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

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

3.6 104
by Sam Wasson
     
 

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“Reads like carefully crafted fiction…[Wasson] carries the reader from pre-production to on-set feuds and conflicts, while also noting Hepburn’s impact on fashion (Givenchy’s little black dress), Hollywood glamour, sexual politics, and the new morality. Capote would have been entranced.” — Publishers Weekly (starred

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Overview

“Reads like carefully crafted fiction…[Wasson] carries the reader from pre-production to on-set feuds and conflicts, while also noting Hepburn’s impact on fashion (Givenchy’s little black dress), Hollywood glamour, sexual politics, and the new morality. Capote would have been entranced.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Sam Wasson’s exquisite portrait of Audrey Hepburn peels backs her sweet facade to reveal a much more complicated and interesting woman. He also captures a fascinating turning point in American history— when women started to loosen their pearls, and their inhibitions. I devoured this book.” — Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson is the first ever complete account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With a cast of characters including Truman Capote, Edith Head, director Blake Edwards, and, of course, Hepburn herself, Wasson immerses us in the America of the late fifties, before Woodstock and birth control, when a not-so-virginal girl by the name of Holly Golightly raised eyebrows across the nation, changing fashion, film, and sex, for good. With delicious prose and considerable wit, Wasson delivers us from the penthouses of the Upper East Side to the pools of Beverly Hills presenting Breakfast at Tiffany’s as we have never seen it before—through the eyes of those who made it.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
“A bonbon of a book...as well tailored as the little black dress the movie made famous.”
Leonard Maltin
“This splendid new book is more than a mere ‘making-of’ chronicle. Wasson has pulled it off with verve, intelligence, and a consistent ring of truth...compulsively readable. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is both enjoyable and informative: everything a film book ought to be.”
Peter Bogdanovich
“A brilliant chronicle of the creation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Wasson has woven the whole so deftly that it reads like a compulsively page-turning novel. This is a memorable achievement.”
Karen Abbott
“Sam Wasson’s exquisite portrait of Audrey Hepburn peels backs her sweet facade to reveal a much more complicated and interesting woman. He also captures a fascinating turning point in American history— when women started to loosen their pearls, and their inhibitions. I devoured this book.”
People Magazine
"So smart and entertaining it should come with its own popcorn."
New York Magazine
"A fascination with fascination is one way of describing Wasson’s interest in a film that not only captures the sedate elegance of a New York long gone, but that continues to entrance as a love story, a style manifesto, and a way to live."
People
“So smart and entertaining it should come with its own popcorn.”
Women's Wear Daily
“A breezy tale of dresses and breakfast pastries, this is not.... The subtexts of Breakfast at Tiffany’s—materialism, sexual freedom—were decidedly more complicated.”
New York magazine
“A fascination with fascination is one way of describing Wasson’s interest in a film that not only captures the sedate elegance of a New York long gone, but that continues to entrance as a love story, a style manifesto, and a way to live.”
The Huffington Post
“Wasson’s story is part encyclopedia, part valentine, and worth reading just to find out what exactly went into making the amazing party scene.”
New York Times
“Crammed with irresistible tidbits…[Wasson’s] book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that Breakfast at Tiffany’s made famous.”
Wall Street Journal
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. offers lots of savory tidbits [from the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s]. Mr. Wasson brings a lively and impudent approach to his subject.”
USA Today
“Anyone even slightly interested in Capote/Hepburn/Breakfast at Tiffany’s will delight in [Wasson’s] account.”
The New Yorker
“Sam Wasson is a fabulous social historian...[Fifth Avenue, 5 AM] is as melancholy and glittering as Capote’s story of Holly Golightly.”
Arrive Magazine
“Sam Wasson unfolds the dramatic story of the film’s creation. He also offers a fascinating slice of social history.”
AOL Stylelist
“[We] couldn’t put down Sam Wasson’s new book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M..... Along with juicy film gossip, the book offers behind-the-scenes insight on how Hepburn and designer Hubert de Givenchy created Holly Golightly’s iconic style.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Reading a book about a movie is seldom as entertaining as watching the film, but Wasson’s is the rare exception.”
Daily News
“Wasson offers enough drama to occupy anyone for days...The whole thing reads like a cool sip of water.”
Publishers Weekly
Wasson, who wrote on the career of writer-director Blake Edwards in A Splurch in the Kisser, tightens his focus for a closeup of Edwards's memorable Breakfast at Tiffany's, which received five Oscar nominations (with two wins). Interviewing Edwards and others, he skillfully interweaves key events during the making of this cinema classic. He begins (and ends) with Truman Capote, whose novel was initially regarded as unadaptable by the producers, since they “hadn't the faintest idea how the hell they were going to take a novel with no second act, a nameless gay protagonist, a motiveless drama, and an unhappy ending and turn it into a Hollywood movie.” The flow of Wasson's words carries the reader from pre-production to on-set feuds and conflicts, while also noting Hepburn's impact on fashion (Givenchy's little black dress), Hollywood glamour, sexual politics, and the new morality. Always stingy with praise, Capote dismissed the finished film as a “mawkish valentine to New York City,” but one feels he would have been entranced by Wasson's prismatic approach as he walks “a perilous path between the analytic interpretation and the imaginative one.” The result deserves Capote's “nonfiction novel” label. Recapturing an era, this evocative “factual re-creation” reads like carefully crafted fiction. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
Behind the scenes of the cinema's gold standard for sparkling romantic comedy. In this slim, fast-paced volume, Wasson (A Splurch in the Kisser: The Films of Blake Edwards, 2009) presents an irresistibly gossipy account of the production of Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), charting the transformation of actress Audrey Hepburn into an icon of emerging sexual liberation-the good/bad girl, the lovable "kook," independent and sexually experienced but sufficiently charming to bring home to mother. Rich in incident and set among the glitterati of America's most glamorous era, the book reads like a novel. Hepburn's "discovery" by the regal French author Colette, searching for an actress to incarnate her character Gigi on the stage, has the fairy-tale resonance of the actress' star-making turns in Roman Holiday (1953) and Sabrina (1954). Breakfast at Tiffany's was a tricky proposition for a film adaptation. The novel's sexually progressive elements were severely at odds with Hollywood's notions of acceptable content. Truman Capote lobbied for pal Marilyn Monroe to play the part of party girl Holly Golightly-and, startlingly, expressed wishes to play the male lead himself-but Monroe's image was too sexual for such delicate material, and the part went instead to the girlish Hepburn, a doe-eyed ingenue convinced she could not do justice to the part. Other players in the Wasson's narrative include writer George Axelrod, frustrated by the neutering of his previous screenplays and eager to get a sophisticated, adult sex comedy on screen; up-and-coming director Blake Edwards, witty and enthusiastic but nobody's first choice for the job; male lead George Peppard, disliked and mocked by the rest of the company for his method-acting pretensions and general arrogance; and composer Henry Mancini, whose jazzy score ushered in a sea change for movie music and whose classic song "Moon River" was nearly cut at the 11th hour by a producer who preferred more traditional Broadway fare. Wasson marshals this rich material in a page-turning delight. Even if his assertions of the movie's sociological significance don't fully convince, he has assembled a sparkling time capsule of old Hollywood magic and mythmaking. As infectious as Mancini's score, and sure to please lovers of classic American cinema. Agent: David Halpern/The Robbins Office

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061774164
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/30/2011
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
274,281
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman
By Sam Wasson

Harper Perennial

Copyright © 2011 Sam Wasson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061774164


Chapter One

THINKING IT
1951–1953
THE FIRST HOLLY
Traveling was forced upon little Truman Capote from the
beginning. By the late 1920s, his mother, Lillie Mae, had made a
habit of abandoning her son with relatives for months at a time
while she went round and round from man to high-falutin'
man. Gradually the hand offs began to hurt Truman less—either
that, or he grew more accustomed to the pain—and in time,
his knack for adaptation turned into something like genius.
He was able to fit in anywhere.
After his parents' divorce, five-year old Truman was sent
to his aunt's house in Monroeville, Alabama. Now was Lillie
Mae's chance to quit that jerkwater town and hightail it to a big
city. Only there could she become the rich and adored society
woman she knew she was destined to be, and probably would
have been, if it weren't for Truman, the son she never wanted
to begin with. When she was pregnant, Lillie Mae—Nina, as
she introduced herself in New York—had tried to abort him.
Perhaps if she had gone away and stayed away, young
Truman would have suffered less. But Nina never stayed away
from Monroeville for long. In a whirl of fancy fabrics, she would
turn up unannounced, tickle Truman's chin, offer up an assortment
of apologies, and disappear. And then, as if it had never
happened before, it would happen all over again. Inevitably,
Nina's latest beau would reject her for being the peasant girl
she tried so hard not to be, and down the service elevator she
would go, running all the way back to Truman with enormous
tears ballooning from her eyes. A day or so would pass;
Nina would take stock of her Alabama surroundings and once
again, vanish to Manhattan's highest penthouses.
Had he been older, Truman might have stolen his heart
back from his mother the way he would learn to shield it from
others, but in those days he was still too young to be anything
but in love with her. She said she loved him, too, and at times,
like when she brought him with her to a hotel, promising that
now they'd really be together, it looked to him as though she
finally meant it. Imagine his surprise then when Nina locked
him in the room and went next door to make money-minded
love with some ritzy someone deep into the night. Truman, of
course, heard everything. On one such occasion, he found a
rogue vial of her perfume and with the desperation of a junkie,
drank it all the way to the bottom. It didn't bring her back, but
for a few pungent swallows, it brought her closer.
For the better part of Capote's career as a novelist, that
bottle—what was left of his mother—would be the wellspring
of most of his creations. The idea of her, like the idea of love
and the idea of home, proved a very hard thing to pin down.
He tried, though. But no number of perfume bottles or whiskey
bottles, no matter how deep or beautiful, could alter the
fact of her absence. Nor could most of the women or men to
whom Truman attached himself. They could never pour
enough warmth into the void.
In consequence, Capote was equal parts yearning and
vengeance, clutching at his intimates with fingers of knives
that he would turn back on himself when left alone. However
sharp, those fingers pulled his mother from the past and
put her on the page where, in the form of language, he could
remake her perfume into a bottomless fragrance called Holly
Golightly. That's how Truman finally learned the meaning of
permanence.
Once the reading world got a whiff of it, eau d'Holly made
everyone fall in love with Truman, which, since his mother
had left him that first time, was the only thing he ever wanted.
That and a home—a feeling of something familiar—like an
old smell, a favorite scarf, or the white rose paperweight that
sat on Truman's desk as he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's.
THE WHITE ROSE PAPERWEIGHT
When he was in Paris in 1948, soaking in accolades for his lurid
first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman was delivered
by Jean Cocteau to Colette's apartment in the Palais Royal. She
was nearing eighty, but the author of Gigi, the Claudine novels,
and countless others, was still France's grandest grande dame
of literature.
In full recline, Colette, racked with arthritis, no doubt
smiled at Truman's author photograph on the dust jacket of
Other Voices. Staring out at her with his languid eyes and slick
lips, the boy's salacious look was one the old woman knew well;
in her day, she had rocked Paris with a few succès de scandales
of her own, both on the page and off. Now here was this rascal
with his angel's face—a hungry angel's face. How delicious.
She felt for sure there existed a kind of artery between them,
and even before he entered her bedroom, Truman sensed it
too. "Bonjour, Madame." "Bonjour." They hardly spoke each
other's language, but as he approached her bedside, their bond
grew from assured to obvious. The artery was in the heart.
After the tea was served, the room got warmer, and Colette
opened Truman's twenty-three-year old hand. In it she
placed a crystal paperweight with a white rose at its center.
"What does it remind you of?" she asked. "What images occur
to you?"
Truman turned it around in his hand. "Young girls in their
communion dresses," he said.
The remark pleased Colette. "Very charming," she said. "Very
apt. Now I can see what Jean told me is true. He said, 'Don't
be fooled, my dear. He looks like a ten-year old angel. But he's
ageless, and has a very wicked mind.' " She gave it to him, a
souvenir.
Capote would collect paperweights for the rest of his life,
but years later the white rose was still his favorite. Truman
took it with him almost everywhere.
It all began for Audrey Hepburn in spring of 1951 on a gorgeous
day like any other. She rose at dawn, had a cup of coffee
in bed, and took her breakfast—two boiled eggs and a slice of
whole wheat toast—to the window, where she could watch the
morning people of Monte Carlo sail their yachts into the sea.
Such a leisurely breakfast was a rare pleasure for her; back in
England, where she had been working regularly, they started
shooting at sunup. But the French liked to do things differently.
They didn't really get going until après dejeuner, and
they worked late into the night, which gave Audrey mornings
to explore the beaches and casinos, and time to place a call to
James, her fiancé, who was off in Canada on business—again.
He really was a very sweet boy, and attractive, and from the
Hansons, a good and wealthy family. He loved her of course,
and she loved him, and from the way it looked in the press,
they had everything. But everything is nothing when there's
no time to enjoy it. With her schedule taking her from film
to film, and his seemingly endless tour of the world's ritziest
boardrooms, it was beginning to look like they were betrothed
in name only. Perhaps, Audrey thought, she was foolish to
think she could be an actress and a wife. If she wanted to settle
down—and she did, very badly—she would have to put films
aside. At least, that's what James said. Only then could they
really truly be together.
Somewhere in her mind they were. They had a house, two
or three children, and a limitless expanse of days broken only
by sleep. Thankfully, her role in Monte Carlo Baby was only
going to last a month. That was no small consolation.
COLETTE AWOKEN
The Hotel de Paris was unquestionably the most stunning
hotel in all of Monaco. Judging from its façade, a Belle Epoque
confection of arches and spires, only the absolute cream of
society could make a habit of staying there. For Audrey, who
had never been to the Riviera, being at the Hôtel de Paris was
a thrill tempered only by her longing for James and the inanity
of the film (the script was drivel; some semi-musical fluff about
a missing baby). But for Colette, it was nothing unusual, just
another drop in the great gold bucket of luxury; she had been
a regular since 1908. Now, as a guest of Prince Rainier, Colette
was the palace queen, and as her wheelchair was turned down
the hotel's stately corridors, that's exactly how the footmen
greeted her. No doubt they saw in the old woman all the
arterial fire of her novels, which seemed to throb through her
from toe to tête, culminating in an explosion of red-broccoli
hair.
The doctors sent her there to rest, but resting, for Colette,
required more effort than working. Since her New York agent's
assistant had taken it upon himself to single-handedly produce
a play of her novel Gigi, Colette couldn't get the idea out of
her mind. She'd even gone a little delirious trying to cast the
title part and began to see Gigis everywhere—on the street, in
the sea, and popping up in photographs. But none quite satisfied
Colette, and time wore expensively on. Those who had
invested in the project grew restless, and—as tends to be the
case in most casting legends—they were about to force the
play upon a proven star, when, at the last minute, Colette was
disturbed on her way to dinner.
What was about to happen would change Audrey's life
forever.
To her annoyance, Colette discovered that the main dining
room had been closed for the shooting of Monte Carlo Baby. Would
she, the maître d' asked her, take her dinner in the breakfast room
instead? Absoluement non! Insulted, Colette pushed her way right
into the dining room and right into the middle of a take.
The scene stopped dead in its tracks. The crew looked up.
No one breathed, except Colette. Catching sight of a strangely
compelling young woman, Colette squinted through the
beaming lights and raised her eyeglasses for a closer look.
Audrey, of course, had no inkling of being watched. Nor
had Colette any inkling of who she was. What she did know,
however, was that she seemed to have stepped into her own
novel: in face, body, and poise, she was staring at Gigi come
to life.
Perhaps Colette stared for full minutes, or perhaps just
moments, but most likely she spoke out instantly, for as Audrey
has proven millions of times since, that is all it takes for
her to overcome whoever lays eyes on her. In an instant—a
scientific measurement when speaking of stars—she conveyed
to Colette what it took the author an entire novel to describe.
That is, the story of a Parisian girl, who at sixteen, was set to
undergo the education of a courtesan.
"Voilà," Colette said to herself, "c'est Gigi."
And like that, Audrey's transformation had begun.
"Voilà . . ." Like that.
It all sounds so magical, and indeed in a way it was, but
like all perfect acts of casting, Colette's epiphany was born of
more than just gut feeling—it was born from fact. Although
Audrey's innate sensuality, her Gigi-ness, was written all over
her, no one until Colette had seen it. Perhaps it was because of
Audrey's strangeness. Her legs were too long, her waist was
too small, her feet were too big, and so were her eyes, nose,
and the two gaping nostrils in it. When she smiled (and she
did often), she revealed a mouth that swallowed up her face
and a row of jagged teeth that wouldn't look too good in closeups.
She was undoubtedly not what you would call attractive.
Cute maybe, charming, for sure, but with only the slightest
hint of makeup and a bust no bigger than two fists, she was
hardly desirable. The poor girl was even a bit round-faced.
And yet Colette couldn't stop staring. She was fascinated.
WHAT SHE SAW PART I: THE FACE
Audrey's might not have been the face of a goddess, but like
most teenagers, Gigi did not begin as a goddess. She was simply
a girl on the precipice of young adulthood, full of potential,
but without experience. And her eyes said that, didn't they?
They were certainly on the big side, but they were also wide,
and wide-eyed people have a look of perpetual curiosity.
Colette's Gigi had that. So do all those who don't yet know the
world. But that nose would be a problem, wouldn't it? It was
not sleek or pretty in the manner of high society ladies, and
neither were her hair, teeth, or thickset eyebrows. So how
would such a Gigi, looking not unlike a stray puppy, gain
access to the haut monde?
There was little that was womanly about her in the sexual
sense, nothing that said she was capable of pleasing a man, and
certainly nothing that looked ahead to the naughty
insinuations of Holly Golightly.
Or was there? Was there a drop of sex someplace beneath?
Smiling now, Colette lowered her eyeglasses and leaned
forward for a closer look.
WHAT SHE SAW PART II: THE BODY
The girl carried herself like a suppressed ballerina. Despite
what were then considered physical imperfections, Audrey
had a remarkable discipline in movement, one that told of self-
possession impossibly beyond her years, and so much so that
to watch her, Colette had to wonder at how a thing so young
could have understood poise so completely. In her simplest
gesture Audrey communicated a complete knowledge of
propriety, and by extension, an inner grace that belied whatever
made her look that unusual in the first place. She wasn't
dancing, but she might as well have been.
EVERYTHING THAT IS IMPORTANT IN A FEMALE
"Madame?"
A flock of admirers had approached Colette. She swatted
them off. (Colette would enchant them later. If she was in the
mood.) The old woman reached up and pulled down an
unsuspecting member of the crew.
"Who is that?" she croaked, nodding in Audrey's direction.
"That is Mademoiselle Hepburn, madame."

"Tell her I want to speak with her." She released him and
added a touch of pink powder to her nose. "Tell them to bring
her to me."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson Copyright © 2011 by Sam Wasson. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Karen Abbott
“Sam Wasson’s exquisite portrait of Audrey Hepburn peels backs her sweet facade to reveal a much more complicated and interesting woman. He also captures a fascinating turning point in American history— when women started to loosen their pearls, and their inhibitions. I devoured this book.”
Leonard Maltin
“This splendid new book is more than a mere ‘making-of’ chronicle. Wasson has pulled it off with verve, intelligence, and a consistent ring of truth...compulsively readable. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is both enjoyable and informative: everything a film book ought to be.”
Peter Bogdanovich
“A brilliant chronicle of the creation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Wasson has woven the whole so deftly that it reads like a compulsively page-turning novel. This is a memorable achievement.”

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