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

Author: Sam Wasson

Only just recently have I begun to take an interest in classic movies. A 2-second conversation I had a month ago with my dad, where Casablanca was briefly mentioned, was the catalyst. After realizing that there were so many films I have yet to see, I made it a goal to remedy this situation. The film that began my new adventure was, you guessed it by the title, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Never had I seen Audrey Hepburn in anything. A staple in film history and it took me 28 years to see anything she has ever done! It’s a sin really. As soon as Holly Golightly started speaking, I was amazed. Here was a woman in the early 1960’s who was independent, made a life for herself, and was shamelessly working as a call girl. I decided to do a bit more reading and came across Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. Although I was really looking for a biography about Hepburn, I was happy to come across this one instead.

The book highlights the important role that Audrey Hepburn and her character Holly Golightly played in showing women as multi-faceted. A woman could be a healthy dose of Doris Day AND Marilyn Monroe if she wanted. Wholesome and independent. She could be a strong individual AND fall in love (but it was up to her, not society). Yeah! Really! I was quick to equate Tiffany’s with feminism and also quick to doubt it.  I didn’t want to believe it until I was finished watching it in it’s entirety, but here I am, standing by that conclusion I’d made within the first five minutes of the film. Holly remains unapologetically independent throughout, something I’m not sure many films captured back then in this way.

What I Learned from the Making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s
A major but perhaps not so obvious take-away from this in-depth look into making Tiffany’s, for me at least, was that nothing went the way they initially wanted it to and the movie still got made. Not only did it get made, but it went down in history as one of the best ever made.  Between writing conflicts, casting conflicts, designer conflicts, any conflict you can think of, this film seems like it should have burned into an ash-pile of indecision. It actually left me wondering how any film gets made ever and I’ve gained a new appreciation for the process and the painstaking work necessary of those involved.

What I Learned from Audrey Herself
She was nervous and in an almost constant state of self-doubt about her skills. And yet, she became one of the most beloved movie stars of all time. Audrey Hepburn had already made her mark on Hollywood by the time she was cast in Tiffany’s and that still didn’t stop her insecurities from showing on set. But ultimately those insecurities didn’t matter because on screen they disappear. I was truly surprised to read of her anxieties because she shows no sign of it in the movie, playing a character who is the antithesis of uncertainty. Such a great example of “fake it ’til you make it” but maybe altered to “fake it ’til you make it and then fake it some more”. I am now a total and complete fan of Hepburn and not a moment too late.

As far as the book goes, it was pretty good.  I give it 3.5/5 stars. The large number of interviews he had to set up to write it is obvious and the author does a great job of conveying his overarching message. I also quite enjoyed a man writing about the liberation of women; we need men to speak for us as much as we need to speak up for ourselves.  The writing style wasn’t quite my favorite but there was clearly a passion in it. Definitely recommend if you want to get the inside scoop on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, juicy gossip abounds within these pages!

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