Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Audrey Hepburn : The Paramount Years - Tony Nourmand

 It seems appropriate to follow up my Breakfast at Tiffany's review with a book on the lovely Audrey!! This isn't a biography being more a photo album. It encompasses the five films she made for Paramount Studios between 1953 to 1964. Those films being Roman Holiday ( 1953 ), Sabrina ( 1954 ), Funny Face ( 1957 ), Breakfast at Tiffany's ( 1961 ), and Paris When it Sizzles ( 1964 ).

 The book divides itself into sections. Obviously each film gets it own quasi type chapter. In between each is a short essay type chapter on Audrey, her life and career, and legacy. It is in no way definitive as the five films are the real purpose of the book. Each film chapter is a series of film stills, off screen shots, publicity shots, and the numerous posters of each film. This is no slapped together, cheap and nasty volume, as the photos are of a high quality, and the book is well presented. In is almost a photo essay of Audrey Hepburn and those five films.

 After I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's I read every book on her from my local library. I then moved onto online purchases and this was one of five books I brought. If you want a biography per se then I recommend both Enchantment : The life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto, and Audrey : Her real story by Alexander Walker. They are both reasonable biographies without being great. I still don't think the definitive Audrey bio has been written.

 So this book is very much one for the serious Audrey Hepburn fan and is a required volume for the bookshelf! At 167 pages, and in soft cover, it is a lovely book to just flick through, with the written parts short, well written, interesting, and informative. If you are an Audrey fan then go get it!!

 Since I've just reviewed Breakfast at Tiffany's I thought I'd type out the short piece the book has on the film. It is an example of the short, page length pieces, that dot the book on each film:

 More than any other, Breakfast at Tiffany's is perhaps the quintessential movie. Her image as Holly Golightly has achieved iconic status and the film represents the pinnacle of her acting career. Hepburn plays the part of a young and extraordinarily unconventional but sophisticated lady living the high life in New York with her cat. Using her formally trained airs and graces she works as a high priced call girl. Despite being perhaps an unlikely choice to play the protagonist from Truman Capote's 1958 original novella, Hepburn's 'innocent' interpretation is perhaps the very reason the character became so endearing.

 George Peppard plays the part of Paul 'Fred' Varjack, a struggling writer who moves into Holly's apartment block. Varjack's expenses are provided for by his 'sugar-mummy', Mrs Failenson 9 Patricia Neal ). an innocent friendship develops between Holly and Paul. Holly has her heart set on marrying into money and flitters from man to man, whilst Paul tries to shield her from the heartbreaks that inevitably come her way. Paul is charmed by her natural beauty and free spirit but Holly's determination obscures her from seeing the connection between them.

 An unexpected visit by Holly's ex-husband, Doc Golightly ( played by Buddy Ebsen ) gives an insight into Holly's past and brings Holly and Paul closer. In contrast to Capote's original dark ending where holly Golightly decides to go off travelling alone after a number of failed affairs, the film's plot offers a more romantic conclusion whereby Paul and Holly finally get together. It was a decision that upset Capote, who felt it undermined the outlook of a book about a hedonist who enjoys a spontaneous life of non-conformity.

 The film was adapted for the screen by George Axelrod, who was also responsible for writing many other Hollywood classics, including The Seven Year Itch ( 1955 ), Bus Stop (1956 ), and The Manchurian Candidate ( 1962 ). Axelrod had worked on the screenplay of Breakfast at Tiffany's with John Frankenheimer, who was originally to have been the film's director. ( The two did subsequently work together as director/screenwriter on The Manchurian Candidate ). The co-starring role of Paul Varjack was originally offered to Steve McQueen .But because he was still under contract for the hit television serial Wanted Dead or Alive, McQueen was unable to accept.

An immediate hit, Breakfast at Tiffany's box-office receipts more than recouped its budget of around $2 million. Hepburn's salary was $750,000 - a far cry from the $15,000 she had received for making Sabrina only seven years earlier.

 In a review for the New York Times upon the film's release, A.H. Weiler wrote  :

 ' A completely unbelievable but wholly captivating flight into fantasy. Above all, it has the over powering attribute known as Audrey Hepburn, who, despite her normal, startled-faun exterior, now is displaying a fey, comic talent that should enchant Truman Capote, who created the amoral pixie she portrays, as well as movie goers meeting her for the first time. all the quick silverish explanations still have the character as implausible as ever. But in the person of Miss Hepburn, she is a genuinely charming, elfin waif who will be believed and adored.'

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