Book Review: Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson

Title: Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.
Author: Sam Wasson
Genre: Non Fiction, Film
Year Published: 2010
Format: Paperback
Source: I purchased this book.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman is Sam Wasson‘s examination of the iconic film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and why that was a key film in the changing of women’s roles in modern society.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was originally a novella written by the talented Truman Capote. In Holly Golightly, Capote created a new woman and one of the most original characters in modern fiction. She was free-spirited and made no apologies for being a sexually active woman.

Capote envisioned Marilyn Monroe in the lead role of the film adaptation. But the producers didn’t see it that way. They knew the character would need to be toned down a bit for the film, and they wanted someone more . . . refined.

Audrey Hepburn is a modern icon, but how did she get that way? She made several very successful movies in the 1950s, including Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Funny Face. In all these films she is charming but always a lady.

Hepburn found her fashion muse in Hubert de Givenchy, who created the wardrobes for several of her films, including her iconic “little black dress” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The opening credits set the scene for the film (and for the cover of the book). It is early morning and Holly Golightly is wearing a long black dress. She has obviously been out all night. This dress came to be seen by young women as liberating. This dress wasn’t girlish or sweet – it was sexy.

Hepburn was nervous about making the film, because she was uneasy about Holly Golightly’s character – amoral, essentially a hooker. Hepburn was intensely aware of her stature of classy refinement – she first made a splash playing a European princess in Roman Holiday.

Henry Mancini had written scores for television, but was determined to write a score for this film. He was turned down but eventually wrote the film’s theme song (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer), “Moon River.”

George Axelrod had written the play and film The Seven Year Itch, but was determined to write Tiffany’s. The play was considered smutty, and no one considered Axelrod the right writer to pen such a classy film. He eventually did write the script for the film.

All of these factors came together into the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which in retrospect is a landmark film. You can’t imagine the movie without Hepburn, “Moon River”, or the little black dress.

This film was made at a time when filmmaking was still a labor of love – it wasn’t just about making the latest blockbuster or having the most special effects.

The movie was made in 1960 – the same year the birth control pill was approved for use in the United States – and released in 1961. The beginning of the sexual revolution had begun.

Wasson’s theory is that this film had a profound impact on young women at that time. Even if young women watching the film didn’t want Holly’s “profession” – they wanted a real career – they admired her liberated spirit. This new generation of young women wanted to have a fun, glamorous, slightly hedonistic existence of which they were in charge– and not have to apologize for it.

Wasson brings all of these disparate threads together to tell a fascinating story of how the movie came to be made and how everything eventually came seamlessly together. The film has become essential viewing, especially by young women. This is the film for which Audrey Hepburn is best remembered.

I loved this book because I love the film and Audrey Hepburn and was interested in how the movie came to be and why it has become such ah important film that even the young women of today love Audrey Hepburn and know this film. Wasson has done a fine job of research, talking to some of the participants involved and is obviously devoted to the subject. He has written a previous biography of Breakfast At Tiffany’s director, Blake Edwards.

I recommend this book if you love movies, Truman Capote, Audrey Hepburn, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Every week Parajunkee and Alison Can Read host Follow My Book Blog Friday!

This week’s question: Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!


Dear My Favorite Santa:

The last time we were in Barnes & Noble I waved a certain book at you and told you clearly that this is what I want for Christmas. I wanted to make it obvious about what I wanted since some of your previous gifts have clearly told me that like most men you are clueless about buying gifts for me (a rolling clothing rack — really?)

Thank you Santa Baby.


The Literary Lioness

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