Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson
I am always fascinated by the backstory. The writer in me knows that the finished product does not come without tweaks, setbacks and a couple of meltdowns thrown in for good measure. When you add the element of fashion history, I am all ears. So when the gracious publishing house HarperCollins shipped me a copy of the book detailing the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's for review, I hoped to engage in a real treat.
Author Sam Wasson masterfully penned a behind-the-scenes look into fashion's most pivotal movie. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman takes us into the mindset of Author Truman Capote - whose book was the basis of the movie - while simultaneously guiding you through the lives of Capote and Audrey Hepburn, culminating with their career paths crossing for the movie (much to the disdain of Capote).
This book was delicious. The journey into the making of the movie has been poured into a literary juice for us to drink, with pinky extended. From a fashionista's standpoint, reading how Capote's harem of late 50s New York City socialites (namely Gloria Vanderbilt and Carol Marcus) inspired the character Holly Golightly, one can't help but think how those kitten-heeled vixens wore the shoes in which modern-day Carrie Bradshaws try to fill. Even five decades later, at the end of the most socially-fabulous day, a single girl longs for what's really important: to matter to someone.
With Holly Golightly being independent, stylish and sexually liberated - unheard for the women of that era - the monumental task of Paramount's Publicity Department was to saturate the innuendos of Holly's scorching "profession" from the pages of Capote's book, to screenwriter George Axelrod's movie adaptation.
Even Hepburn's rise to reigning as the queen of cinematic couture was pure serendipity. Her first Givenchy LBD made its mark in the movie Sabrina; her second for Breakfast at Tiffany's caused a fashion blackout within closets all over America. In the process, ruffling the stiffly-starched feathers of powerhouse costume designer Edith Head was made smooth by her defiant second-row seating, albeit with creative entitlement.
Wasson superbly weaves the tales of in-fighting, creative differences and the life of a submissive leading actress with a Svengali of a husband. He also highlights how the movie became the first to make a film composer score big with the buying public, as well as the movie's bragging rights to being the first film to shoot inside of Tiffany & Co.
When you read the last page, you will immediately want to watch the movie again. Actually, after reading the book, I desired to see a movie adaptation of the book; with the highs and lows of Capote, Hepburn and a cast of colorful characters, it would go way beyond the feel of a documentary.