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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ABSOLUTELY READ THIS: FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M. Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of The Modern Woman by Sam Wasson

What I Think of 5th Avenue, 5AM, by Peachy Deegan Golightly

Doesn't everyone love the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's?  Loving the movie about Holly Golightly is akin to loving watching the sunset on the roof of The Met, eating Rock Shrimp Risotto at Swifty's, wearing a hat by Ellen Christine, and drinking a Star Vodka cocktail: you know you are watching/eating/wearing/drinking the best, and if you don't realize it, you must not have a pulse.  We cannot imagine anyone not loving this movie, and what this book is is the illustrious story behind the movie.  An incredible amount of work went into researching what it takes to make a winner: Breakfast at Tiffany's, the movie.  We have such respect for what Wasson did in terms of research, and his eloquent execution in putting the words of research on paper.  Breakfast at Tiffany's revolutionized movies, Manhattan and the single girl here!  If you are living here today, this movie transformed the culture here and has contributed to what Manhattan is today.  

Early on in the book, Wasson states:
"But in Breakfast at Tiffany's, all of a sudden- because it was Audrey who was doing it-living alone, going out, looking fabulous, and getting a little drunk didn't look so bad anymore.  Being single actually seemed shame-free.  It seemed fun...people in 1961 experienced, for the very first time, a glamorous fantasy life of wild, kooky independence and sophisticated sexual freedom; best of all, it was a fantasy they could make real." 

The first time I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's was after I read the book one summer, for my summer reading at Miss Porter's School.  I loved the book, so I thought I'd probably like the movie as well.  I LOVED THE MOVIE.  When I moved here from Boston, the first thing I did when I responded to my offer letter from Lehman Brothers was buy the VHS of Breakfast at Tiffany's because I was going to be Holly Golightly, or a version of her structuring municipal bonds in a tiny way, dreaming of the Schlumberger necklace:

For the record, we believe Holly is not a hooker; she is a kook.  A quite lovable kook.  A kook that you can only find in Manhattan!  And the way she was brought to life by Audrey Hepburn is just classic excellence.  Wasson is correct in saying she made different okay.  From Gigi to Holly, Hepburn was one of the best that ever graced the screen.  We loved her clothes just as much as her, when we saw them at Sotheby's New York before they went to Paris and London.  Remember our Breakfast at Sotheby's:

Fashion is a major component in this work, and predominantly of course, Givenchy.  This book brought the little black dress en vogue.  It made chic accessible.  And for the record, the whole point of Whom You Know is to connect the dots in excellence, so when we saw on page 28 Irving Lazar being brought into the story, otherwise known as "Swifty" for his speed and alacrity in doing deals we understand, we cannot help but think of the Best Restaurant in Manhattan, Swifty's (read our recommendation here).  The connection is that the restaurant is named after a dog (Glenn Birnbaum's), and the dog was named after this very Swifty.  We love it there and would eat there every day, but then we would not fit into the little black dress...or dresses, to be accurate.  

And one more excellence dot for you: on page 49 you will see that Truman Capote, author of Breakfast a at Tiffany's, used to frequent Quo Vadis, which was the restaurant of Upcoming Mover and Shaker Robert Caravaggi's father, and of course Robert is Owner and Host of Swifty's.  Capote also was enthusiastic about the 21 Club, which as you remember from our book review of Last Call is the restaurant of Mover and Shaker Sascha Rothchild's grandfather. (And you should read Sascha's book and Last Call too:

Every component of making the movie is attended to by Sam Wasson.  He does not leave out a thing, and we commend his total thoroughness.   We love all the bits about Capote.  Wasson states:

"'Every year,' [Truman Capote says,]'New York is flooded with these girls; and two or three, usually models, always become prominent and get their names in the gossip columns and are seen in all of the prominent places with all of the Beautiful People.  And then they fade away and marry some accountant or dentist, and a new crop of girls arrives from Michigan or South Carolina and the process starts all over again.  The main reason I wrote about Holly, outside of the fact that I liked her so much, was that she was such a symbol of all these girls who come to New York and spin in the sun for a moment like May flies and then disappear.  I wanted to rescue one girl from that anonymity and preserve her for posterity.'"

After the book of course, was the movie production.  If you have never made a movie before, this part is riveting.  Swifty was key in George Axelrod's involvement, and the interpersonal relationships and how they play out in making the entire cast on and off screen is complexly told.  We won't give away the details: we want you to read the book.  And also, the Chapters are wittingly named!!!   We love the map in the beginning-it adds to the overall picture and most fun of all, you can take a walking tour when you are done with the book. 

From the Timber moment to the closing scene, Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of the best movies ever, and Fifth Avenue 5 A.M. is the best depiction of the story behind it we can imagine. 

Whom You Know Highly Recommends Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

And Sam Wasson, we like your use of the word Whom in the dedication!


Images from the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s are branded into our collective memory: we can see Audrey Hepburn stepping out of that cab on the corner of 57th and 5th, and picture her again with George Peppard, huddled in an alleyway and wrapped in a kiss, as the rain pours down around them. Yet, behind those iconic images is an incredible journey of what it took to transform Truman Capote’s novella into the motion picture that altered America’s view of fashion, film, and sex.  

FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M.  Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of The Modern Woman (HarperStudio; June 22, 2010; Hardcover; $19.99) is the first ever complete account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Author Sam Wasson draws upon countless interviews with those involved in the film’s production, from actors to producer Richard Shepherd to Gerald Clarke and Capote’s biographer, to capture the world of one of the greatest cinematic icons. 

Wasson shares with us all of the back story and exposes the exciting details of Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Marilyn Monroe was first choice for Holly Golightly; Audrey Hepburn was afraid Holly would debase her image and didn’t want the part; two endings to the film were shot— one romantic the other melancholy; George Peppard was universally disliked and almost got in a fistfight with Blake Edwards, and so much more.  Kirkus Reviews raves, “Rich in incident and set among the glitterati of America's most glamorous era, the book reads like a novel…. [Wasson] has assembled a sparkling time capsule of old Hollywood magic and mythmaking.” 

About the Author
Sam Wasson was born in Los Angeles but left the city to study film at Wesleyan University, and then went on to do a Masters in Film at USC. His books, A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards and the forthcoming Paul on Mazursky, offer definitive studies of each director's life and work. He calls L.A. home again, though L.A. rarely returns his calls. 

    Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of The Modern Woman
    By Sam Wasson
    Publication Date: June 22, 2010
    ISBN: 9780061774157
    Hardcover/$19.99/256 pages

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