Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Treat yourself right and read this book this summer!

If you are looking for a terrific summer read, I highly recommend Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson. When I picked it up at the library I was only hoping to learn something about the tensions between Hubert de Givenchy, who provided the wonderful costumes for Audrey Hepburn in the movie, and Edith Head, relegated to “Costume Supervisor” on the film. What I got instead is one of the most interesting and entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.

I love this picture of Audrey as Holly.

Wasson takes the reader on a fast-paced fascinating journey exploring exactly how Breakfast at Tiffany’s got made and sketching the careers and personal lives of the various people involved in it—from Truman Capote the writer of the novella (obsessed with New York socialite Babe Paley) to Audrey Hepburn the anxiety-ridden star (who was also a new mom at the time of the shoot). You meet Blake Edwards the young break-out director, George Axelrod the screenwriter who wanted to bring an element of sex to the film, George Peppard the egotistical male lead, and Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, the very talented composer and lyricist, respectively, of “Moon River,” the Oscar-winning song from the film, each wanting to work with the other for years. Wasson shows how a classic movie was created from start to finish and provides fun details you may not read anywhere else. My favorites were about Holly’s cat “Cat” and the party scene.

Audrey and one of the 13 cats playing “Cat” in the film!

There was an open cat-call in New York for the part of Holly’s cat and Orangey, a cat from Queens, got the role. At least part of it. More than a dozen cats were needed for the movie. Cat trainer Frank Inn said, “I have a sitting cat, a going cat, a meowing cat, a throwing cat—and so on, each one a specialist, and all the same color you’ll notice.”

As for Orangey he said, “He’s a real New York type cat, just what we want. In no time at all I’m going to make a Method, or Lee Strassberg type, cat out of him.”

A still from the party at Holly’s place.

The party scene at Holly’s apartment took seven days to shoot and Edwards hired actors, not extras, because he knew he was going to try different things and wanted to make sure he had actors on set who could handle it. He also had a choreographer to help him put the intricate scene together.

Another great scene. Holly to Paul re stripper: Do you think she is talented? Deeply and importantly talented?

Wasson also includes what various critics thought of the movie, not only at the time of its release in 1961 but more recent criticism as well. Judith Crist wrote in 2009:

“It was one of the earliest pictures to ask us to be sympathetic toward a slightly immoral young woman. Movies were beginning to say that if you were imperfect, you didn’t have to be punished.”

If you want a smart book for the beach, this is the one to get!

All film stills from Doctor Macro.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, dear Jill for this one! I will make sure I get it somehow for my next holiday! :-)
Have a very HAPPY week! :-)

Heather Lindstrom said...

Oh Jill this sounds perfect-stylish, iconic, dishy and smart. I will definitely make a point to read this one. Audrey....swoon! Great review!
xx, Heather @Stylemindchic

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

This sounds like something I would want to read, Jill. Thanks for an excellent review.

PinkCheetahVintage said...

Great movie... Book looks good, but I am so behind on my reading!!

Lucy said...

Oh thank you! I have had Breakfast at Tiffany's on my mind lately as I just saw it again last week. It is my *favorite* film, and I'm so excited to read this.

Lala H said...

i so love breakfast at Tiffany's
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