Book Review: Fifth Avenue 5am

A taxi pulls up on a quiet New York street. A young woman in a long black dress and a pearl necklace gets out of the car. Armed with a cup of coffee and a pastry in a paper bag, she proceeds to a shop window to browse. The shop is Tiffany’s and the woman is Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. It’s the first scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’,one of Hepburn’s most iconic roles. Fifth Avenue 5am is the story behind the story, the genesis of the movie.

The book’s undeniable star is Hepburn herself. While the movie is famously adapated from the novella of the same name written by Truman Capote, the book itself starts with the discovery of a young Audrey Hepburn by the French author Colette, who famously asserted she had found her Gigi In a way, 5th Avenue 5am is also a story of the evolution of Audrey Hepburn from an ingenue to style icon and her place in contemporary popular culture.

Supporting characters in the story are played by Truman Capote, the screenwriter George Axelrod, the director Blake Edwards, and the musical director Henry Mancini who wrote  Moon River.

Of course there is also Holly Golightly herself. Capote never reveals upon whom he built the character, but his inspirations are discussed. The story of a call-girl who confides in her gay best friend had to be significantly adapted by Axelrod to pass the stringent moral codes of the period, not to mention Audrey Hepburn herself, who also asked for the character to be softened.

Her wardrobe also features in the story.With Hubert de Givenchy she had revolutionised the way women dress with her championing of the little black dress and her unique style.

At the end you are left with a cinema classic, which bears very little resemblance to the literary version. As the two versions are so dissimilar, it is nearly impossible to say which is the better. Both have their own unique charms. I often wonder how it would have turned out had Truman Capote gotten Marilyn Monroe as Holly and the screenplay had stayed truer to the original story.

If you are an Audrey fan or a fan of cinema you will appreciate this book.

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