Breakfast at Tiffany's (film)

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a 1961 American romantic comedy film directed by Blake Edwards, written by George Axelrod, adapted from Truman Capote's 1958 novella of the same name, and starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a naïve, eccentric café society girl who falls in love with a struggling writer while attempting to marry for money. It was theatrically released by Paramount Pictures on October 5, 1961, to critical and commercial success.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Original theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byBlake Edwards
Screenplay byGeorge Axelrod
Based onBreakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Produced by
CinematographyFranz F. Planer
Edited byHoward Smith
Music byHenry Mancini
  • Jurow-Shepherd
  • Spinel Entertainment
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 5, 1961 (1961-10-05)
Running time
114 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million
Box office$14 million

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards (winning two), with the music (including "Moon River") nominated for six Grammy Awards (winning five). In 2012, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".



Just after dawn a taxi pulls up in front of the Tiffany & Co. flagship store in New York and from it emerges elegantly dressed Holly Golightly, carrying a paper bag containing her breakfast. After looking into the store's window displays, she strolls to her apartment and has to fend off her date from the night before.

Once inside, Holly cannot find her keys, so she buzzes her landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, to let her in. Later, she is awakened by new neighbor Paul Varjak, who rings her doorbell to get into the building. The pair talk as she dresses to leave for her weekly visit to mobster Sally Tomato, currently incarcerated at Sing Sing. Tomato's lawyer pays her $100[a] a week to deliver "the weather report".

As she is leaving Holly is introduced to Paul's "decorator", a wealthy older woman Emily Eustace Failenson, whom Paul nicknames "2E". That night, when Holly crawls out onto the fire escape to elude an over-eager date, she peeks into Paul's apartment and sees 2E leaving money and kissing him goodbye.

Visiting Paul afterward, she learns he is a writer who has not had anything published since a book of vignettes five years earlier, and has no ribbon in his typewriter. Holly, in turn, explains she is saving money to support her brother Fred after he completes his Army service. The pair fall asleep but are awakened when Holly has a nightmare about Fred. When Paul questions her about this, Holly chides him for prying.

Holly later buys Paul a typewriter ribbon to apologize, and invites him to a wild party at her apartment. There he meets her Hollywood agent, Berman, who describes Holly's transformation from a country girl into a Manhattan "socialite", along with wealthy Brazilian politician José da Silva Pereira and Rusty Trawler, the "ninth richest man in America under 50".

Some time later, 2E enters Paul's apartment, worried about someone loitering outside the building. Paul confronts the man who explains he is Holly's husband, Doc Golightly. They married when she was 14, but she ran away, and he has come to bring her back to rural Texas. After Paul reunites Holly and Doc, she informs Paul that the marriage was annulled. At the Greyhound bus station, she tells Doc that he made a mistake in "trying to love a wild thing", and he leaves broken-hearted.

After drinking at a club, Paul and Holly return to her apartment, where she tells him that she plans to marry Trawler for his money. A few days later, Paul learns that one of his short stories will be published. On the way to tell Holly, he sees a newspaper headline stating that Trawler has married someone else.

Holly and Paul agree to spend the day together, taking turns doing things each has never done before. At Tiffany's, he has the ring from Doc Golightly's box of Cracker Jack engraved as a present for her. After spending the night together, Paul awakens to find Holly gone. 2E arrives and calmly accepts when he ends their affair, realizing he loves another.

Returning from a date with José, Holly learns her brother Fred has been killed. She trashes the apartment. Paul calms her and sends José in.

Months later, Holly is about to move to Brazil and marry José. She is arrested in connection with Sally Tomato's drug ring. The headlines are devastating. Berman pays her bail, and Paul picks her up in a cab with all her things, including Cat—and José's written farewell. Holly decides to go to Brazil anyway, breaking bail. Paul declares that he loves her, but she says no one will put her in a cage. She throws Cat out into an alley, into the pouring rain. Paul says that being in love is the only chance anybody has got for real happiness, and he storms out of the cab and tells her that she is already in a cage that she takes with her. He tosses the engraved ring into her lap and leaves. She puts it on, weeping, then runs back to the alley, where Paul is calling Cat. Tears blending with rain, Holly calls for Cat, in vain. Her eyes meet Paul's, and Cat yowls. She cradles him in her coat and, smiling, walks into Paul's embrace.


Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly





The Oscar-nominated screenplay was written by George Axelrod, loosely based on the novella by Truman Capote. Changes were made to fit the medium of cinema and to correspond to the filmmakers' vision. Capote, who sold the film rights of his novella to Paramount Studios, wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly, whom he had described perfectly in the book.[3] Barry Paris cites Capote's own comments on the choice of actress: "Marilyn was always my first choice to play the girl, Holly Golightly." Screenwriter Axelrod was hired to "tailor the screenplay for Monroe". When Lee Strasberg advised Monroe that playing a "lady of the evening" would be bad for her image, she turned it down and performed in The Misfits instead. When Hepburn was cast instead of Monroe, Capote remarked: "Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey".[4][5][6] Shirley MacLaine was also offered the part of Holly, but she turned it down and performed in Two Loves instead.[7] Kim Novak also turned down the role of Holly.[8] Hepburn was hesitant to be cast in the film as her character would go against who she was. She relented when she gave it some more thought, remarking, "Holly is an extrovert and I'm an introvert, so I saw it as an interesting challenge."[9][10]Steve McQueen was offered the role of Paul Varjak, but declined the offer due to being under contract.[11] Jack Lemmon was also approached, but he was unavailable. Robert Wagner was also considered.[12]

Axelrod worked with the original director of the film John Frankenheimer for a period of three months, but Hepburn's agent wanted a better known director, with the result that Frankenheimer was removed from the project.[13]

Principal photography

Hepburn in the opening scene

Filming began on Fifth Avenue outside the Tiffany & Co. flagship store on October 2, 1960.[14] Most of the exteriors were filmed in New York City, and all of the interiors, except for portions of the scene inside Tiffany & Company, were filmed on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood.[15]

According to one report, the film's on-location opening sequence, in which Holly gazes into a Tiffany's display window, was extremely difficult for director Blake Edwards to shoot. Although it was simple in concept, crowd control, Hepburn's dislike of pastries, and an accident that nearly resulted in the electrocution of a crew member are all said to have made capturing the scene a challenge. However, another report claims that the sequence was captured rather quickly due to the good fortune of an unexpected traffic lull.[16]



It took me a long time to figure out what Holly Golightly was all about. One night after midnight I was still trying. I don't drink much, but I was sipping. And it came to me. I wrote ["Moon River"] in half an hour.

Henry Mancini[17]

During the film, Hepburn sang the film's signature song, "Moon River" by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. The song was tailored to Hepburn's limited vocal range, based on songs she had performed in 1957's Funny Face.[18] On the Anniversary Edition DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany's, co-producer Dick Shepherd says in his audio commentary that after a preview in San Francisco, Martin Rankin, Paramount's head of production, wanted "Moon River" replaced with music by somebody else but "Marty [Jurow, co-producer] and I both said 'over our dead bodies,'"[19] – a remark attributed to Hepburn herself in another account.[20]

According to Time magazine, Mancini "sets off his melodies with a walking bass, extends them with choral and string variations, varies them with the brisk sounds of combo jazz. 'Moon River' is sobbed by a plaintive harmonica, repeated by strings, hummed and then sung by the chorus, finally resolved with the harmonica again."[17]

The soundtrack featured a score composed and conducted by Henry Mancini, with songs by Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Mancini and Mercer won the 1961 Oscar for Best Original Song for "Moon River". Mancini won for Best Original Score. There are also unreleased score pieces from Breakfast at Tiffany's in existence; "Carousel Cue" is from an unsurfaced scene, while "Outtake 1" is from a deleted scene in which Holly and Paul visit Tiffany's and is a variation of the main theme. In 2013 Intrada released the complete score in its original film performance (as with many soundtrack albums by Mancini and others at the time, the album released alongside the film was a re-recording).


Theatrical advertisement from 1961

Breakfast at Tiffany's was theatrically released by Paramount Pictures on October 5, 1961, to critical and commercial success, grossing $14 million on a $2.5 million budget.[21] Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly is generally considered to be one of her most memorable and identifiable roles. She regarded it as one of her most challenging roles, since she was an introvert required to play an extrovert.[18]

The film received five nominations at the 34th Academy Awards; Best Actress (for Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, winning Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "Moon River". It was considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2012.[22]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 56 reviews, with an average score of 7.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "It contains some ugly anachronisms, but Blake Edwards is at his funniest in this iconic classic, and Audrey Hepburn absolutely lights up the screen."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100 based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

Critical response


Variety called it "a bright b.o. contender".[25]

Time magazine noted "for the first half hour or so, Hollywood's Holly (Audrey Hepburn) is not much different from Capote's. She has kicked the weed and lost the illegitimate child she was having, but she is still jolly Holly, the child bride from Tulip, Texas, who at 15 runs away to Hollywood to find some of the finer things of life—like shoes." It pointed out that "after that out-of-Capote beginning, director Blake Edwards ... goes on to an out-of-character end."[26] Almost a half century later, Time commented on the pivotal impact of Hepburn's portrayal of Golightly:[27]

Breakfast at Tiffany's set Hepburn on her [19]60s Hollywood course. Holly Golightly, small-town Southern girl turned Manhattan trickster, was the naughty American cousin of Eliza Doolittle, Cockney flower girl turned My Fair Lady. Holly was also the prototype for the Hepburn women in Charade, Paris When It Sizzles, and How to Steal a Million: kooks in capers. And she prepared audiences for the ground-level anxieties that Hepburn characters endured in The Children's Hour, Two for the Road and Wait Until Dark.

The Chicago Tribune review was positive: "In the wrong hands, the unconventional, disorganized, sophisticated, innocent, utterly contradictory character created by Truman Capote could be a tiresome idiot. Audrey makes her as sweet as she is silly, as appealing as she is affected, a playgirl without scruples, a moth who doesn't quite deserve to die in a flame. While Audrey is gifted, she also has everything to work with, including a perceptive, slick script and a fine supporting cast. George Peppard is just right....Buddy Ebsen gives a moving performance...and Martin Balsam as a typical agent is hilarious. Mickey Rooney adds to the fun as a toothy Japanese."[28]

The Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer was complimentary overall as well: "Breakfast at Tiffany's shines like a gem from that famed institution....much of the iridescence comes from the richly impulsive performace [sic?] of Audrey Hepburn as the scatterbrained, now pathetic, now fiercely independent peri of Truman Capote's novella....[George Peppard's role] is played with understanding....Buddy Ebsen appears briefly, but to good effect....Mickey Rooney is too slapstick as the Japanese photographer disturbed by Holly's antics. Director Blake Edwards keeps things moving with a lilt."[29]

It premiered at the Radio City Music Hall, and The New York Times called the film a "completely unbelievable but wholly captivating flight into fancy composed of unequal dollops of comedy, romance, poignancy, funny colloquialisms and Manhattan's swankiest East Side areas captured in the loveliest of colors". In reviewing the performances, the newspaper said Holly Golightly is

as implausible as ever. But in the person of Miss Hepburn, she is a genuinely charming, elfin waif who will be believed and adored when seen. George Peppard is casual and, for the most part, a subdued citizen who seems to like observing better than participating in the proceedings. Martin Balsam makes a properly brash, snappy Hollywood agent. Mickey Rooney's bucktoothed, myopic Japanese is broadly exotic. Patricia Neal is simply cool and brisk in her few appearances as Mr. Peppard's sponsor and Vilallonga, is properly suave and Continental as Miss Hepburn's Brazilian, while Buddy Ebsen has a brief poignant moment as Miss Hepburn's husband.[30]

Truman Capote hated Hepburn in the lead part. Capote biographer Gerald Clarke deemed the film a "valentine" to free-spirited women rather than a cautionary tale about a little girl lost in the big city. "The movie is a confection — a sugar and spice confection."[31]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Actress Audrey Hepburn Nominated [32]
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium George Axelrod Nominated
Best Art Direction – Color Art Direction: Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson;
Set Decoration: Samuel M. Comer and Ray Moyer
Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Henry Mancini Won
Best Song "Moon River"
Music by Henry Mancini;
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Bambi Awards Best Actress – International Audrey Hepburn Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Won [34]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Blake Edwards Nominated [35]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Comedy Nominated [36]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Audrey Hepburn Nominated
Grammy Awards Album of the Year (Other Than Classical) Breakfast at Tiffany's – Henry Mancini Nominated [37]
Record of the Year "Moon River" – Henry Mancini Won
Song of the Year "Moon River" – Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer Won
Best Arrangement "Moon River" – Henry Mancini Won
Best Performance by an Orchestra – for Other Than Dancing Breakfast at Tiffany's – Henry Mancini Won
Best Sound Track Album or Recording of Score from Motion Picture or
International Film Music Critics Association Awards Best Archival Release of an Existing Score – Re-Release or Re-Recording Music by Henry Mancini;
Album Produced by Douglass Fake and Roger Feigelson;
Liner Notes by Jeff Bond;
Album Art Direction by Joe Sikoryak
Nominated [38]
Laurel Awards Top Comedy Nominated
Top Female Comedy Performance Audrey Hepburn Nominated
Top Musical Score Henry Mancini Nominated
Top Song "Moon River"
Music by Henry Mancini;
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted [39]
Online Film & Television Association Awards Film Hall of Fame: Productions Inducted [40]
PATSY Awards The poor slob without a name [citation needed] Orangey Won
Satellite Awards Best Classic DVD Nominated [41]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy George Axelrod Won [42]


Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the film's trailer

Hepburn as Holly, with her hair in a high chignon and carrying an oversized cigarette holder, is considered one of the most iconic images of 20th century American cinema.[44] Another iconic item throughout the movie is Holly's sunglasses. Often misidentified as Ray-Ban, they are Manhattan sunglasses designed and manufactured in London by Oliver Goldsmith. In 2011 the model was re-released to mark the 50th anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany's.[45] One of three dresses designed by Givenchy for Hepburn for possible use in the film sold at auction by Christie's[46] on December 5, 2006, for £467,200 (~US$947,000), about seven times the reserve price.[47] The "Little Black Dress" by Givenchy, worn by Hepburn in the beginning of the film, is cited as one of the most iconic items of clothing in the history of the twentieth century and is, perhaps, the most famous little black dress of all time.[48][49][50][51] A second "little black dress" in Breakfast at Tiffany's, along with its wide-brimmed hat, was worn by Hepburn as Holly when she goes to visit mobster Sally Tomato at Sing Sing Prison. This dress was paid homage as one of the dresses worn by Anne Hathaway's character Selina Kyle, Catwoman's alter ego, in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises; the comic book Catwoman drawn by artist Adam Hughes, was based on Hepburn, creating a double homage to Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Hathaway's Catwoman.[52]

The film rejuvenated the career of 1930s movie song-and-dance man Buddy Ebsen, who had a small but effective role in this film as Doc Golightly, Holly's ex-husband. His success here led directly to his best-known role as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.[53]

A diamond necklace at Tiffany's that Hepburn scorned as too flashy was the Tiffany Yellow Diamond, which she wore in publicity photos for the film. Tiffany's profile as a pre-eminent luxury retailer, while already established, was further boosted by the film.[54]

Portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi and later yellowface controversy

Mickey Rooney as I. Y. Yunioshi

For his portrayal of I. Y. Yunioshi, Mickey Rooney wore makeup and a prosthetic mouthpiece to change his features to a caricatured approximation of a Japanese man. Since the 1990s, this portrayal has been subject to increasing protest by Asian Americans, among others. For instance, in the film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993), Breakfast at Tiffany's is used as an illustration of Hollywood's racist depiction of Asian people when Bruce Lee and his future wife, Linda, see the film and Linda suggests they leave when she notices that Bruce is upset at Rooney's caricatured performance.[55]

In his audio commentary for the DVD release, producer Richard Shepherd said that at the time of production as well as in retrospect, he wanted to recast the role "not because he [Rooney] didn't play the part well" but because Shepherd thought the part of Mr. Yunioshi should be performed by an actor of Japanese ethnicity; it was director Blake Edwards' decision to keep Rooney.[56] In a "making-of" for the 45th anniversary edition DVD release, Shepherd repeatedly apologizes, saying, "If we could just change Mickey Rooney, I'd be thrilled with the movie."[57] Director Blake Edwards stated, "Looking back, I wish I had never done it ... and I would give anything to be able to recast it, but it's there, and onward and upward."[57]

In a 2008 interview about the film, 87-year-old Rooney said he was heartbroken about the criticism:

It breaks my heart. Blake Edwards ... wanted me to do it because he was a comedy director. They hired me to do this overboard, and we had fun doing it ... Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it — not one complaint. Every place I've gone in the world people say, "God, you were so funny." Asians and Chinese come up to me and say, "Mickey you were out of this world."[58]

Rooney also said that if he had known the portrayal would have offended people so much, "I wouldn't have done it. Those that didn't like it, I forgive them and God bless America, God bless the universe, God bless Japanese, Chinese, Indians, all of them and let's have peace."[58]

The film continues to draw criticism for this character, now widely considered to be a racist caricature, particularly when the movie is selected as a "classic" screened in public spaces, supported by tax dollars. In 2011, a SyFy and Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation screening inspired petitions.[59]

Film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne stated in a Q&A that he would recast Rooney from the picture saying, "that was such a racial slur, out of nowhere, and I blame Blake Edwards for that decision, the caricature was totally embarrassing".[60]

In 2022 in the UK, Channel 5 broadcast an edited version of the film in which all the shots of Mr Yunioshi were deleted, though Mickey Rooney's credit remained in the main titles, leading to accusations of censorship.[61] Channel 5 is wholly-owned subsidiary of the American media conglomerate Paramount Global, which owns the rights to the film.

Home media


Breakfast at Tiffany's was one of the first Hepburn films to be released to the home video market in the early 1980s,[citation needed] and is also widely available on DVD. On February 7, 2006, Paramount released a 45th anniversary special edition DVD set in North America with featurettes not included on the prior DVD release:

  • Audio Commentary – with producer Richard Shepherd
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Making of a Classic – a making-of featurette with interviews by Edwards, Neal, the "laughing/crying" woman from the party, and Sean Ferrer, Hepburn's son.
  • It's So Audrey! A Style Icon – a short tribute to Hepburn.
  • Brilliance in a Blue Box – a brief history of Tiffany & Co.
  • Audrey's Letter to Tiffany – an accounting of Hepburn's letter to Tiffany & Co. on the occasion of the company's 150th anniversary in 1987.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery

On January 13, 2009, a remastered Centennial Collection version of the film was released. In addition to the special features on the 45th anniversary edition, this version includes:

  • A Golightly Gathering – Reuniting some of the past cast members from the party with interviews on their experiences filming that segment.
  • Henry Mancini: More Than Music – A featurette about Henry Mancini, "Moon River" and interviews with Mancini's wife and children.
  • Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective – Documentary discussing the reaction and Asian perspective of the character of Mr. Yunioshi, one of the most controversial characters in film.
  • Behind the Gates – A tour through Paramount Studios

In 2011 a newly remastered HD version of the film was released on Blu-ray with many of the features from the aforementioned DVDs. The digital restoration of the film was done by Paramount Pictures. The digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches and other artifacts. The film was restored to its original look for its 50th anniversary.[62][63]

Stage adaptations


In 2004, a musical adaptation of the film made its world debut at The Muny in St. Louis.[64]

In May 2009, Anna Friel starred in a London adaptation that opened in September 2009 at the Haymarket Theatre.[65]

A new stage adaptation made its debut in March 2013 at the Cort Theater in New York City with Emilia Clarke in the role of Holly Golightly.[66]

See also



  1. ^ $1000 in 2023[2]


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  2. ^ "Calculate the Value of $100 in 1960. How much is it worth today?". DollarTimes. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
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  4. ^ Paris, Barry (1996). Audrey Hepburn. Berkley Books. ISBN 978-0399140563.
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Further reading

  • Spoto, Donald (2006). Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-307-23758-3.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's, by George Axelrod. Published by Paramount Home Entertainment (UK), 1960. (film script)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote. Published by Random House, 1958.
  • Wasson, Sam (August 30, 2011). Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0061774164.