Friday, January 14, 2011

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson

Completed January 9, 2011
Reason for Reading: Whim...
Audrey Hepburn is an icon like no other, yet the image many of us have of Audrey—dainty, immaculate—is anything but true to life. Here, for the first time, Sam Wasson presents the woman behind the little black dress that rocked the nation in 1961. The first complete account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. reveals little-known facts about the cinema classic: Truman Capote desperately wanted Marilyn Monroe for the leading role; director Blake Edwards filmed multiple endings; Hepburn herself felt very conflicted about balancing the roles of mother and movie star. With a colorful cast of characters including Truman Capote, Edith Head, Givenchy, "Moon River" composer Henry Mancini, and, of course, Hepburn herself, Wasson immerses us in the America of the late fifties before Woodstock and birth control, when a not-so-virginal girl by the name of Holly Golightly raised eyebrows across the country, changing fashion, film, and sex for good. Indeed, cultural touchstones like Sex and the City owe a debt of gratitude to Breakfast at Tiffany's.

In this meticulously researched gem of a book, Wasson delivers us from the penthouses of the Upper East Side to the pools of Beverly Hills, presenting Breakfast at Tiffany's as we have never seen it before—through the eyes of those who made it. Written with delicious prose and considerable wit, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. shines new light on a beloved film and its incomparable star.
I have no idea why I read this book. I have never seen the movie, read the book, or seen Audrey Hepburn act. I have never heard of the author of this book before. I am not a huge fan of the classic movie franchise or the old-time big stars. Actually, I just saw my first Marilyn Monroe movie last week. I just was flipping through the library eBook selection, which is really sad, and adding what sounded sort of interesting to my wish list. Then, I moved 5 of them to the holds area and this was one of them. So, what are my thoughts after finishing this book? I have now added both the book Breakfast at Tiffany's and the movie version to my library holds. I even added a couple other Audrey Hepburn movies. I am actually going to watch classic movies!

I am surprised by my interest in this book. It really is a subject I knew next to nothing about. I wasn't even entirely sure what Breakfast at Tiffany's was even about. Last night, though, I was trailing the cc around the place reading him some of the things that I learned. This is why I need to read more non-fiction in 2011. It becomes a sharing experience! Now, I need to reiterate that I am not very well-read on this subject, so I have no idea what someone that loves this era and the movies that came from it would think. I just know that I learned a lot and if I want to learn more, the author included pages and pages of sources for all his info. I was just really amazed about the whole process of making this movie. Trying to sneak it through the censors was something that I never thought about before. Well, mainly because up until yesterday I didn't know that Hepburn played a call-girl in the movie. It was things like this that I was discussing with the cc last night. He included some of the scenes that were cut and the reasoning behind it.

I'd like to think that the author captured the players well. I like how he set this book out as a movie script. In the beginning his lists all the characters, the scenes, and includes a map. Then he divides it into sections like a script would. Even the end keeps up this theme. For another book, it wouldn't work at all, but for the idea of this book it worked really well. I just found myself surprising interested in most of what happens in the book. I could careless about Audrey's marriage, but I did appreciate how she was trying to balance being a mother and being an actress. I even enjoyed the pages dedicated to the famous song 'Moon River'. I might not have seen the movie before, but I have heard that song before. I also like how without necessarily going into a lot of detail, we learn about all the people that were related to Hepburn and this movie. I think it made the book more enjoyable.

I am glad I read this book on a whim. I never would have read it otherwise! Now, of course, my question to my readers is what classic movies should I see? I put the following on hold, but I am always up for more recommendations!

Breakfast at Tiffany's
My Fair Lady
Funny Face
The Seven Year Itch

(So, this book didn't get very good ratings on Barnes & Noble... I assume by people that might actually know what they are talking about. I liked it... It was a good introduction, I think, but maybe not for those that know more than me...)


  1. wow. just Breakfast at Tiffany's is a classic for sure. And I hope you get to see the movie!! I am guessing that the era and the surroundings of making this movie fascinated you the same way I felt about a book called Stan and Ollie by Simon Louvish. It was so descriptive and interesting I felt almost like I was there .

    There are such wonderful actors and actresses from "classic movies" and many good stories for those movies, not all are in the form of books though.

    I hope you continue to enjoy classics, be it books or movies..!

  2. I'm totally with you on the sharing experience with non-fiction. I love reading a book and just wanting to tell anyone who will listen what I've learned! I don't know much about Breakfast at Tiffany's either, other than it's written by Truman Capote, and I don't watch a lot of classic movies either. Glad you liked this one, though!!

  3. It's funny, because I picked this up on a whim too. I have seen Breakfast at Tiffanys, but other than that have no real experience with Audrey Hepburn or really know anything about her. I think what sold me on this book was the line, "The creation of the modern woman". I haven't gotten to it yet, but hopefully I will soon!

  4. Definitely add A Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday and Rebecca to your list. All wonderful classic movies!

  5. Oooh, Casablanca and Sabrina are both wonderful. Some other great movies to add: North by Northwest, The African Queen, The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon.

  6. Ooooh, Audrey Hepburn is one of my favourite actors. Would highly recommend Roman Holiday and How to Steal A Million - other good Audrey Hepburn films.

    Another really good classic film is It Happened One Night.

  7. Sabrina is my favourite Audrey Hepburn film! I think Wait Until Dark is my second-favourite; it's a super-creepy thriller. I've been a fan of classic movies for awhile now, so I'd recommend looking into some Bette Davis stuff. Now, Voyager is one of my favourites, but anything she does is marvelous! One of my favourite styles of old movies is the screwball comedy: His Girl Friday is a really fun one and of course there's the classic It Happened One Night. Oh, and you have to get some Katherine Hepburn: I think The Philadelphia Story is marvelous, with a young Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant playing off of her perfectly. On the Hitchcock front, my favourites would be Notorious (it'd be neat to watch after Casablanca, since it has Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains and a similar war setting) and Rebecca (although if you haven't read the book, go for that first!). The latter has Laurence Olivier, one of my very favourite classic actors. Oh, and you have to watch something with Gregory Peck! Have you seen To Kill a Mockingbird? It's what made me fall in love with him. Or there's my other favourite Hepburn film, Roman Holiday.

    I'll stop now, lol. But once you've watched a few and have a better idea of your tastes, let me know and I'll try to provide a few more recs!

  8. My Fair Lady is one of my favorite musicals, and has great dialogue, drawn from the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. And Casablanca is my absolute favorite classic movies, period. Terrific writing, acting, story - everything!

    The Seven Year Itch isn't bad, but I like Marilyn Monroe better in Some Like it Hot - it's a funnier movie, too.

  9. Thanks, Pat! I plan to hit you up for movie recs after I get through a few I have all ready!

    Trish: This was an attempt to broaden my horizons for sure!

    Lu: Yes, that part of the title is what sold me, too!

    Bookfool: Thanks for the recommendations!

    Court: I will look into those for sure! Thanks!

    Eva: That's a great list! I am looking forward to looking into them all and I will totally hit you up if I need more!

    Florinda: We are watching Casablanca right now. I think I might have to watch it again, though, because I don't think I have been as attentive as I should be!

  10. One of my favorites is The African Queen. Giant from 1956 was excellent as well.


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