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"...it's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague."
July 12, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

"Truman told Jack that he was frankly surprised that anyone who knew him well did not immediately recognize the inspiration behind Holly Golightly. And yet, everyone seems to agree that the true identity of Holly Golightly, nee Lula Mae Barnes, is a great mystery, and that her true inspiration can never be known. Well, that was yesterday, this is today. I’m here to clear that up. Spoiler: it was Truman’s mom. Mystery solved. Let’s break this down and find all the parallels between the two, if their virtually identical birth names were not enough." Lillie Mae Faulk – The Real Holly Golightly, from The Gloss's Shelved Dolls series.

In other reflections on "Breakfast at Tiffany's," character, and identity, David Latta briefly discusses the real-life actresses Capote favored to portray Holly/Lula Mae: Marilyn Monroe for the original film (the actual casting of Hepburn, et al, "made me want to throw up ... It was high treachery on the part of the producers"), 30-year-old Mary Tyler Moore for the short-lived musical... and a young Jodie Foster for the proposed big screen remake. (Also from Latta, another short inquiry into the real Holly Golightly and the infamous unfinished Capote novel "Answered Prayers" that mined the lives and betrayed the friendships of most all the women who willingly or unwittingly may have loaned character elements and real-life plotlines to one of fiction and cinema's über Manic Pixie Dream Girls.)
posted by taz (27 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Shelved Dolls series is pretty interesting. Thanks for the post.
posted by OmieWise at 11:39 AM on July 12, 2012


I'm not a remake fan, but Breakfast at Tiffany's is a movie that really should be remade in a way that's faithful to the book and to Truman Capote's wishes. It would be a completely different movie.
posted by orange swan at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


Interesting!
posted by Malla at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2012


Mostly this.
posted by Fizz at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is of course beside the point, but I don't think Holly qualifies as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl-- the story is very much about her issues and life and the persona she's created to paper over her past. To my understanding the MPDG is a trope that exists in order to show the mopey male protagonist how fascinating and fun he is because he's such a Unique And Important Artist.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree w shakespeherian that calling Holly an MPDG is to drastically misread who she is and the role she plays in the story.

That said, if you do drastically misread who she is and the role she plays in the story, it's not hard to see how some distantly recalled version of her, composed mostly of her surface quirks and affectations, would make her a strong prototype for the model.
posted by Naberius at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never seen the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I've read the novella. Therefore, I never understood people wanting to be her or declaring they *were* like her. She's--at best--tragic, but mostly she struck as pathetic. Failed at making herself better or incapable of re-inventing herself beyond the little choice of self she was given as a teenage bride in the sticks. But she so desperately pretends that she has, that she has some conception of another self, and she doesn't. She just has a different conception of the trappings.

I get that she's written as wondrously optimistic, but that always seemed so hollow and futile to me, given how incapable she seems of directing her own agency.

I love how Truman Capote writes, but I wouldn't want to be someone he had written.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


To my understanding the MPDG is a trope that exists in order to show the mopey male protagonist how fascinating and fun he is because he's such a Unique And Important Artist.

femme banal
posted by fleacircus at 12:25 PM on July 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ooh, now maybe we'll find out who he based In Cold Blood on!!!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:53 PM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Would have helped if someone had edited that article. Wow, so many glaring typos and errors.
posted by terrapin at 1:08 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awesome article, thanks for posting it.
posted by Diablevert at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2012


Breakfast at Tiffany's needs to be remade if only to get read of the godawful scenes of Mickey Rooney in yellowface.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:51 PM on July 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


That Shelved Dolls series is pretty interesting.

You can say that again! The Dorthy Parker one is great! This:
You know what else is terrible? The fact that, while it’s immediately obvious to everyone that she was just damn brilliant, Dottie never realized how brilliant she was. Neither did Hemingway, but he just kind of reveals himself to be a dick in the process.
is one of the truer statements about Hemingway you might find on the web.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hadn't seen Breakfast at Tiffany's until last year (yes, I'm 45 and gay and I don't understand how that happened, either).

But my take on Holly in the movie was definitely not one of eternal optimist, quirky pixie girl, etc. She is a deeply, deeply flawed character, tragic and pathetic as crush mentions above. At no point did I feel like, even were I a woman, I'd want to be identified with her at all.

At the end [spoilers!] when she sets her cat down out in the rain and then runs back to find him, only to realize, for a moment, that she's lost him - that her impetuousness and immaturity have caused her to hurt herself and those she cared about all along - does the utter pathos of her nature seem to finally strike her. That horrible moment when we see it dawn in her rain-splashed face the understanding and gathered pain and futility and waste of such a flippant life devoid of taking anything, including her own integrity and happiness, seriously is simply soul-crushing. It makes that plaintive meow that followed seem like a salvation trumpet.

I swear, I was unimpressed with the whole damn movie up until that very moment, and when it occurred, it seemed that the rest of the film suddenly fell into place. That moment was only so powerful - could only be so powerful - because of all the flippancy and frivolity and self-indulgent, quirky pixie girl nonsense Holly had been engaged in up to that point.

The whole film, for me, was encapsulated and redeemed -- like Holly herself -- in those last 60 seconds.
posted by darkstar at 2:11 PM on July 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm trying to see what Monroe and Jodie Foster had in common for Capote (and how either of them are remotely imaginable as the character in the novella), but drawing a complete blank. I'm guessing that casting wasn't one of Capote's skills.
posted by yoink at 2:29 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also extensively covered in this excellent read.
posted by telstar at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2012


Holly Golightly? She's a phony. But she's a real phony.
posted by gimonca at 3:16 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


The whole film, for me, was encapsulated and redeemed -- like Holly herself -- in those last 60 seconds.

You might want to skip the novella.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Being apparently the only person in the universe who finds that movie garish and unpleasant with its old-fashioned, out of place yellowface routines and big dramatic stagey ACCCTTINGG style, I feel slightly justified to know that Truman Capote was disappointed in it too. (He had his own reasons but I just feel better knowing I'm not the only person who ever lived who didn't like it.)
posted by bleep at 5:25 PM on July 12, 2012


Funny. In the circles of gay men in which I've traveled at various points in my life (of varying ages, so this isn't a generation-centric thought or idea), it's pretty much assumed that the entire Breakfast At Tiffany's story is a heterosexualization of a homosexual relationship, and so Holly was based on some male lover of Truman's, or perhaps a rent boy he knew.

(There's a similar theory in gay circles about Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf where George and Martha are a gay couple with one of them a transsexual, which gives an entirely new twist on the play.)
posted by hippybear at 6:32 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The one exception to my No CGI Remakes rule - I would pay cash money for a Lucas-esque redo of Breakfast at Tiffany's in which Pixar replaces Mr. Yunioshi with someone less execrable.
posted by zamboni at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2012


(There's a similar theory in gay circles about Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf where George and Martha are a gay couple with one of them a transsexual, which gives an entirely new twist on the play.)
posted by hippybear at 6:32 PM on July 12


Holly's brother Fred reminds me of George and Martha's son.

George Peppard and Patricia Neal's relationship might make more sense if she is a stand in for a man.

Whether or not Holly is gay, she definitely predicts the rise of the aspirational luxury brand consumer.
posted by knoyers at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2012


Funny. In the circles of gay men in which I've traveled at various points in my life (of varying ages, so this isn't a generation-centric thought or idea), it's pretty much assumed that the entire Breakfast At Tiffany's story is a heterosexualization of a homosexual relationship, and so Holly was based on some male lover of Truman's, or perhaps a rent boy he knew.

That might make some sense as a reading of the film, but it really doesn't as a reading of the novella. One of the most striking differences between film and book is that the narrator of the book clearly has no sexual interest in Holly whatsoever. He is an entirely disinterested observer of that part of her life.
posted by yoink at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012


Being apparently the only person in the universe who finds that movie garish and unpleasant with its old-fashioned, out of place yellowface routines and big dramatic stagey ACCCTTINGG style

Agreed with the yellowface, obviously, but disagree heavily with the acting. Pre-Actors' Studio style is different, to be sure, but I love it.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2012


Many people disagree with me on that but I don't understand why. It's a style that was developed I guess so that people in the back of the theater could see your facial expressions and hear you and everything. But we can all hear you now.
posted by bleep at 5:17 PM on July 13, 2012


Well it's more mannered and less naturalistic, sure, but I think it's a mistake to think that naturalistic is always better. It's a style that works very well for, like, Douglas Sirk melodramas, pretty much every noir, a lot of your more mannered and less naturalistic film types.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:45 PM on July 13, 2012


I don't mean to make too much of a blanket statement, I like a lot of different kinds of movies. The style just feels unbearable and as out of place and bizarre, imho, as the yellowface scenes. I felt slightly justified that Truman Capote didn't like it either.
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on July 13, 2012


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