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Breakfast at Tiffany's: 50 things to love about Holly Golightly

IT'S 50 years since Truman Capote introduced Holly Golightly to the world in his celebrated novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Today Holly – played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film – has become a modern icon. Alice Wyllie knows why...

1. She strikes a mean pose. The 1961 film's famous poster, on which Audrey Hepburn poses with a long cigarette holder, was named number 18 on a list of the best movie posters of all time.

2. She knows what she likes. "I'm just crazy about Tiffany's!"

3. She won't go to the bathroom for free. Holly is given $50 "for the powder room" by a male acquaintance, as payment for her companionship that evening.

4. She's got a great moniker. In an early version of the 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, the character was named Connie Gustafson. Eventually it became Holiday Golightly, then was shortened to Holly Golightly.

5. She's witty. "If I had her money, I'd be richer than she is."

6. She's unsentimental. Her pet cat is simply named "Cat".

7. But not that unsentimental. Who could fail to be moved when she desperately searches an alley in the rain for Cat whom, moments earlier, she had tossed unceremoniously out of a taxi?

8. She tells it like it is. "The mean reds are horrible. You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is."

9. She's looking forward to old age. "It's tacky to wear diamonds before you're 40; and even that's risky … they only look good on the really old girls … wrinkles and bones, white hair and diamonds. I can't wait."

10. She can sing. Moon River was written especially for Hepburn to perform in the film and won an Oscar for best original song.

11. She swings both ways. "Of course people couldn't help but think I must be a bit of a dyke myself," she says in the novella. "And of course I am. Everyone is a bit. So what? That never discouraged a man yet, in fact it seems to goad them on."

12. She makes things happen. In 1961 Tiffany & Co opened their doors on a Sunday for the first time since the 19th century, so scenes could be shot.

13. She's a heartbreaker. Though at the end of the film Holly kisses Paul in the rain, in Capote's novel she leaves for Brazil, and – except for a few postcards – he never hears from her again.

14. She has an interesting take on interior decor. Her couch is half an old-fashioned bathtub.

15. She doesn't count calories. In the first scene of the film she lingers outside Tiffany's, breakfasting on coffee and a Danish pastry – a testament to Hepburn's acting abilities, since she hated pastries.

16. She's inspiring. In 1995, Holly Golightly inspired the song Breakfast at Tiffany's by Texas band Deep Blue Something. It went to No 1 in the UK.

17. She's sooo not a Marilyn. The role was originally written for Marilyn Monroe, (whom Truman Capote wanted for the part), but her drama coach suggested that playing a call-girl would be bad for her image and the part went to Hepburn.

18. She doesn't please everyone. "It was the most miscast film I've ever seen," said Capote. "Holly Golightly was real – a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City and Holly, and, as a result, was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly."

19. She's resourceful. In one film scene, she wears a bedsheet at a cocktail party.

20. She's observant. When Paul tells her about the "angry, sensitive, intensely felt and promising" book he's writing, she observes there is no ribbon in his typewriter.

21. She's stylish. The famous black dress worn by Hepburn in the opening scenes of the film was designed by Givenchy and sold for $807,000 in 2006.

22 ...very stylish. From the enormous sunglasses to the pearls and cocktail dress, Holly's look is timeless and still copied today.

23. She knows never to stumble into bad lighting, metaphorical or otherwise. "Certain shades of limelight wreck a girl's complexion."

24. She's spontaneous. She spends a day with Paul doing things they've never done before; he has never had champagne before breakfast while she has never been for a walk in the morning.

25. She loves anything from Tiffany's, even a sterling-silver telephone dialler.

26. She's got sticky fingers. Holly and Paul decide to steal a pair of cat and dog masks simply because Paul has never shoplifted.

27. She finds attractive qualities in everyone. Even if it is usually the size of their bank balance, as in the unappealing Rusty Trawler's case: "He's the ninth-richest man under 50 in America!"

28. She'll never let anybody put her in a cage.

29. She's outgoing. Audrey Hepburn regarded the role as one of her most challenging, being an introvert who had to play an extrovert.

30. She's philanthropic. She visits Sing Sing prison weekly, earning $100 for an hour's conversation with the incarcerated mob boss Sally Tomato.

31. She's a terrible cook. When Holly invites Paul to dinner, the results are so disastrous that the pair go out to eat.

32. She's not one for continuity. When Holly gets out of the cab into the rain at the end of the film, her hair is already soaking wet.

33. She makes smoking look cool.

34. She pays critics no heed. We think she wouldn't particularly care that, upon its publication, the New Yorker dismissed Breakfast at Tiffany's as "empty nostalgia".

35. She's popular… around 30,000 copies of the book are sold every year.

36… very popular. In the book, when the narrator examines her rubbish he finds love letters "by the bale".

37. She has an eccentric book collection. "If a man doesn't like baseball, then he must like horses, and if he doesn't like either of them, well, I'm in trouble … he don't like girls."

38. She knows all the best eateries in New York. Unlike a certain unfortunate out-of-towner who, upon being asked which glamorous New York restaurant he would like to visit, answered, "Let's have breakfast at Tiffany's," an anecdote popular among Capote's social circle.

39. There's more than one side to her. Capote acknowledged that his heroine was a composite portrait of Manhattan socialites Gloria Vanderbilt, Carol Marcus and Oona O'Neill, as well as his mother and himself.

40. She doesn't conform to feminine ideals. In the book, Holly's hair is "boyish".

41. She's vague. On her calling card, she gives her address as "Travelling".

42. She's provocative. When she angers her landlord by ringing his doorbell to enter the building, having lost her key, she placates him by promising she'll let him take "those pictures we mentioned".

43. She's nothing like Audrey Hepburn. "I was nothing like her, but I felt I could 'act' Holly," Hepburn said. "I always wonder if I risked enough on that one. I should have been a little more outrageous."

44. And Audrey Hepburn's nothing like her. Holly is supposed to be a blonde hillbilly in her late teens, not a well-spoken brunette of 31.

45. She likes a strong drink. Her favourite tipple is "one-half vodka, one-half gin, no vermouth".

46. She's not quite as promiscuous as she implies. In the book she confesses she's only had 11 lovers.

47. She's fabulously nave. "He's a sensitive, a religious person," she says of mob boss Sally Tomato. "A darling old man."

48. She's unsympathetic. "Timber!" she shouts when her tall friend collapses drunk at a cocktail party.

49. She's generous. She gives the narrator a $350 bird cage for Christmas. When he remarks at the price, she says it only cost her a 'few extra visits to the powder room'.

50. She's always top banana in the shock department.

 
 
 

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