Thursday, October 14, 2010

Audrey and me part deux

Well, I finally saw Breakfast at Tiffany's which in 1961 was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including one for Audrey, in spite of her fear of not being up to the challenge, as I wrote in the previous blog.

It's actually a pretty good movie with one odd and offensive objection, but I'll get to that later. The movie, based on a rather dark novel from Truman Capote was drastically changed for the screen in order for it to pass the censors. The world was changing as it fell into the 1960's and this movie was part of the change.

The story, if you don't know it, is about a girl who's a high class hooker and a guy who's also a high class hooker. Audrey as a hooker? Well, the screenplay danced around that with innuendo and subtle references, yet it changed America and the world in many aspects, especially one.

The black dress.

In the opening scene, Audrey appears on 5th Avenue very early, no people on the streets and she walks to the window of Tiffany's and looks in, having a danish and coffee. And she's wearing a classic black dress. She's obviously been at a party or with a "date".

What's so special about the black dress? Well, until this movie, the classic black dress that most if not all women now own, was not that popular. It signaled a change in America, black was always for funerals, and even went back to the 1920's when young women would wear black just to be different.

There's several abstract references to her "work" including getting $50 to go to the "powder room". Remember this was the time when bad girlsl in movies paid the price at the end, and censors made sure you couldn't say or do certain things.

You had to have two beds for husband and wife in movies and TV shows, I grew up wondering why my parents slept in one bed.

But Audrey's brief scene with a Givinchey black dress changed women's clothes forever. It stated a whole new attitude of independence and change that continues to this day. There's even an expression "you can't go wrong with basic black".

And there was another thing I noticed in the movie.

In spite of Audrey's reluctance to take this role and her insecurities about whether or not she could carry it off, she did a great job, it was all Audrey and no wonder she was nominated for an Oscar.

In the end, she delivered.

So how does that come around to me?

Because I realized that in spite of my fears and insecurities about how producers would realize I really wasn't that good,  I still delivered also.

That doesn't mean that producers necessarily liked the screenplay but the writing was always good, because once you become a pro, you can't really do a bad job unless you're lazy or just not interested.

And I've done my share of those jobs; mostly fixing someone else's script and trying to make it better, at least in my opinion. There are times when I knew damn well that the script would still be bad even if I rewrote it, but then the producer would usually like what I did because that's what he wanted to do.

And most of the time producers like that are generally lacking any ability to sense good versus bad. And there are a lot of them around.

Writing good comes from several things, the first and most important one to me is curiousity, I want to know everything,  secondly is discipline and the third is to be able to step outside of yourself, sort of like an out of body experience, to be able to look at your work from the point of view of an average person.

Like the studio exec told me; talent is great if you have it, but craft and discipline are better.

But try to watch Breakfast At Tiffany's, and consider that it was a landmark film for it's time, the character of a young woman who was as liberal as was possible then, saying what she wanted to say, doing what she wanted and living off money made by prostitution, not that it's all spelled out at all.

And what was that offensive thing I mentioned earlier?

Mickey Rooney was also in the movie and somehow he convinced the producers and Blake Edwards to let him play the Japanese caretaker of the apartment building. Rooney does it in an insulting over-the-top portrayal that insults and offends any Asian person in the world. It almost seems like another movie.

In the extras of the video, Edwards says he wish he would have recast the part.

Apart from those odd scenes, the rest of the movie is quite watchable, slightly dated but the story, slightly similar to Sex In the City, but a lot tougher with Hepburn's  portrayal of a fun-loving hooker.

1 comment:

  1. I'm never sure about that one, Jim, as I saw the movie when it was first released and found Mickey Rooney very funny. But that was then when we were used to seeing a white man play Charlie Chan and if a Japanese man had played the Mickey Rooney role would he have played it differently considering the script.
    I'm not sure if, in another Blake Edwards movie, people complained about Peter Sellers playing the bumbling French detective Inspector Clauseau with the bad pronunciations in The Pink Panther.