Monday, April 15, 2024

Deep Blue Something

Tomorrow, April 16, is the centenary of the birth of composer Henry Mancini. Mancini wrote the music for a whole bunch of well-known movies, so it's no surprise that TCM is honoring Mancini with a 24-hour (give or take) programming block of movies to which he wrote the music. I happen to have one of those movies on my DVR: Breakfast at Tiffany's, which shows up at 10:15 PM on April 16. With that in mind, I decided to watch the movie to do a review here in conjunction with TCM's airing of it.

The movie opens with a titular breakfast at, or at least in front of, the famed Tiffany & Co. jewelry story in New York. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) gets out of a taxicab at the store, and proceeds to nosh on her breakfast of a croissant and a cup of coffee. Not that she can afford anything in the store, of course; it's just dreams for her. But she returns to her apartment that you wonder how the heck she can afford. There, she has to fend of advances from a man she went out with the previous night.

Later in the morning, an obliging young man buzzes her apartment for her to let him into the building. That man is Paul Varjak (George Peppard), struggling writer. He wrote a book of short stories some time back that actually did get published, but since then, nothing since he's been trying to write the Great American Novel that nobody ever actually succeeds in writing. He was accompanied to the building by "decorator" E. E. Failenson (Patricia Neal), and it seems clear that she's the one paying the bills for him. Or, in other words, Paul and Holly have something in common.

The two talk, and Holly reveals that she's a sort of escort for a series of men; if there weren't a Production Code she'd probably be a high-priced call girl procuring women for wealthy men. In any case, one of the men she sees regularly is Sally Tomato (Alan Reed), a mobster imprisoned at Sing Sing who gives her the "weather report" every week, something that is obviously coded language for Holly to pass on to the appropriate person on the outside. But Holly acts too dim-witted to know that this is what she's getting paid good money to do.

As you can guess, Holly and Paul are eventually going to fall in love, although there are going to be a bunch of complications along the way, most of them on Sally's side. She's not certain whom she loves, at times thinking of marrying an American millionaire or a Brazilian politician. And then Doc Golightly (Buddy Ebsen) shows up, claiming to be the husband of Holly although she claims the marriage has been annulled. She's also got a brother in the military who's about to get out after serving his hitch, although that doesn't quite go to plan either, with it having a decided effect on Holly.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is another of those movies where it's very easy to see why there's a fairly large group of people who like it. Hepburn gives a fine performance, Mancini's music has become iconic, especially the song "Moon River", and the movie is well-photographed. Oh, and Hepburn's clothing by Givenchy. For me, however, the movie has one big problem, which is that the character of Holly as written for the movie is one I find hard to like. She's one of those people that you wonder how they can possibly survive; for me, that's not a very appealing character. At least the Paul Varjak character is troubled enough that you can see why the two would wind up together, even if in real life the relationship would be a different one. It's not like Barefoot in the Park or The Owl and the Pussycat where the romantic leads are so wildly difficult and one (especially in The Owl and the Pussycat) so utterly obnoxious.

Still, I'd say that Breakfast at Tiffany's is decidedly worth watching.

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