cancer: c’est chic! 

Clearly, Audrey Hepburn is the original female icon for making smoking look chic—she lights up in a total of eight different scenes, almost setting fire to a woman’s hat in one of them, proving cigarettes are a fire hazard in addition to bad for your health! Not only that, her neighbor and partner in crime Paul is almost never seen without a cancer stick dangling from his lips. And who can forget the immensely imitated photograph of her propping her cigarette holder aloft in lustrous black gloves at a cheeky angle? No one said having Breakfast at Tiffany’s was healthy!

The PG-13-rated Gattaca has perhaps the most impressive use of combining liquor and smoke: Vincent (played by Ethan Hawke) describes the planet of Titan to Jerome (Jude Law) by blowing smoke directly into his wineglass, no doubt immediately inspiring an army of wannabe-Hawke tweens to imitate the gesticulation. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a sip of cigarette-residue infused wine? 

In addition to a cig-loving Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), the protagonist in Moonrise Kingdom, a 12-year-old boy named Sam, has a penchant for pipe-smoking and running away, both highly recommended activities for any trend-setting preteen. However, considering director Wes Anderson’s fondness for having his characters puff up in many of his films (ie: Margot’s unfaltering nicotine habit), it’s really not totally shocking. 

Typically, when a movie trailer opens to a guy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth in a leather jacket, it means that that guy is awesome. Therefore, imitating that guy must be awesome. Especially because it’s John Travolta. So goes the psyche of any normal teenager from the ’70s and their blossoming cig addiction. No wonder my IQ is so low, my mom was breathing in secondhand smoke from my dad’s Travolta-inspired Camels! The horror!

It’s Cozy Time

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Anyone else at the “done” point? You know the point where you are running on fumes and so ready for a holiday vacation that you can’t get to the airport fast enough? I think we’re all there. The holiday rush, excessive shopping, endless parties, and putting in extra hours at work to get it all done before the new year is extremely taxing. It’s time to relax, kick off your heels, bust out the hot cider, and escape for a while. 2011 is lurking and ready to challenge you, so don’t forget to take advantage of the downtime. Hopefully, you already have all the cozy goods to get you ready for relaxation, but if you don’t, here are some more ideas. Like this exact replica of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly eye mask in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (I own this and it’s adorable!). So tell everyone to take a hike, turn off your phone, put the laptop away, and remind yourself to chill out.

Get your man on these Feetness Massage Socks, $7! They have a built-in guide to show you what pressure points to massage. image

Drown out city noise, chatty in-laws, and crying babies with this portable HoMedics Sound Machine, $19.99. image

Yes, I actually own these Nick & Nora Sock Monkey Footed Pajamas ($23) too and wear them with pride! I can vouch that they are probably the best pajamas ever created. image

Accessorize Like Audrey

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Arrive in style with this oh-so-chic Audrey Hepburn necklace ($28) from Fred Flare. As if the Breakfast at Tiffany‘s photo wasn’t enough, this timepiece pendant doubles as a miniature mirror, so you can touch up your lipstick and hair while on the go. So take a tip from Miss Golightly herself and make sure you are always on time (or fashionably late), looking absolutely fabulous, and always, always remember to stay classy.

Fans of this particular Audrey flick, before you’re ready to accessorize make sure you get some shut-eye, Audrey-style. Even a party gal like Miss Golightly knew the importance of beauty sleep. Get some sleep with the Holly GoNightly sleep mask ($14) and wake up looking movie star fabulous and, of course, well rested!


The Most Fashionable Films: From ‘Belle de Jour’ to ‘Auntie Mame’

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Aside from magazines, movies are a fantastic source of style inspiration. Both The Times of London and TCM have compiled lists of the most fashionable films ever, and we believe some of these will make both fashion and film fans very happy. Starting with Belle de Jour (pictured, 1967).

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) image

Annie Hall (1977) image

Gone With the Wind (1939) image

Rear Window (1954) image

Auntie Mame (1958) image

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) image