Wednesday, June 29, 2011
[Hat-tip to stereogum.]
But is there enough going on timbrally, say by the 'middle eight', to maintain broad interest? I love the basic backing track and the vocal and the way the whole thing just beds in, but a sense of something else crashing through that technotic surface - some other vocal melodies? some guitar? - might have been worth exploring. Compare with Steve Stevens's entry into this:
Bonus thought: Maybe Class Actress, Zola Jesus, Romika, and Little Boots should join forces, form an '80s super-group: Acoustic Psychiatry (what Kraftwerk described themelves as doing/being) or possibly The Acoustic Psychiatrists.
Update July 1: Still loving this, but one problem: the mp3 that's been released is so fricking *loud*. When you look at the signal, it's completely bricked (no beat structure in the signal *at all* - incredible!) and it's clipping everywhere. I've ended up loading the file into Garageband and remastering it down by 2.7 dB just so it doesn't give me headaches if I listen to it repeatedly (as I'm currently wont to do). For God's sake people, loudness and zero dynamic range stink. Way to kill your own music.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Just to begin with:
- Chaptering within movies is crippled
- Positioning and resizing of images in 'drop zones' and menus is crippled
- No frame-grabbing of images from videos
- It's almost impossible to add transitions without increasing project duration (often apparently by random amounts - this has to be seen to be believed)
Also, more generally, both programs have work flows that are dumbed down to an incredible degree. Using them is like being trapped in software Idiocracy. What an appalling company Apple has become: rich, abusive towards its users, contemptuous of norms of incremental and logical design.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
1. Rivers of Babylon
The pop song (in all its forms - one of the best episodes of Mad Men, Season 1 had a great one) cycles around the following lyrics:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down;rather less frequently adding:
ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion.
When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Require from us a song -
Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight here tonightAs wikipedia observes, while the last couplet comes from Psalm 19, the song mainly rehearses Psalm 137, which recounts the yearnings of the Jewish people for Jerusalem and their freedom while they are in exile, enslaved in Babylon (i.e., after the catastrophe of the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the first temple etc. in 587-586 BCE).
The song has a stately, mournful, undramatic, unaggressive feel (disco versions are metronomic), and it achieves this largely because it cuts off just before Psalm 137 gets interesting, i.e., by causally checking the enemies list back in Israel ('When we get free, we're comin' for you Edomites!'), and by climaxing with brutal, close-to-hand horror. Here's the full Psalm 137:
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.Because the Psalms are relatively free-floating songs/hymns, it's not entirely clear what situation is envisaged here. Are the enslaved Jews just metaphorically by the rivers of Babylon (i.e., in the same sense that anyone who's in LA is 'by the Pacific'), or is this a completely literal scene: Jewish women (presumably) literally on the banks of, e.g., the Euphrates doing their Babylonian masters' laundry, occasionally encouraged by (possibly genuinely curious, not especially sadistic, but the Psalm does go out of its way to call them 'tormentors') overseers/guards to sing songs of their homeland while they work? I suspect that it's the latter. The hanging of harps in the poplars places us outside and possibly at riverside, and the horror image of the final line seems to build on the traditional laundry method that involves slapping the laundry against flat rocks at waters' edge. If this interpretation is on the right track then the horror image is actually two-fold:
2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy;they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.
7 Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried,“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter [of] Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
- The enslaved women who are doing your laundry by beating it against rocks, are thinking of beating your infants' brains out as they do so
- The women who are doing your laundry will (eventually and probably sooner rather than later) be providing your child-care.
2. David and Goliath
You may remember, as it were, from Sunday School, the story of unafraid, unarmored shepherd-boy David killing the highly armored, 9 ft tall Philistine warrior, Goliath of Gath with just a sling and a rock (effectively just because he's got God on his side, hence David's lack of fear, confidence, etc.). 1 Samuel 17 continues:
50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.Sunday School never mentioned or elaborated on the beheading part, but it's clearly of the utmost significance to the author of 1 Samuel, hence the repetition. The next chapter flashes back again to the entrance of David into Jerusalem to further flesh out the scene:
51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.
53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.
54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.
55 As [King] Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine [Note the cool mini-rewind, flashback structure here!], he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?” Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”
56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”
57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.
58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him. David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.So this is the image to have: David is instantly transformed from an unknown shepherd boy to national hero, where this change is capped by his entering the city in triumph before a crowd of thousands with the head of Goliath in his hand (it's irresistible to imagine him holding it aloft). Sunday Bloody Sunday school! At any rate, most of 1 Samuel 18 is concerned with Saul's paranoia about (and attempts to kill) David:
7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”
22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’”The gruesome laying waste to Philistines is treated as a sideshow, almost as a gag 'Saul, the Putz, thought he'd set David a task that would get him killed, but no!' And note how David actually kills twice as many Philistines as Saul asked for as the bride price (which was what Saul thought would be enough for David to get himself well and truly killed - Saul's got the Terminator on his hands). Charming. And how utterly miserable that the Philistines have been remembered only incidentally as a kind of joke ('You Philistine!').
23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”
24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said,
25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.
26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed,
27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.
3. Joshua and Jericho
One of the most beloved of traditional Sunday School stories is the Battle of Jericho: the Jews parade the Ark of the Covenant around the walls of the city of Jericho once per day for six days, and on the seventh day they do 7 laps of the city with it. Then priests blow their horns, and, at Joshua's command, the people all shout at once, and....the city's wall collapses, the Jews take over the city, the end.
But not so fast! Not only is all the shouting and horn-blowing just pageantry (it's the Ark as a Raiders-style, divine WMD that's doing the work surely!), but also the Sunday School version cuts off just as things start to get interesting in Joshua 6 and Joshua more generally. After the wall comes down:
21 [The Jews] devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys...It's worth mentioning that by the Jews' own account in Joshua the people of Jericho had never done anything to or against the Jews (it's actually a little surprising to me that there's no attempt made to gin up some Gulf of Tonkin-like incident or 'those people disrespected the Lord'-type pseudo-charge against the people of Jericho). Rather the text is very clear: Jericho and its people are just IN THE WAY, i.e., they just happen to be living in a region that God has now supposedly granted uniquely to the Jews. QED. Kill, kill, kill, but retain valuable dry goods (but see below).
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house....
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.”
27 So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.
Most of the rest of Joshua continues and completes the programme begun at Jericho (although it had been promised explicitly by Moses in Deuteronomy 9 ('Hear, Israel: You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky... the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you'): the extermination of every existing settlement or group of people west of the Jordan River (at least) so that Israel will be able to be founded on a blank page. After Jericho comes Ai in Joshua 8 (after some 'not following the Lord's instructions' shenanigans in Joshua 7):
24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it.And so on. Note that the livestock are spared and carried off this time. Can anyone seriously believe that God changed his instructions from Jericho to Ai? Surely not. The only reality here is that Israel's methods are evolving (note the king's corpse impaled bit), being perfected. It's crazy/overkill/a luxury for a conquering army on the march to waste its enemies' livestock. God isn't changing his mind, the Jews are just becoming better, smarter terrorizers and ethnic cleansers. 'As God wished/commanded us' has just been rubber-stamped over every new malicious step.
25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.
26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.
27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua.
28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day.
29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.
Wikipedia's articles on the Book of Joshua and on the concept of herem (which apparently implies an exterminationist agenda) contain good, well-referenced summaries of scholars' hand-wringing about some of the most brazen and abhorrent propagandizing in favor of ethnic cleansing and genocide one could ever hope to see.
4. The Grapes of Wrath
Most of us know the phrase 'The Grapes of Wrath' from Steinbeck's novel and also from The Battle Hymn of the Republic (the 'Glory glory hallelujah, his truth is marching on' one) from the US's Civil War. But the Biblical roots of the phrase are obscure for most people. Although the phrase turns up in Revelations, it first appears in one of the most cinematic and horrifying passages in the Bible: the beginning of Isaiah 63. At this point in Isaiah there's about to be a new birth of freedom for the Jews as they've been released from slavery in Babylon and are now trudging back to their homeland or what's left of it. In Chapter 61, the narrator tells us that now at last all will be well.
4 [The Jews] will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.This is all sounding very ominous, like we're about to have a replay of the Joshua only with God himself very much on the scene this time. Isaiah 62 builds suspense:
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.
8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled;We await the Ark's appearance? But, no, God himself is on the case. Cue the Morricone: it's the man with no name, actually God as John Doe from Se7en, emerging from the haze.
9 but those who harvest it will eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.”
1 Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.”The narrator speaks quasi-fantastically for the whole of Israel conceived as 'on the road', trudging back to Zion from their 50 year Babylonian nightmare. Who is the blood-splattered stranger on the road from Bozrah, the mountain fortress of Edom, the narrator/Israel asks?
2 Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?
3 “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing.
4 It was for me the day of vengeance; the year for me to redeem had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.
6 I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.”
It's the Jews' God, and he has slaughtered all of the Edomites in their most impregnable fortress. This appears to be grudge-settling of an especially expansive, 'best when it's cold' form: remember Psalm 137 (Section 1 above) in which the Edomites cheered when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem etc.. After 40-50 years of enslavement, it's now payback time for the Jews. God's ticked that he had to do all the work himself this time around (a good Joshua is hard to find I suppose), still, it is accomplished. God's almost literally bathing in the blood of the Jews' enemies. God appears to be hoping that this action will be a one-off, that the Jews themselves will take things from here, i.e., now that they have this fresh example of what sort of barbarism's required to make the vision of Israel as 'land of milk and honey for the Jews' real. God will still be decisive for the Jews, but he'll mainly act in relatively abstract or invisible ways, e.g., invisibly ensuring the Jews win all their battle, etc.. The grapes of wrath, then, are enemies of the Jews being squished like grapes by a wrathful deity championing his favorite people again and again. The Battle Hymn of the Republic's first verse (all that anyone ever remembers) is:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:Yankee soldiers marching against the South invoke the monstrous image of a John Doe God. Yee Haw.
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
A quick word about the rest of Isaiah 63: in effect the narrator is then led to reflect on what this reboot for the Jews means: won't they just screw everything up all over again? Isn't it inevitable that God will eventually tire of the Jews' lack of righteousness, of their general wickedness and disobedience? Won't God ultimately let the Jews' enemies overrun them as punishment for their inevitable frailty? What's the point if so? The narrator asks a plaintive question which David Plotz calls the toughest question in the Bible:
17 Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?The Narrator then seems to morph this question into a kind of plea that God should be more of a hands-on ruler of the Jews, at least if there's to be much hope. Fat chance of that! But interpretation here is very difficult. Isaiah is an incredibly complex, multi-authorial work, full of prophecy but also grappling with the historical realities of the reverse diaspora/new Exodus. Isaiah's fantastical levels of violence and truly psychopathic God are deeply disturbing, even if they're intended as fantasies, just as the infanticide plea in Rivers of Babylon in Psalms is even if it's interpreted just as a fantasy signaling the implacability of Jewish resistance.
In some ways, nothing can prepare one for the horror and terror of the Old Testament, and it's probably appropriate that kids should be spared much of it (of course the Richard Dawkinses of the world think that exposing kids to any religious texts at all is child abuse!). But it's often great literature - extremely cinematic with the spareness of a well-written screenplay - and it's spookily pseudo-historical too (in a way that speaks to the shape of many current events in the Middle East), so it's gripping stuff. At a deep level too the OT grapples with the problem of how to pass on wisdom to future generations who'll be living in very different times (and who'll tend to largely have forgotten all the precedents for the next shocking crisis). The unexpurgated version of the OT is therefore an amazing resource for adults, allowing them, among other things, to reflect upon the simplicitudes of childhood, and the shortness of effective cultural memory.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Their best song:
A personal favorite (and a demo version may be even better - wow!):
These guys were pretty good... Not so great that anyone who didn't grow up with them should necessarily track them down, but definitely worth dipping an ear into for a few tracks if you feel like exploring a little below the level of the very best stuff (e.g., Cure, Echo, Bauhaus, New Order, Siouxsie) from the post-punk/almost-new pop era.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
A lot of the best music of the '00s was Roots/Bluegrass/Americana-ish. Some of it sold well at the time (Rabbit Fur Coat, Van Lear Rose, or even Hem's Rabbitsongs) but, amazingly/depressingly those records have been almost forgotten by now (none of those albums were on the end of decade lists in 2010, indicating that their broad critical embraces had always been shallow, fashionable rather than sincere, etc.).
But of course, much terrific music from the genre never got the attention it deserved even at the time, e.g., Freakwater (although a lot of their best stuff was originally released in the '90s) and, here, The Be Good Tanyas. Both groups are amazing song-writers and good players - in short, they rule, and will always be two of my favorite groups from the '00s. They're not music for every mood (but that's true of almost every music that's non-generic/specific enough to be really good), but almost everyone's in the mood for them some of the time (at least weekly in my case). I'd urge anyone to get hold of a copy of The Be Good Tanya's Chinatown album (whence come both the tracks here).
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
1. Martin Balsam's Berman/Arbogast
As Arbogast, Balsam enters as a looming head (and he dies that way too). As Berman, Balsam enters as a growing head talking to a stuffed bird (recalling Norman's taxidermy). When the camera swings around Berman looks like an almost-grinning, Norman/Mother.
Balsam's Berman later turns up with a blonde in a shower (although the connection to Psycho is more cognitive than visual in that case). Inside jokes to tease and flatter hipster audience members who remember Balsam as Arbogast? I think so.
Paul wakes alone the morning after really spending the night with Holly, and we begin in extreme close-up....
Still half-asleep, the first things Paul sees are the masks that he and Holly stole the previous day, posed (by Holly) in the arms of a strange statue. The statue could have come from Mother's bedroom in Psycho. Truly, Paul's patron/sugar-mama has wretched taste!
When Paul brings Holly home drunk, the camera on them in the foyer is suddenly overhead for the first time.
When Paul carries drunkie Holly up the stairs, the camera follows behind them, then reverses back along the first floor balustrade.
BAT was an A-list film, designed to be a big hit, but it was also intended specifically as a hip/cool/sophisticated entertainment. It therefore makes sense that director Edwards, DP Planer, and other technicians involved with the film would want to show that they were up-to-date/hip to the new cinematic language that Psycho represented. And that's what we see when we look for it.
A final question: Would we have got bare-chested George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in relatively little (bare-legged, and in just a robe or shirt) in bed together, esp. so early in the film, without Marion and Sam (in underwear and bare-chested respectively) at the beginning of Psycho? This is a serious question - one really can at this point in US film history, pinpoint the exact days when standards loosened/taboos were broken.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
EITS provided most of the music for the original FNL (2004) film, e.g.:
EITS's stuff is just OK in my view - pleasant-ish but definitely generic and forgettable. The TV producers evidently agreed, because when they needed theme music for a FNL weekly show they smartly brought in someone with rather more talent to imitate EITS and improve on their basic formula (i.e., to make something genuinely memorable):
Mission accomplished. This weekly FNL theme is by the great (and wonderfuly named) W.G. Snuffy Walden, who was previously responsible for classic opening credits themes for thirty something and Roseanne (as well as other stuff such as The West Wing's theme that I don't rate as highly). Walden's theme is literally EITS done with real musical flare. That one can love. EITS's tepid noodlings? Not so much.
Monday, June 06, 2011
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
[Notes, June 14, 2011: I've continued to tinker with this essay. While the 'tidied up' version on issuu.com (see here) is always up-to-date, this blogger version may not be. Click on any image to see that image full size.]
David Thomson begins his review (for The New Republic) of Sam Wasson's Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman (hereafter, '5AM') by insulting it ('This book is such a swift, sweet, smart stroll....that it takes a little while for one to realize how slick, undemanding, adorable, and unintelligent it really is.'), and things go downhill from there. After strafing Wasson throughout, Thomson concludes that 5AM is a 'travesty of a book' that no one should take seriously. In his second paragraph, however, Thomson announces that he has bigger fish to fry than Wasson and 5AM. What he really wants to do is share with us his latest, as it happens, broadly debunking or 'cutting down to size', views about (Wasson's subject broadly conceived) Audrey Hepburn and the character of Holly Golightly. Thompson leadingly announces that he wants to 'question the chilly yet unlived-in gamine glamour of Audrey Hepburn', (for once, as it were) to not give 'the brittle Audreyness of Audrey' or 'that priss Audrey' (as he imagines many a modern woman thinking) a pass, and
[T]hat it is past time that we re-examine Audrey Hepburn—to say nothing of that will-of-the wisp, that huckleberry friend, Holly Golightly, a creature who has survived because no one any longer bothers to read Truman Capote’s original description of her.In this note, I work through Thomson's article, summarizing it, and quoting passages that I think are especially suspect or unfair, registering any objections to or queries for that material as I go. In broadest terms, I agree with many of Thomson's criticisms of 5AM (at least in substantial outline), but I find his attempted debunking of Audrey Hepburn, Holly Golightly, and the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (hereafter mostly, 'AH', 'HG', and 'BAT-f' as opposed to 'BAT-n' for Capote's novella ) a mixture of point-missing, uncharitable, and simply inaccurate.
First, however, let's lay out some ground rules (which may be interpreted as concessions according to taste) for discussing BAT-f and BAT-n.
Ground Rule/Concession 1: BAT-f ≠ BAT-n, and that's OK
BAT-f, which largely follows its screenplay due to George Axelrod, albeit with significant embellishments from director Blake Edwards (esp. the party scene (5AM, 129-135) and the ending (5AM, 136-7, 186)), diverges extensively and systematically from BAT-n. BAT-f is:
- Less risqué. No implied presence of queer, fluid, or infantilized sexualities, no banter about homosexuality, sexually-transmitted diseases, or drug use, no pregnancies and miscarriages, no bad language, and so on.
- More conventional. A wholly faithful adaptation of BAT-n would have been a comic character and milieu study with melodramatic overtones (e.g., runaway horses, convenient miscarriages) rather than the straight comic romance that BAT-f beats towards (with, e.g., a symbolic wedding ring, a happy-ish ending where a suitor who's grown in stature throughout speaks the truth to and apparently rescues a heroine who's spun out of control, who 'doesn't know who she is any more', and who's dissolved in both real and pathetic fallacy tears).
- Greater ambiguity over whether HG is a high-end prostitute. In BAT-n, Holly strategically dates and has sex with older, rich men for financial favors, but she argues that that's compatible with her being a non-prostitute:
- 'I simply trained myself to like older men, and it was the smartest thing I ever did' (19), and
- 'I've only had eleven lovers -- not counting anything that happened before I was thirteen because, after all, that just doesn't count. Eleven. Does that make me a whore? Look at Mag Wildwood. Or Honey Tucker. Or Rose Ellen Ward. They've had the old clap-yo'-hands so many times it amounts to applause. Of course I haven't anything against whores. Except this: some of them may have an honest tongue but they all have dishonest hearts. I mean, you can't bang the guy and cash his checks and at least not try to believe you love him. I never have. Even Benny Shacklett and all those rodents. I sort of hypnotized myself into thinking their sheer rattiness had a certain allure.' (82)
- AH's remark in a NY Times article (quoted at 5AM, 121) covering the day of the shoot at Tiffany's in Midtown:
'It's true that we've left the sex ambiguous in the script... Too many people think of Holly as a tramp, when actually she’s just putting on an act for shock effect, because she’s very young. Besides, I know Truman Capote very well, and much of what is good and delicate about his writing is his elusiveness.'
- Paramount's all-court-press 'Kook' publicity campaign for BAT-f (5AM, 144-6)
- AH in interviews at Premieres saying that Holly is '[w]hat they call in America these days a 'Kook' (laughs), which is a dizzy, gay, type of girl. [Int: Anything like you?] I'm not quite that way, no (laughs).'
Ground Rule/Concession 2: AH is a good fit for HG. No, really.
Many people, from Capote to AH's best biographer, Barry Paris, have thought that, at bottom, AH was a poor fit for BAT-n's HG (or her BAT-f offshoot), e.g.,
'In the novella, Holly says she's "only had eleven lovers -- not counting anything that happened before I was thirteen." One could believe that of Monroe, but never of Hepburn.... Audrey from backwater Texas? Not likely.' (Barry Paris, Audrey Hepburn, 173, Berkeley Publishing Group, 1996)But not so fast! That thought's premature for at least three separate reasons.
- BAT-n's Manhattan HG could hardly be more AH-like (and less MM-like) as a physical type (esp. when that's broadly construed to include semi-abstract physical features such as 'vivacity', 'youthfulness', 'precocity', 'stylishness', 'chic-ness', and the like).
- The reader first encounters HG in photographs of 'an odd wood sculpture, an elongated carving of a head, a girl's, her hair sleek and short as a young man's....here was the spit-image of Holly Golightly'. (6, my italics).
- Next the barman, Joe Bell dismisses the thought that HG might be back in the city: 'If she was in this city I'd have seen her... I see pieces of her all the time, a flat little bottom, any skinny girl that walks fast and straight' (9, my italics).
- Finally, we experience the narrator seeing HG for the first time: 'I went out into the hall and leaned over the banister, just enough to see without being seen. She was still on the stairs, now she reached the landing, and the ragbag colors of her boy's hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light. It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.' (12, my italics)
- After some further glancing encounters, the narrator continues: 'Of course we'd never met. Though actually, on the stairs, in the street, we often came face-to-face; but she seemed not quite to see me. She was never without dark glasses, she was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. One might have thought her a photographer's model, perhaps a young actress, except that it was obvious, judging from her hours, she hadn't time to be either. (15, my italics) 
- [Item a5] In general, although HG is relatively uneducated, she's learning and catching up fast, is a good reader once motivated, and is in any case, quick and well-spoken (and always was according to both Doc and Berman). Consider the balance of her retort (very AH-sounding as it happens, cf. fn. 16 below) to the narrator/'Fred' after he's condescended to her about knowing Wuthering Heights principally as a film: '"Everybody has to feel superior to somebody," she said. "But it's customary to present a little proof before you take the privilege."' (62) Or consider even the whimsical alliterations in her notes, e.g. 'Brazil was beastly but Buenos Aires the best.' (110) Talked to any 19 year olds recently? 
- Holly's back-story in BAT-n is supposed to be, prima facie, highly improbable given the Manhattan HG we are acquainted with. After Doc recounts the first half of Holly's backstory to him, the narrator/'Fred' finesses the problem with 'It was too implausible not to be fact'. (68) Any actress who actively suggested simply as a matter of her physical type that HG is a hayseed would be miscast. (Note too that Capote was good friends with HG-like, 1940s top model, Dorian Leigh, who was from San Antonio TX, and whose improbable combination of pixie-/waif-ish-ness and hauteur made her an overnight sensation at age 27 (although her agents thought she was 19!).)
- The details of Holly's past in BAT-n (at 66-70) are sufficiently ghastly and gothic that the point is vividly made that Holly is extremely anomalous given her general, regional background. We understand that she's a freak or sport of nature developed under conditions of extreme hardship. She's a surprising beauty and creature more generally, that's the point (cf. Natassia Kinski in the TX boondocks). Doc tells us that:
- He first encountered Lulamae and her brother Fred as starving, malnutrited orphans ('Well, you never saw a more pitiful something. Ribs sticking out everywhere, legs so puny they can't hardly stand, teeth wobbling so bad they can't chew mush.').
- Lulamae and Fred were stealing milk and turkey eggs from him (to stay alive), and were:
- Runaways from ominous makeshift situations ('[They'd] been living with some mean, no-count people a hundred miles east of Tulip. She had good cause to run off from that house.').
- [Item c4] Lulamae flourished extraordinarily and immediately once taken in ('She plumped out to be a real pretty woman. Lively, too. Talky as a jaybird. With something smart to say on every subject: better than the radio.'). Then:
- Doc proposed marriage quickly to his (already at 14!) much more quick-witted gal, and Lulamae agreed with a kind of precocious naiveté ('Course we'll be married. I've never been married before.').
- Lulamae was materially well-looked after ("We all doted on her. She didn't have to lift a finger, 'cept to eat a piece of pie."), but:
- Material satisfactions and being a pretty bird in a cage were not nearly enough for her, and things almost immediately went Sam Shepherd. ("'Cept to comb her hair and send away for all the magazines. We must've had a hunnerd dollars' worth of magazines come into that house. Ask me, that's what done it. Looking at show-off pictures. Reading dreams. That's what started her walking down the road. Every day she'd walk a little further: a mile, and come home. Two miles, and come home. One day she just kept on.")
But is this such a coincidence? On the one hand, surely, yes. Jurow and Shepherd said they wanted AH for her duality: classy/chic, etc. but also sweet, sensitive, almost down-home. They never said that they thought she was right for the part because they'd remembered the horror details of her background. On the other hand, no, not at all. Why is AH so affecting? She inspires love as all great beauties do, but she also triggers empathetic feelings generally, and feelings of protectiveness specifically (and Tierney, Simmons, Taylor, Leigh, etc. do not). It is reasonable (though not rationally compulsory) to speculate that AH's early, bone-deep exposure to the cares of the world helped forge her very rare combination of affective powers. Thus the 'brittle Audreyness of Audrey' that Thomson derides may in fact stem from the place where AH's biography brushes wings with HG's. And that's to say that, however indirectly or inadvertently, AH may have been cast as HG for the best possible reason.
Ground Rule/Concession 3: BAT-f isn't a masterpiece, and that's OK
Nobody thinks BAT-f is a masterpiece. Rather, almost everyone agrees that it's a delightful, even beloved film with a great, possibly uniquely-affecting star, terrific technical elements, and much else besides. Most people will and probably should see BAT-f at some point (they'd be crazy to miss it), but it doesn't aim especially high, it's got plenty of flaws, and nobody's film education is fatally incomplete without it.
And that's OK. BAT-f's obvious peer films include To Catch a Thief, Funny Face, and Charade. These too are polished, mainstream entertainments of a very high order that are nonetheless a notch below their directors' and legendary stars' very best work. We like these films in spite of their not being, e.g., The Philadelphia Story, Singin' in the Rain, Roman Holiday, Rear Window, North by Northwest, My Fair Lady, Two for the Road.
Consider how BAT-f's league of films is treated on the various AFI 100 years.... lists:
- BAT-f is #61 on the top love stories/passions list (cf., Roman Holiday is #4, Annie Hall is #11, My Fair Lady is #12, To Catch a Thief is #46, The Apartment is #62)
- Audrey Hepburn is #3 female star/legend (behind Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis)
- Moon River is the #4 Song (behind Over the Rainbow, As Time Goes By, and Singin' in the Rain)
- BAT-f is not on the comedies/laughs list (cf. Annie Hall is #4, The Apartment is #20)
- BAT-f is not on either of the overall top 100 film lists (Annie Hall is #31/#35, The Apartment is #93/#80, My Fair Lady is #91). Neither is To Catch a Thief, Funny Face or Charade (the last two aren't on any AFI list, although their stars burn brightly)
- BAT-f scores 7.8 (not close to the 8.1/8.2 cutoffs for most IMDb 'top' lists, i.e., the near- 'masterpiece' level we may suppose)
- Charade scores an 8, To Catch a Thief 7.5, and Funny Face a shocking 7.0 (the average IMDb-score is 6.8!)
- The Sound of Music scores 7.9, Mary Poppins 7.7, Marnie 7.2, The Birds 7.9
Closely Reading Thomson
Thomson begins by minding the gap between BAT-n and BAT-f (all Thomson quotes are in red text):
[BAT-n] is the story told by a gay guy in New York about meeting Holly (real name Lula Mae) Golightly. Lula Mae is a wreck from the country whose smart talk and gaping schtick does not obscure her grim life as a prostitute or the lies she is living. Even Wikipedia admits there is “a foreboding edge” in the novella that has been cleaned up in the movie. Clean is spiffy, but it is not reliable.But this both underestimates BAT-n's ambiguities and misdescribes its content. Yes, there are hints that both the narrator and barkeep Joe Bell are gay. But each wrestles with both physical attraction to and obsession with Holly. And, as we discussed at length in our Ground Rule 1, while BAT-n's HG certainly strategically dates rich men, that that amounts to prostitution isn't a sure thing.
Moreover, Holly is supposed to have been in California for two years before coming to NYC, and while she may have some self-destructive tendencies (e.g., to not settle down/move on too quickly, to be simultaneously materialistic and spend-thrift, to have both a nose for mischief and a talent for being completely incurious), she's not necessarily much worse on these fronts than average, slightly dissolute, contemporary college kids (whom she's of age with). She wasn't a wreck when she first came to the big city, and she isn't one at the beginning of BAT-n either. Whatever grimness and forboding floats around in BAT-n has to be weighed against not only Holly's general joie de vivre but also her strangely open yet hopeful end: HG as a wild thing still on the prowl, in Africa perhaps, apparently leaving legendary traces of herself across several continents. Conversely, the basic sweetness of BAT-f has to be weighed against the loss-of-identity jeopardy in which it places Holly; that, by the end of BAT-f, HG doesn't know who she is any more. That Paul is willing to step in to try to rescue her and 'solve' that problem for her (now that, thanks partially to her, he's on the rise) gives feminists palpitations for sure, but it doesn't and shouldn't entirely convince or reassure anyone. The pleasure all of us can and do take from BAT-f's happy-ish ending, sealed with a kiss-and-cat sandwich, is real, but it's necessarily fleeting and possibly slightly guilty. For this reason, at least in my experience, there's always a surprising amount to discuss post-movie on any date that includes BAT-f.
And what is the force of Thomson's 'not reliable' here? Presumably just that the additional ambiguities BAT-f builds into Holly, not to mention AH's and Paramount marketing's 'kook' resolution of those ambiguities, are simply incredible. But most of the young women who responded to HG in BAT-f, and who took her as a totem of and partial role model for a desirable single life in the city, projected real freedom and careers for themselves, not gold-digging and dependency, let alone fully-blown courtesanship. Protecting the possibility of purely kooky/dizzy/gay HG not only expanded BAT-f's audience, it also, crucially, made it easy for members of that audience to take just what they needed from HG, and to paste their own projections for themselves onto that character. Moreover, since neither having to be rescued (BAT-f) nor having to flee the city to parts legendary (BAT-n) was the preferred option for real world HG-wannabes, even the most half-hearted proto-feminist could conclude 'avoid fundamental dependence on men' as a guiding principle, particularly if a chance to take Manhattan should ever come her way. Why isn't that reliable enough for Thomson?
After swiftly praising Wasson for providing many details about how BAT-f's turn to the less risqué and more conventional was effected as a series of compromises (with censors, with AH's personal wishes, with commercial realities in 1960 more generally, and so on), Thomson lets us know that he thinks that at least some of those compromises were both more shameful and more avoidable than Wasson and his sources let on.
The screenwriter George Axelrod pondered long and hard on how this material could “work” as a movie. Then he got it, and Wasson treats this yielding as a triumph. The guy, Paul, could be straight, but a gigolo. There could be a love story between him and Holly (because love stories are life preservers when the plane goes down), but they could be so busy having sex with other people that they never quite made it together. They were chums. Do you see? I know, this was fanciful even in 1961, but suppose we cast George Peppard as the guy, and Audrey Hepburn as Holly. Peppard is so dull he hardly gets noticed, and Audrey is so adorable we don’t have to think about her. That could work, couldn’t it? With good clothes, and a song? No, there isn’t a song in the book. There usually aren’t.We get it: Thomson thinks poorly of BAT-f's comic romance tack. Still, I fail to see the value of this sort of highly insinuating, serial cheap-shotting. Once BAT-f's producers decided to refract BAT-n into a more conventional romance (and hire writers accordingly), then articulating a non-cloying version of the romantic end-/goal-state and finding believable obstacles-to-romance just are part of the very-hard-to-play-well game. It was therefore natural for Axelrod to try shading HG's trait in BAT-n of somewhat abstract, possibly perverse (because it seems so self-destructive), probably unending restlessness into something like a gender-stereotype-reversed instance of a classical obstacle-to-romance trait: 'struggles with commitment'. And while Axelrod may have originally made Paul a 'kept man'/toy boy/gigolo to heterosexualize the character and as a buttressing/back-up obstacle-to-romance, the thematic potential of that addition is very significant.
First, and most obviously, symmetrizing some of the basic terms and conditions of Holly's and Paul's lives, and introducing the character of Paul's predatory, glamorous female patron/benefactor/client helpfully muddies the moral waters. That is, HG's own ambiguously disreputable activities don't stand out when they are set against a backdrop of general disreputableness. Second, and most importantly, the deep thematic point is that precisely because both members of the favored couple are independently using sex or its promise as currency, they establish their relationship with each other as a respite from and counterpoint to all of that predatory, economically-mediated stuff. Provocatively/paradoxically their non-sexual/non-romantic relationship is sealed by Holly spending part of a night in Paul's arms in his bed
To be clear, and despite what Edwards and Axelrod may occasionally, incautiously have said, Holly's and Paul's symmetrical jobs/life-styles aren't obstacles to them getting together romantically in the trivial, mechanical sense that those jobs/lifestyles leave them too busy, tired, etc. to find each other. Rather, they are obstacles-to-romance in a constitutive sense: the couple that we know by genre convention will and should be lovers have constituted each other as non-romantic friends. The romantic and sexual realm for both of them is a realm of money and power and dependency. Friends (even very risqué friends), however, can be free together. When Paul starts to desymmetrize by selling his first new story, however, everything changes...
None of this is mere character busy-work (contrary to Thomson's multiple, often incorrect insinuations - 'life preservers', 'so busy'). Rather 'the ideal lovers who've constituted each other just as friends because each has independently confounded love and romance with money and power and control' is a bona fide, novel engine for a romantic comedy. It's entirely comparable to the great screwball plot-engine of over-marriage or Austen's plot-engine of the over-confident but lucky match-maker who's most clueless about herself. Axelrod was really onto something, and he knew it.
A final comment about this disastrous paragraph from Thomson's review. Thomson says 'there isn't a song in the book', oleaginously amplifying the point by adding, 'There usually aren’t.' But there is a song early on in BAT-n. It's not 'Moon River' exactly, but it's vividly outlined and it's staged more or less exactly as in the film's signature scene:
- 'Also, she had a cat and she played the guitar. On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red tiger-striped tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried. Whenever I heard the music, I would go stand quietly by my window. She played very well, and sometimes sang too. Sang in the hoarse, breaking tones of a boy's adolescent voice... there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from. Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of pineywoods or prairie. One went: Don't wanna sleep, Don't wanna die, Just wanna go a-travelin' through the pastures of the sky; and this one seemed to gratify her the most, for often she continued it long after her hair had dried, after the sun had gone and there were lighted windows in the dusk.' (16-17; at 65, Doc enters BAT-n whistling this song. See discussion below.).
Axelrod was a deft, clever, talented man. But he was also a Hollywood engineer who wanted his picture to “go.” The dawning of the modern woman did not cross his busy mind.But Wasson's loose 'dawn of the modern woman' thesis about BAT-f and the film's HG is principally a thesis about the reception and influence and enduring appeal of the film not about its genesis (or its quality or its faithfulness as an adaptation or....). Thus, Wasson quotes critic Judith Crist saying 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a progressive step in the depiction of women in the movies, perhaps unintended by Axelrod and Edwards' (5AM, 138; my italics), and he spends much of 5AM clucking over the ironies of BAT-f's progressive reception, given the film-makers' actual motives, e.g., AH's general fearfulness, and her personal, relative conservatism about motherhood and marriage. Paramount played up the later greatly in publicity for BAT-f. See, e.g., 5AM's extraordinarily well-chosen epigraph. 'Quel beast of a calculating, overtly moralizing film company!' one wants to say, channeling one's own inner HG, but it was no act as far as AH was concerned ('I'm not quite that way, no.').
And Wasson settles the minimal logical point that some women received BAT-f and AH's HG very positively by giving a starring role in his narrative to Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a co-founder of Ms magazine. Pogrebin testifies at length to being influenced:
- 'In those years [i.e., after the film came out] I really considered myself an altar [sic.] ego of Holly Golightly' (5AM, 153) and
- 'Holly was my formative prefeminist role model' (5AM, 161)
But with Blake Edwards directing (a late replacement for the edgier John Frankenheimer—and why? Because Audrey and her husband, Mel Ferrer, had not heard of Frankenheimer), with Edith Head and Henry Mancini, the picture went.Thomson gets his account of Frankenheimer's dumping from Frankenheimer himself in one-liner mode.. Wasson, however, paints AH and co. rather more sympathetically (5AM, 90-92). AH wanted the security of an A-list director, both as a general point of principle and in the specific light of her insecurities about not being a trained actress. AH's camp duly provided BAT-f's producers with its list of satisfactory alternatives, most of whom AH had worked with before, including Wyler, Wilder, Cukor, and Zinnemann. Edwards got the job when no one on that list was available, and because he'd just worked well with a massive star, Cary Grant, on the hit service comedy, Operation Petticoat, which had been a massive hit. Prima facie, that's a perfectly reasonable chain of commercial, star-centric reasoning: 'Nothing against Frankenheimer, but we want someone from this A-list, and if that can't happen then at least someone who's worked closely and well with a peer big star.' AH also put a particular premium in this instance on 'safety-first' in this case because her previous two films (Green Mansions and The Unforgiven) had been commercial and critical failures (and as a result they've been little seen ever since). Most career-savvy, well-managed top stars would have done the same.
Needless to say, or so one would have thought, since the (intermittently excellent) Frankenheimer never exhibited any subsequent interest in, let alone special affinity for romantic comedy, with hindsight, he probably wasn't the best person to direct Axelrod's BAT-f script (or anything like it that met the producers' specifications). Safety first, commercial, star-centric reasoning worked for once. Those are the obvious, moderate conclusions to draw about Frankenheimer's losing the BAT-f job. That Thomson doesn't grant them is, at best, odd and uncharitable.
Next Thomson unfavorably compares BAT-n's translation to the screen with the adaptation of James Jones’s 'unfilmable' From Here to Eternity (FHTE-n) into a criticial and commercial smash in 1953.
They fudged? Yes and no. They omitted language and words. They tamed attitudes. But they did not alter things. They did not introduce lies. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that the characters played by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr were having sex. And although “prostitution” was not stated in the Montgomery Clift-Donna Reed relationship, there are moments when she (yes, Donna Reed played the whore) gives that woman a nasty, fearful undertone that is still arresting—when the truth is there for anyone to see and hear. The film is a Reader’s Digest abridgement of the novel, but you know what James Jones meant and you do not want to be in the Army. The witless dawning in the film of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by contrast, is that you are ready to be an East Side prostitute if you can look, and dress, and sing like Audrey.We have a series of responses. First, it wouldn't be shocking to learn that FHTE-f is a better adaptation of its source than BAT-f is of its. FHTE-f won 8 Oscars including all of the top craft awards (picture, direction, screenplay, editing, cinematography, etc.), whereas BAT-f only won the two music Oscars (score, song). It should be better, and in any case we agree (Ground Rule 3) that BAT-f is more of a delight than a masterpiece.
Second, the films and their underlying books are so very different that it's hard to see what the real points of comparison are. FHTE is an ultra-serious drama. Facing up to gritty realities and moral murk is its core line of work, hence it's not too hard to believe that its evasions/fudging can be kept relatively minor or technical. Think also of Bloch's novel Psycho, in this regard: Norman is fat and middle-aged, and mother beheads her victims. The latter point was never going to make it past the censors in 1960, but Marion and Arbogast getting repeatedly stabbed is quite horrifying enough, so that fudge only counts as a minor change. And making Norman young and attractive, while a commercial no-brainer (and ripe with thematic possibilities), is also, from a certain perspective, only a minor change. As Thomson might add: looking at the finished product, you still do not want to visit the Bates Motel.
But that's gritty, un-elusive drama. It's plausible that comedy is going to be a tougher nut to crack. Timing and conventions and expectations matter immensely in comedy, and in romantic comedies we further have to able to identify intimately with the leads. If standards and expectations in society change over time (or if a film's much broader audience has very different standards and expectations) a comedic adaptation has to change, which risks everything. What was once comedic starts to read as awkward or pitiless, comically persistent characters may start to seem like frightening stalkers, and so on. To get the overall comedy-and-charm souflée to rise again may now require further changes, and we're off to the races...
Third, as we discussed in Ground Rule 1, claims about the value of a film are largely distinct from claims about its faithfulness or success as an adaptation. Thomson may be right that a significantly more faithful adaptation of BAT-n could have been made in 1960 (perhaps by Cassavetes, say). But we don't know that. And, above all, it's perfectly reasonable for Wasson and others to focus on the very good film that was made rather than hare off after (how many?) multiply hypothetical alternates of unknowable significance.
Fourth, Thomson's concluding (and conclusory), invidious comparison:
The witless dawning in the film of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by contrast, is that you are ready to be an East Side prostitute if you can look, and dress, and sing like Audrey.is especially galling. As we saw in Ground Rule 1, BAT-n maintains a zone of ambiguity around the proper interpretation of HG's strategic dating of older, rich men for financial favors, which BAT-f only expands. Thomson is not entitled to rewrite both the film and the novella to his own unambiguous specifications. The film's HG is definitely still a shady character. To put Holly's $50 tips for the powder room, and $100 per week from Sally Tomato in perspective: on Mad Men, Season 1 set in NYC in 1960, secretaries earn $35 per week and junior exec. Pete Campbell earns $75 per week ('Is she or isn't she?' her agent asks). Of course, there's a lot of shadiness going around, what with Paul and his patron/sugar-mama. ('$1000. Take her away somewhere for a week.' That's 6 months wages for a secretary!) And 'kook', 'café society celebrity', 'playgirl', and 'gold-digger' cover a multitude of sins. And the line from the screenplay that AH herself clung onto - someone who finds it 'useful being top banana in the shock department' - can't just be wished away.
A fairer charge than Thomson's, would be that what dawns in BAT-f is that if you can look, and dress, and sing like Audrey, then being a single girl living by herself, making her own rules, having a high, proto-Sex-and-the-City time in Manhattan might be on the cards. Feminists and others had to edit the film's HG a lot to extract that of course. Wasson's star witness, Pogrebim says:
'She was a woman you wanted to be. Of course, she didn’t have a profession and I was career oriented, so that was a little troublesome'. (5AM, 153)But of course that's only the beginning. While aspects of HG both in the book and in the film do make her a prototype for That Girl, Mary Richards, Annie Hall, Carrie Bradshaw, and so on, one also has to reckon with her child-like-ness and general messed-up-ness (forgivable in someone so young, but still....)., These latter traits aren't strictly admirable (no matter how much fun they make HG as a character), lead Holly to become ever more explicitly and dangerously dependent on men, and in BAT-f in particular they cause Holly to lose her identity throughout the film, ultimately putting her in the position of (near metaphysically) needing to be rescued. As we've already emphasized, BAT-f's final, gooey resolution is a guilty pleasure, especially for feminists.
Thomson now usefully tears apart Wasson's thesis that “There was always sex in Hollywood, but before Breakfast at Tiffany’s, only the bad girls were having it.” (13) Thomson cites Fran Kubelik in The Apartment, a range of Hitchcock hotties, and a number of the mighty gals from the golden screwball era as counterexamples. And although they're not strict counterexamples to Wasson's thesis because they're non-Hollywood, early French new wave films regularly featured non-bad, sexually confident single girls, from Jean Seberg's Patricia in Breathless to Chabrol's bubbly though troubled group of Parisiennes in Les Bonnes Femmes (only Clotilde Joano's Jacqueline, the group's dreamy, highly romantic 'good girl' dies!). In sum, Wasson's major thesis doesn't seem to answer to anything important in the actual history of movies. Maybe focusing more narrowly on BAT-f's audience-reception at the specific post-Psycho, post-Breathless moment it arrived, AH-superpowered would have helped.
A more general cultural perspective would probably have helped even more. Two examples:
- Wasson asks for trouble by bandying about phrases like 'dawn of the modern woman' while showing little interest in the political movements of the period, and drawing no systematic pictures for the reader of what the status quo prospects for most U S women were in (presumably immediately pre-dawn) 1960, and what they were in, say, 1975 by way of contrast. 'Blink and you'll miss 'em' anecdotes from star witness Progrebim about, e.g., searching for a job in 1960 out of the 'Help Wanted: Females' column (5AM, 150) aren't really sufficient. Even summaries of something as popular as Gail Collins's When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present (2009), Section I would have helped 5AM's credibility a lot on this front.
- By focusing almost exclusively on BAT-f and its personnel components, Wasson disconnects BAT-f from other popular culture developments. For example, BAT-f along with The Apartment is a foundational text for the slightly older-pitched, sophisticated pop music, associated most prominently with Bacharach and David, that existed alongside the surging youth culture of the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, etc.. There’s a touch of AH's Holly in the way Petula Clark hits the 'just listen to the muuu-sic of the traffic in the city' line in her (Bacharach/David-aping) 1965 hit 'Downtown'. And lyrics such as 'Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty/How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there/You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares' and 'Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossanova/You'll be dancing with 'em, too, before the night is over' plug into the most up-beat aspects BAT-f's vision of single life in the city more generally. But 5AM isn't interested in making these sorts of connections.
Back to Thomson, who now turns to Hepburn herself:
Audrey Hepburn is an unquestioned star of the ’50s and early ’60s. She was beautiful, she had lakes for eyes and a boy’s body, as well as a highly developed instinct for fashion..... Audrey had a pristine charm, an armored innocence, in an age that (on screen at least) was very nervous about sex.So far, so reasonable.
For this reason, I think, and because her place in our dreamscape was as the brilliant child, Audrey invariably played with men much older than she was—Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer, and so on, all the way to Rex Harrison. There is only one worthwhile picture in which Audrey was matched with a man of her own age, the Stanley Donen-Frederic Raphael film Two for the Road, where she is married to Albert Finney (who was seven years her junior).It's hard to say what's more aggravating about this passage: that Thomson begins by saying AH's male leads were invariably much older (which is of course wildly false), only then to immediately take it back, or that when Thomson does acknowledge AH's films with roughly-same-age male leads, he baldy asserts that only one is any good. Two for the Road is indeed a near-masterpiece, but just helping oneself to the corollary that BAT-f, The Children's Hour, How to Steal a Million, Wait Until Dark, and Robin and Marian aren't so much as worthwhile, is quite a cheek. That AH had angelic and child-like qualities ('brilliant child') that optimized her for ingenue/student/daughter/supplicant roles is a legitimate, descriptive point. It even gets at some of what makes AH's HG troubling for feminists if she's taken whole (which she usually wasn't as we've seen). But everything else that Thomson says here is pure assertion and, in my view, little more than deliberately infuriating overkill.
Audrey talks like an actress alone on a sound-stage. It’s not just her curiously unattached accent—born in Belgium, raised in Britain, at work in America, but permanently in an elocution class, plaintive, touching on self-pity or self-congratulation, never really talking to people. She could do lines, she could talk to the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and she oozed a cozy sympathy. But, oddly, she was warmest when singing, even if she was not trained in that work. And so she makes Holly an isolated, precious creature, someone talking to herself.Well, no accounting for taste and all that, but I find AH's version of Hollywood, mid-Atlantic English, as well as the slight formality and deliberateness of her basic speech patterns and line readings pretty enchanting (and I suspect that I'm not alone in this). Perhaps then we can just agree to disagree with Thomson on this general point. But there's also a strong, relatively objective case (effectively an instance of our Ground Rule 2) that AH's voice works well for HG in particular.
Recall that Berman (in both BAT-n and BAT-f) gave HG French lessons for a year to rid her of her hick accent ('Figured once she could imitate French, she could imitate English'). And that shows; HG as written does sound a little like she's 'permanently in elocution class'. Her sentences are very composed even when she curses (as though she's speaking an easy foreign language). And HG is, as we've observed, surprisingly well-spoken (Ground Rule 2, Item a5) and also urbane-sounding (although perhaps with the odd note of trying-too-hard), certainly much more so than Mag Wildwood, who's quite the unreconstructed Arkansas yokel (in both her expression and her ideas) by comparison.
Moreover, insofar as the 'AH's HG is always just talking to herself' charge strikes home at all (and let's suppose for the sake of the argument that there's something in AH's screen presence that this complaint speaks to), to that extent I'd contend that the charge mainly just gets at two closely-related facts about BAT-n that BAT-f reproduces, albeit in weakened forms.
First, in BAT-n, HG is hyper-opinionated and a great speechifier. She was this way even before she came to the big city ('better than the radio'; Ground Rule 2, Item c4), and now the density and multi-culture of city life has amplified this aspect of her character. HG's been exposed her to an incredible amount for someone so young, and now talk up a streak, blue and otherwise, about almost anything. Consider, for example, this doozy where HG deduces and embraces the bottom of the 'marriage-should-reduce-to-love (any love)' slippery slope that has gender-neutral marriage on its upper slopes:
'If I were free to choose from everybody alive, just snap my fingers and say come here you, I wouldn't pick José. Nehru, he's nearer the mark. Wendell Wilkie. I'd settle for Garbo any day. Why not? A person ought to be able to marry men or women or -- listen, if you came to me and said you wanted to hitch up with [1920s champion race-horse] Man o' War, I'd respect your feeling. No, I'm serious. Love should be allowed. I'm all for it.' (82-3)
BAT-f retains this speechifying, 'Holly tells us how the world should be run' side of BAT-n, but weakens it. There isn't time in a film to air all of HG's street-smart wisdom, and the Breen Office/Production Code Administration would never have approved a script with all of her best stuff in it.
Second, BAT-n's basic structure is that a relatively self-effacing, passive narrator watches and listens to HG. She talks and acts, and we and the narrator react to that. BAT-f's weakens this 'It's all about Holly' basic structure by its fundamental swerve into romance and its beefing up of the narrator into 'Paul Varjak' with his own travails and explicit character arc. These changes symmetrize, though not completely. BAT-f's still mostly about (watching, listening, reacting to) Holly, and it only has one star.
As far as I see, then, AH does a very good job of playing the precocious, empathetic-but-still-very-self-absorbed, center-of-everyone's-attention Holly that lingers, albeit somewhat softened from the book. If that's principally a case of AH being very shrewdly cast so that her weaknesses are actually good for the charcter, and otherwise of AH just working within her limits, and so on, then, well, so be it. And if AH had to work closely with her director to pull off what she did in BAT-f, then so what? If Edwards was happy to nurse AH along, why's that any of our concern?
What else could Thomson be trying to get at with his completely general claim that there's a solipsistic tendency in AH's speech and presence on screen charge? The following suggests an answer:
In His Girl Friday, you know Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are caught in a spiral of marriage, break-up, and re-marriage because of the furious intimacy with which they talk to each other.Let's grant, and not just for the sake of the argument, that AH is no match for, say, Colbert or Stanwyck as verbal swordswoman (a fortiori that she's not a dramatic powerhouse like Davis or Streep). AH indeed might not have been able to handle the lead in, say, a Sturges or a McCarey film. But I don't see AH's peers, Kelly, Taylor, Novak, Marie Saint, Simmons, etc. climbing those Everests either (and Davis didn't think she had a successor until Streep showed up). Thomson disagrees. According to him, whereas AH talks like she's alone on a sound-stage:
Conversation, or natural, fluent battle. It needed writers, of course, and directors as alert to talk as Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. But it took players, too, and voices. And this brings me to Audrey Hepburn.
Kelly insisted on talking to her men. She challenges them. And she had her own voice—snooty, sexy, knowing.But I'm not convinced that Thomson's carving at any joints here. Kelly is more of a sex-bomb than AH, but she's no verbal swash-buckler either. Consider Cary Grant (just as Thomson invites us to). He has incendiary chemistry with Kelly in To Catch a Thief and again with AH in Charade. And modulo Kelly's and AH's rather different sorts of sex appeal, it appears to be the same sort of chemistry, anchored finally by the near-supernatural stylishness and poise/ease of the leads, and by the stellar direction and technical values. From the leads out, as it were, these films flat out look amazing. They have clever scripts too, but they aren't 'furiously intimate', and there's no genre-wide, underlying investigation of the metaphysics of marriage juicing everything up, raising the stakes of even the silliest situations.Grant's 1937-1942 pairings with, e.g., Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn, etc., however, feel qualitatively different. We're out of a world of leading ladies' languid looks and into a world of fast-talking, funny-as-hell gals, and pitched battles between the sexes every time. The banter back and forth both means more and there's much more of it.
The superstar actresses of the '50s were more self-consciously iconic and feminized than the golden age actresses (they in fact harken more back to the '20s and pre-Code generation of Brooks, Bow, Garbo, Gaynor, Keeler, and West). AH, like Kelly, is part of that, and any attempt to stigmatize AH uniquely by introducing that golden age perspective fails (except insofar as there's an unargued, and in my view patently ridiculous tack-on such as 'AH doesn't have her own voice').
What else could Thomson's complaint about AH's general performance quality amount to? Perhaps finally just this: as is well-known, AH was quite self-deprecating about her acting. She fretted both publicly and privately about her lack of training, and about not having the sorts of formidable technical chops that a Davis or a Stanwyck or a Geraldine Page or a Streep brings to bear. AH always felt she needed a lot of help from her directors to do good work, and chose her parts accordingly, i.e., normally quite conservatively, and with an eye to the movement qualities required (where her dance training might serve her well).
But even if AH measured herself right, the idea that her self-identified limits as an actress amount to a damaging solipsism on screen is simply incredible. If AH were as troublingly solipsistic an actress as Thomson suggests then super-pro directors such as Wyler, Wilder, and Donen would not have worked with her repeatedly. Nor would Hitchcock have been as desperately disappointed not to get her as he in fact was). Nor would Cary Grant famously have said after wrapping Charade that all he wanted for Christmas was another movie with Audrey Hepburn (Paris 1996, 191-2). Presumably Grant thought he had better things to do than talk to himself on screen. And so on.
In sum, I do not see how Thomson's overarching complaint about AH performance quality and presence on screen, which he finds so regrettably in evidence in BAT-f, can be made good. It appears to be merely an expression of Thomson's own current taste, to which he is very welcome.
What Audrey does in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not uninteresting, but it is far from the modern woman, even the one introduced to American audiences in the persons of Bette Davis, Irene Dunne, Margaret Sullavan, the other Hepburn (though she could talk herself into a self-centered corner, too), Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur, as well as Barbara Stanwyck. Instead Audrey rather resembles her physical antithesis Marilyn Monroe (who wanted to play Holly) in that they have very distinctive voices, but not voices that are good for talking to people.This passage runs together two separable points almost unforgivably. On the one hand there's the point we've conceded multiple times: BAT-f's HG is child-like, careerless, and increasingly, explicitly dependent on men in general and Paul/'Fred' in particular for her identity and future. One does have to forget about a lot of that to arrive at even, say, a Helen Gurley Brown-style, wily, modern single woman, let alone a fully feminist ideal end state. The golden age actresses Thomson salutes were indeed ahead at this game in their best roles. On the other hand, there's the complaint about AH's voice and presence on screen - that she doesn't really talk to other actors - which, as we've seen, is just Thomson's pure, highly implausible assertion.
Audrey was bankable, no doubt about that. That was how she could get Frankenheimer off the picture, and how she and Mel Ferrer could bar Tony Curtis or Steve McQueen from playing Paul. This raises the sacrilegious question of who else might have played Capote’s Lula Mae [sic.], if the world had been brave enough. Well, Shirley MacLaine could have done it then. So could Piper Laurie, Geraldine Page, or even Natalie Wood—I mention them because they were the other nominees in the year Audrey was nominated for an Oscar for her Holly. (None of them won—that was Sophia Loren in Two Women.) Or Anne Bancroft, or Lee Remick, or even Elizabeth Taylor (who had been a fine slut in the inept Butterfield 8, but was seldom afraid or self-protective). There’s the nub of it: Audrey got the film made, but she ensured its dishonesty and its fabricated air.If the claim is that Shirley MacLaine or whomever would have done significantly better with those producers and that script then I don't see it. Anyone else would still have had to figure out how to square the aspect of HG that's a prototype modern woman with everything else about her that makes her vulnerable and dependent. Presumably Frankenheimer would have changed a few things, and a few other key personnel changes might also have helped (e.g., probably only Edwards gets you either the ultra-broad, slapsticky party scene, or Mickey Rooney as Yunioshi). But comedy is tricky, and even lots of small changes could easily have led to an unfunny or even grim mess. And in any case, AH's unique charm covers a multitude of sins, and the hit from losing it would have been considerable.If the claim is that, with another star attached, the producers would have allowed the script to be completely rethought, especially in a non-romance direction, then, well, maybe. But that development's unlikely given how producer-driven, studio, non-(writer/director) films are actually made. And, really, who knows what film we'd be talking about after such extensive re-engineering?
Thomson now trains his fire on 'Moon River' (of all things!):
She sang the song, and I doubt the film would have much currency now but for “Moon River,” out of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.If by 'the song' Thomson means every trace of the main melody and its timbres in the score then I agree (at least provisionally). Taking Moon River out of BAT-f in that sense is as drastic a change as taking every trace of Herrmann's main, announced-in-the-credits themes out of Taxi Driver, Vertigo, or Psycho, or Williams's main themes out of Star Wars or Jaws. In each case, it's almost unthinkable to do that. If, however, by 'the song' Thomson just means Audrey's performance on the fire-escape, then I disagree: losing that 83 seconds of singing wouldn't have tipped an otherwise massively appealing film into obscurity. Do your own edit of the film to check this: cut directly from the first notes that Paul/Fred hears at his typewriter to AH's troubled expression and downcast eyes immediately after her '...and me' trails off. ('Hi. Hi. What ya doin'? Writing. Good.) The film still works, notwithstanding that the edit removes something of real value.
Everyone knows that song—it is, alas, a classic. I say alas because, for all its melodious charm, the song is a dog, a sell-out, a fraud. It is like a great deal of Mancini’s music, so easy to hum but so short on character. Compare “Moon River” with “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca or “The Man that Got Away” from A Star is Born.These are truly extraordinary claims. We should all write such dogs and frauds! And, prima facie, Moon River (MR) functions very similarly to As Time Goes By (ATGB) (on which more below), its lyrical precision, due to Johnny Mercer, is if anything superior to ATGB's, they're both in the top 5 of the AFI's '100 years... 100 tunes' list, and so on. That one could be incomparably better than than the other, whether considered in abstraction from the film or in context, seems impossible (certainly once we control for Casablanca's consensus, higher overall quality, with which I agree). (I'll set aside Thomson's second example and his discussion of it because I don't know either the song or the film well in that case.)
“As Time Goes By” is not just a song about the past and memory. It’s a moment placed in the rising drama of Casablanca with magnificent accuracy. It’s not an aside; it’s a vital step in the story......Whereas Holly is discovered on the fire escape singing, without one iota of justification or placing. Wasson is very good on how the song nearly got dropped, though he does not appreciate the justice of that challenge—the song is irrelevant to the story. And it was a harbinger of worse to come, like the inane “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” that signals how far Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid cared about nothing except sliding our money out of our pockets. (my italics)While it's tempting just to crack wise in response ('Critical malpractice? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?'; 'Well, it's good enough for Almodovar in Bad Education.'), happily we can do a lot better than that.BAT-f unfolds up to Holly singing MR as follows:
- Paul meets Holly (she gets dressed to visit Sing Sing as they chat)
- Paul's 'decorator'/2E arrives and he takes her up to his room
- [That night] Holly avoids a drunk suitor by climbing up the fire-escape to Paul's window. She wakes Paul, they chat, and she crawls into bed with him to sleep, where she has troubled dreams and she wakes, is snappish, and goes back to her own apartment.
- The next day Paul receives an apology note and gift (a typewriter ribbon) from Holly. The note invites Paul to a party in her apartment that evening.
- The wild party. We meet Holly's agent Berman (learning from him about her time in CA), and see exactly how ruthlessly Holly pursues rich men. She leaves her own party with one mark, Rusty Trawler, while Paul helps another possible mark, José, escape a police raid on the party.
- [1 week later?] Paul accompanies Holy to Sing Sing to see Sally Tomato, who effectively suggests that Paul should write about Holly's life: 'a book would break the heart.'
- [That afternoon?] Paul has just begun to get traction on a story. It's about a lovely but frightened girl who lives alone with a nameless cat. He hears singing and guitar-playing from out on the fire escape....
The audience has shared Paul's perspective from the beginning, and we and Paul have done almost nothing but learn about Holly. She may be just a beautiful nut, and live in a completely chaotic world, and we don't yet fully understand her, but she's genuinely fascinating, even amazing. The audience is therefore right there with Paul when he starts writing about her. Of course, we knew that things couldn't go on in a giddy blur forever. We would have guessed that something would eventually come unstuck around Holly. 3 told us that HG was troubled, and 6 (which is completely Axelrod's invention; in BAT-n no one ever accompanies Holly to Sing Sing) warned us that the book of Holly's life is heartbreaking for those who can read it.
AH does some amazing facial acting at the end of MR: her troubled expression and downcast eyes immediately after '...and me', remind us one last time before the first crisis hits, that something is up, or will be. Not even something as wistful and nostalgic and beautiful as MR can forestall what's inevitable.
It's worth mentioning how Axelrod arrived at the placement of the proto-MR song he put in the screenplay. BAT-n's 'singing on the fire-escape scene' happens very early on, before the narrator has even been properly met HG (16-17). Doc later enters as a mysterious figure whistling that same song:
That evening, on my way to supper, I saw the man again. He was standing across the street, leaning against a tree and staring up at Holly's windows. Sinister speculations rushed through my head. Was he a detective? Or some underworld agent connected with her Sing Sing friend, Sally Tomato?...Presently, without turning my head, I knew that he was following me. Because I could hear him whistling. Not any ordinary tune, but the plaintive, prairie melody Holly sometimes played on her guitar: Don't wanna sleep, don't wanna die, just wanna go a-travelin' through the pastures of the sky. (65)Axelrod avoids Capote's somewhat cornball/plot-mechanic-y use of the song as a 'tell', and instead (i) uses the position of the original 'tell' episode to settle where an expanded fire-escape scene should go, and (ii) used the song on the fire-escape as its own tell (it emotionally prefigures Doc's entrance into the film).
In sum, Thomson is spectacularly wrong in every particular. Holly's singing is not an aside, its exact placement in the story is as well justified as any scene in film history, andHolly's singing MR is irrelevant to the story only in the sense that it is that moment of tranquil equipoise before Holly starts to arc downwards (just as - ringing feminist alarm bells! - it's the moment when Paul starts to write again, beginning his arc up to full self-respect; see Margaret Fox, We Belong to Nobody: Representations of the Feminine in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, [pdf], 12). You can eliminate that stationary moment without losing much in strictly narrative terms. But films are more than just their plots, they're also emotional events, and AH singing MR is the emotional heart of BAT-f (just as Keaton singing Seems like Old Times in Annie Hall, or Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing My Rifle, My Pony and Me in Rio Bravo, or, to emphasize that this isn't a 'musical' point as such, Frances McDormand meeting up with an old classmate is in Fargo, are of their respective films). Everybody without an axe to grind knows this. The producers of BAT-f consciously decided to make the story of HG principally the story of a scared, starving girl from Tulip TX, and the woman who'd survived on tulip bulbs under the Nazis said yes to them on that understanding. BAT-f isn't a masterpiece (Ground Rule 3), but its best ideas are good and stunningly well-realized. The intimate (sweat-shirt and jeans, hair in a towel) star, set-piece scene that Axelrod figured out how to stitch together from Capote, that Mancini and Mercer gave wings to, that Planer so lovingly shot, and that AH gave her all to is self-evidently one of those. Thomson, however, writes as though if he'd been given input on BAT-f's final cut, he would have sided with Paramount head, Marty Rackin who thought 'the fucking song' had to go (5AM, 143-4). Good grief.
Thomson now starts to wind up to his conclusion:
And yet, "Moon River," and Mancini's score, were the only Oscar winners for Breakfast at Tiffany's. Agreed, the exquisite John McGiver deserves a small silver spoon for his salesman at Tiffany's. But Mickey Rooney got not so much as a sniff for his hideous rendering of a Japanese character upstairs. Wasson makes it clear that George Axelrod was horrified by Rooney's caricature. It was director Blake Edwards who liked it. Afterwards, no one was happy. Rooney's performance remains a startling revelation of American attitudes in the "hip" Kennedy era, and a disgrace. But the film's treatment of the whore character, and of women in general, is only a little less vulgar and deluded.No argument about Yunioshi of course, but given that Olivier was a black-face Othello in 1965, and Peter Sellars was in Indian brown-face in 1968, 'Kennedy era' is a cheap shot. And since full Minstrel Shows ran in prime time on the BBC in Thomson's native country until 1978, BAT-f is hardly the last or worst word in racial caricature. I do not pretend to know what Thomson finds so specially vulgar and deluded about BAT-f's (or even BAT-n's) treatment of women. Ambiguities and nods to conventional romance and forms of happiness aren't vulgar or deluded per se, notwithstanding all of Thomson's huffing and puffing to the contrary. Many exemplary mainstream entertainments idealize away matters that dwelling upon would make for very different films. For example, North by Northwest (NbNW) jests about its MacGuffin, notwithstanding that only the nature of that MacGuffin could explain Eve Kendall's willingness to do such degrading and dangerous undercover work. Better then to never pay more than lip service to her work, and even to try to distract the audience by raising the titillating possibility that Vandamm is gay. For another example, The Truman Show avoids the question of whether Truman has sex with his actress-wife Meryl (the answer would seem to have to be 'yes', but Laura Linney's brittle Meryl, and what that 'yes' would make her, makes that answer almost unthinkable). And while many reviews raised eyebrows at this lacuna/evasion at the heart of The Truman Show, Thomson's hyperbolically positive review for Esquire did not. Where were Thomson's imprecations against vulgarity and delusion then?
So much for the "new woman." Breakfast at Tiffany's concludes with hollow complacency, and no sense of Holly's real experience. It is the movie itself that fudges her, along with everything else. If you want to see a credible whore in American pictures, you have to wait for Jane Fonda in Klute. Wasson doesn't mention it, but any consideration of the dawning of a new woman in 1961 should include Jeanne Moreau in La Notte or Jules and Jim. We might even recollect the performances of Kinuyo Tanaka and Setsuko Hara in films such as Ugetsu Monogatari, Sansho the Bailiff, The Tokyo Story and Late Autumn-Japanese films, with an emotional gravity that Mickey Rooney and Blake Edwards must have missed. The real new women know that the dawning, and the experience, are so much more demanding than the mannequin joie de vivre of Holly Golightly or the stupor in which some people have taken this travesty of a book seriously.But these comparisons are mostly pointless. Thomson gets to call BAT-f out for not being Klute only by conclusorily insisting ('whore' again) on something that BAT-n and BAT-f left, respectively, partly and fully ambiguous. But calling BAT-f (or NbNW) out for not being Klute, like calling BAT-n out for not being Shelby's Last Exit to Brooklyn is little more than a laborious way of affirming that, for some reason, only dark, gritty dramas currently have any value for you. (Maybe you're depressed? a po-faced snob? a depressed, po-faced snob?)And while I like La Notte, Sancho the Bailiff, and Tokyo Story as much as the next film buff, there aren't a lot of laughs in those films, and I dare say that their reception and influence, while extensive over time, didn't move too many needles of broad popular culture in the early 1960s. As we've seen, Thomson's right that 5AM suffers from a too-narrow cultural perspective, but there's so little basis for comparison of BAT-f with these particular films that one starts to wonder whom exactly Thomson is talking to. These certainly aren't the obvious first ways to broaden out 5AM.
Thomson wants to dismiss BAT-f (and, a fortiori, 5AM) and probably BAT-n. But almost any item can be dismissed from some later or wider perspective. For example, in the light of Gomorrah or even Goodfellas, the Godfather films can easily start to look facile and glamorizing (We rarely see the Corleones kill or even interact at all negatively with non-gangsters. How credible is that? 'It's mannequin joie de mourir I tell you!'). And I've already suggested that NbNW wouldn't survive the kind of scrutiny for credibility that Thomson urges against BAT-f (let alone a full dose of John le Carré). Happily, however, most of us find it very natural to cultivate flexibility in the perspectives that we can occupy and see value from. Most of us aren't so drowning in cinematic pleasure and excellence that we'd ever allow ourselves to be forced into false choices between BAT-f and Tokyo Story, or between AH and Jane Fonda, or...
 Capote, T. 1958. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a short novel and three stories, First Vintage International Edition, 1993. All bare page references are to this edition.
 One important exception: BAT-f's burlesque/striptease bar scene with its 'Do you think she's talented?' dialogue is completely Axelrod's invention.
 BAT-n Holly seems partly to resile from that position, however, when she lays the predicate for chasing rich men in Brazil (i.e., now that the fancy salons of NYC will be closed to her after the Sally Tomato fiasco) as follows:
'And if you lived off my particular talents, Cookie, you'd understand the kind of bankruptcy I'm describing. Uh, uh, I don't just fancy a fadeout that finds me belly-bumping around Roseland with a pack of West Side hillbillies.' (103).
 5AM, 89, see also Martin Jurow, Letter: Audrey Hepburn; Holly Golightly: Lopsided Romantic. NY Times, March 14, 1993.
 It's astute of AH to draw attention to HG's youth in BAT-n ('[S]he was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.' (12)). This provides interpretative wiggle-room, she's right, because it's almost impossible to believe that, at that age Holly can be quite as self-possessed as she postures as being, or even quite as opinionated let alone experienced overall as she makes out. That some of what she does and says must involve a degree of posing and exaggeration is a reasonable (though not rationally compulsory) surmise. A partly incompatible, alternative wiggle for the purposes of the film - one that corresponds to my own first impressions of BAT-f - is simply to read the film's HG as being in her late 20s (or at any rate, much closer to AH's own age at the time).
 Eugene Archer, Playgirl on the Town. New York Times, October 9, 1960. The line in the script that Hepburn evidently hangs her interpretation on is Holly's early, partially defining remark, 'It's useful being top banana in the shock department'. The novel's counterpart line occurs much later, where it has much less defining power (62, in a multiply risqué situation). Moreover, the line itself is subtlely different there: 'Leave it to me: I'm always top banana in the shock department.' That suggests shock as accurate accounting rather more than it does shock as act or strategy (notwithstanding that in this particular instance HG is describing the effects of strategically lying to her rival Mag Wildwood that she's a lesbian to allay suspicions that HG has slept with Mag's boyfriend José).
 According to Peter Krämer, 'The Many Faces of Holly Golightly: Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Hollywood, ' Film Studies 5, Winter 2004, 58-65:
'Lest anyone thought that due to her age and image, Hepburn would not be able to portray the character convincingly, one of Paramount’s press books quoted Capote’s first [p.12] description of Holly Golightly, matching each sentence with an appropriate picture of Hepburn.' (64) Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies' remark:
'Audrey Hepburn is not ideal casting. She never seemed vapid or vacant enough.'is therefore ill-considered. HG in BAT-n is reckless, esp. about strategically never asking too many questions, but she isn't especially vapid or vacant, certainly not for her age.
 Capote's famous preference for Marilyn Monroe as HG was therefore absurd. Monroe was 3 years older than AH, had never been especially colt-ish or any kind of gamine, and by 1960 she was a drug- and drink-addled wreck. Thankfully BAT-f's producers Jurow and Shepherd paid more attention to Capote's book than to his nepotism (5AM, 86).
 The same conditions appear to have pushed her brother Fred to other extremes: great height and 'he didn't care about anything in this world except horses and peanut butter. But he wasn't dotty, just sweet and vague and terribly slow; he'd been in the eighth grade three years when I ran away.' (20) BAT-f omits the repeated grades detail.
 In the context of Holly's later semi-confession of sexual activity before age 13 ('that just doesn't count'), the ominous remark (with its focus on Lulamae) raises (at least to modern eyes) the possibility that Holly was at least threatened with sexual assault and that that was a principal cause of her and Fred's flight into near starvation.
 Neither BAT-n not BAT-f allows us to decide the extent to which Holly agrees to marry Doc on purely strategic grounds, i.e., to keep a roof over her and Fred's head. Notwithstanding Buddy Ebsen's touching performance, BAT-f tilts in the latter direction when it adds Doc tugging explicitly on the 'room over Fred's head' string: 'I don't want to seem like I'm pressurin' you none, but now I gotta. If you don't come back with me, I'm gonna have to write young Fred and tell 'em, unless he wants to look out for hisself, he'd better sign up for another hitch.' This touch of steelly menace to the film's Doc increases jeopardy, and helps lay the predicate for the more identity-frayed, needing-to-be-rescued HG of the film's end.
 'I had jaundice during that last six months. My mother and aunt and I ate very little. We ate a few turnips, we made flour from tulip bulbs which is actually very fine flour. In the winter there was nothing; in the spring we picked anything we could in the countryside...' (quoted in Paris 1996, 31). See also Alan Riding, 25 Years Later, Honor for Audrey Hepburn, NY Times., April 22, 1991
 AH discussed her wartime experience, including starvation, in interviews and articles in 1953 and 1954, i.e., as part of the initial wave of publicity associated with her Roman Holiday breakthough. That part of her background drew less attention once AH was an established star, but interested parties never forgot it, e.g., in 1956 George Stevens (unsuccessfully) pursued AH for the lead in The Diary of Anne Frank.
 AH herself thought the wellsprings of her appeal were innate:
"I myself was born with an enormous need for affection and a terrible need to give it," she went on. "That's what I'd like to think maybe has been the appeal. People have recognized something in me they have themselves -- the need to receive affection and the need to give it. Does that sound soppy?" (Riding 1991) That so many people say the opposite strikes me as an instance of the general phenomenon that spurious observations often quickly become part of the received wisdom about very popular items (e.g., 'Psycho's great apart from that awful, psychologist wrap-up scene', 'Avatar, while spectacular, has a completely unoriginal story', etc.). Sometimes these sorts of observations get at important choice points in a film's production, i.e., they draw attention to the downsides of tradeoffs that the director and/or writer were well aware of but ultimately chose to accept. The spuriousness in that case is a form of 'wants a free lunch'-type reasoning.
But many such observations express principally the needs of self-styled elites to feel superior to the material in question and to that material's natural audience: 'We maintain reservations about something that mainstream audiences have completely swooned for.' The spuriousness in that case shades into the tiresomeness of primate chest-beating.
 Other obvious comparison cases include Barefoot in the Park and What a Way to Go! But both these films seem to me to be a notch (or more) below BAT-f in quality, notwithstanding their strictly comparable star-power, and that both Fonda and MacLaine were alternate HGs.
 We may further like them in part because they're non-top-tier. Love for masterpieces signals principally recognition and appreciation of excellence, whereas love of non-top-tier stuff signals relatively specific, personal taste and historical connection (e.g., maybe someone born before/after a certain time would let a non-top-tier film's exasperating features bug them, you however....).
 Critic Judith Crist registers a version of this point at 5AM, 138-9.
 Two of AH's best post-BAT-f films, My Fair Lady and Two for the Road, similarly feature 'happy couple' endings that are undercut by the presence of either shockingly unresolved or only temporarily resolved tensions. My sense is that up-beat (paradigmatically coupled-up) endings albeit with some question-marks (so that things don't seem falsely tidy and stupidly happy) get less respect (from critics and discerning viewers more generally) than do down-beat (paradigmatically non-coupled-up) endings albeit with some dimensions of personal triumph present (so that things aren't left unrelievedly bleak, e.g., Nights of Cabiria or AH's own Roman Holiday and The Children's Hour).
 I.e., situational features that are (i) at least somewhat realistic (so use twins, shipwrecks on desert islands, memory loss, etc. sparingly. Quiet down the back Shakespeare! You too Sturges.), (ii) intractable enough to keep the favored couple apart for most of the production, but still (iii) plausibly able-to-be-overcome by the end.
 Had Wasson not wanted to develop his own source, he could have just read the NY Times, which has repeatedly run stories or columns about BAT-f's impact on the lives of particular (often quite well-known) women, e.g, Diane von Furstenberg and Judy Collins here, and Yvonne Durant here.
 See, e.g., Cinema: Two-Thirds of Greatness, Time, Dec. 13, 1968.
 Operation Petticoat grossed almost twice as much in 1959 as the very successful North by Northwest did.
 I understand that this is caricature-level stuff, but charm-filled comedy is incredibly tricky. Consider that BAT-f got some grief on release for its shoplifting scene (5AM, 150). The point is that you can have any number of shop-lifting scenes in dark dramas without comment, whereas anything like that raises issues for a romantic comedy because of depth of identification with protagonists that the genre ideally involves. Shop-lifting in BAT-f still feels slightly risqué in 2011 because you and I are right in there with Holly and Paul, wishing we were them (sexy, sexy shop-lifting gets you laid! yes!). Cringe about that sort of fantasy identification later if you must, but it's a core feature of romances, and it's one reason why the genre of romantic comedy, notwithstanding its superficial placidity, attracts attention from moralists, non-feminist and feminist alike.
 The novel's counterpart line - 'Leave it to me: I'm always top banana in the shock department.' (61) - is subtlely different. It suggests accurate accounting and well-deserved reputation rather than any kind of act or publicity strategy.
 What's Susan Vance's (Kate Hepburn's) excuse in Bringing up Baby?
 Especially at a 'low' level. For a single example, in BAT-f, HG chooses to let her severely drunk frenemy Mag Wildwood fall forward and probably seriously injure herself, jokily yelling 'Timber' to ensure that nobody inadvertently, partially breaks her fall. At the counterpart party in BAT-n, HG settles for injuring Mag's social prospects, telling everyone that Mag struggles with a venereal disease ('You'd think it would show more. But heaven knows, she looks healthy. So, well, clean.' (12)).
 The example of Continental sophistication that's most relevant to BAT-f, however, didn't arrive until early 1962: Corinne Marchand's Cleo in Varda's first masterpiece, Cleo from 5 to 7. Cleo has cats, a wonderful, hilariously self-dramatizing song ('Sans Toi') to camera, and her own little black dress and dark glasses combo, which she assembles in front of us, albeit almost as a magic trick, and self-consciously as a stripping back of her persona. It's definitely sad that Varda's philosophical, photographic eye, which finds surprises in almost every frame, never quite crossed over to mainstream success. In my perfect world, instead of wasting her time in Paris in summer 1962 on a rotten script and a sozzled William Holden, AH goes indie and works with Varda on a Cleo-ish project...
 BAT-f plays extensively with Psycho, principally, I believe, just as a way of asserting its own up-to-date-ness and hip-ness to the sharp, new cinematic lingua franca. Most obviously, Martin Balsam's Berman is a lighthearted Arbogast. He opens the party looking very Norman/Mother-ish through the bars of a birdcage, and coolly mocking the cage's stuffed inhabitant. Berman closes the party scene in the shower with a blonde (and being comically cool about being interrupted there by 'jewel thieves'). Inside jokes to tease and flatter hipster audience members who'll remember Balsam as Arbogast? I think so.
Less obviously, some of BAT-f's flashier shots steal/echo a number of Psycho's signature set-ups: (i) Paul wakes alone the morning after really spending the night with Holly (see Ground Rule 1) and we begin in extreme close-up on an eye, exactly matching the framing of Marion Crane's dying eye (and Paul's eye sees masks held by a strange statue that could have come from Mother's bedroom!). (ii) When Paul brings Holly home drunk, the camera is overhead in the foyer for the first time (reminding us of Hitchcock's sudden stairwell landing overheads for Arbogast's death, and when Norman carries Mother downstairs). (iii) When Paul carries the drunk Holly up the stairs, the camera follows behind them then reverses back along the first floor balustrade (reminding us of Psycho's sensational stairwell traversals).[Update: go here for some of the visual evidence.]
 Which is not to say that 5AM is either exhaustive or wholly reliable even within its personnel-centered wheelhouse. Consider that:
- 5AM says nothing about the casting of Martin Balsam as Berman.
- Wasson says that the film AH did immediately after BAT-f, The Children's Hour (which was released only two months after BAT-f), brought her 'some of the worst notices of her career' (5AM, 158). But this is hard to believe. The film plays relatively well today, and AH impresses in it. Moreover, the two 1961 reviews that are widely available are complimentary. The NY Times, which didn't like the film, singled AH out for praise, and Variety, which did like the film, said:'
Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, in the leading roles, beautifully complement each other. Hepburn's soft sensitivity, marvelous projection and emotional understatement result in a memorable portrayal. MacLaine's enactment is almost equally rich in depth and substance.'
- Some of 5AM's best sections are about BAT-f's screen-writer, George Axelrod: his pre-history in Marilyn Monroe comedies, his drive to do something a little more sophisticated, his triumph wrestling BAT-n into a more conventional and censor-proof shape, and so on. But when Wasson observes that AH's return to comedy after BAT-f, Paris when it Sizzles (w/ William Holden) was somewhere between a dud and a debacle (5AM, 158), he doesn't see fit to mention that Axelrod wrote that script too.
 The telling exception: rural dialect emerges occasionally with Holly after Doc shows up and when he's clearly on her mind, e.g., ' Mention that [her marriage to Doc] to a living soul, darling. I'll hang you by your toes and dress you for a hog.' (86-7)
 For example, Sturges's original, PCA-rejected/censored title for The Palm Beach Story was 'Is marriage necessary?' See S. Cavell's The Pursuits of Happiness (Harvard University Press 1981) for the classic, albeit idiosyncratic demonstration of the philosophical awareness and riches of Hollywood's marriage-preoccupied comedies in the '30s and '40s.
 This need not mean dancing proper, rather take seriously the key modern dance and post-Gene Kelly idea that even the most pedestrian movement can have musical, dance-like performance qualities. BAT-f has no dance scenes, but it has plenty of pedestrian movement fondly observed. By this I mean not just the obvious walking around scenes (including, especially, the famous Fifth Avenue opening) and up and down stairs and fire-escapes scenes, but also sequences such as Holly drunk, and Holly first waking up. Consider the latter: HG wakes, meets Paul, explains the 'mean reds', gets dressed for Sing Sing as they chat, and so on. AH is in nearly constant motion throughout (including close-quarters, broadly facial actorly business such as checking earrings, teeth-cleaning, piling-up hair, whistling, and the like), and she flows gracefully through the scene. We see and register every expressive bit of her movement precisely because, as a dancer, AH's movement is always smoothed out and coherent (for this reason, too, Shirley MacLaine seems to me to be easily the best of the alternate BAT-f HGs). The scene in fact plays like an eight minute expansion/dilution/further pedestrianization of Gene Kelly', 90 second/one shot, 'Jerry Mulligan wakes up' sequence that's the first interior in An American in Paris.
 Richard Corliss sees a pattern:
'Indeed, in her transformation movies - Sabrina and Funny Face and My Fair Lady - she always looked more gorgeous in Phase One (mousy) than Phase Two (elegant), more ravishing with her hair down than up, with her dress casual than couture.' While Thomson officially only hyperbolized as follows:
'The Truman Show... is one of the most startlingly original American movies in years, enough to give one faith in the salutary and inspiring nearness of the new millennium' (Thomson 1998, 46),Esquire's editors notoriously swung for the fences with the cover blurb: 'The movie of the decade (and it stars Jim Carrey).' See http://s11.bdbphotos.com/images/orig/e/m/emy49dn3lk1yndly.jpg.
 Mason's Vandamm feels like an early, jokey take on the 'Cambridge Five'/'Philby, Burgess and MacLean' treasonous, bookish sorts that first made headlines in the 1950s, and that le Carré made his own in the 1960s and 1970s.