Monday, August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal and "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

By Lars Trodson

It could be that obituary writers for Patricia Neal forgot to mention that she was in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" because Audrey Hepburn so completely overwhelms the aura surrounding the movie. Perhaps. But it's worth noting that between the gauzy romanticism provided by George Peppard, and the touching hokiness offered by Buddy Ebsen and the cringe-worthy presence of Mickey Rooney, Neal braces the movie with some realism as the sophisticated New York designer who keeps Peppard's character in such nice clothes.

"I am a sophisticated girl," Neal says to Peppard after she writes him a check so he can take Holly Golightly on a vacation and get her out of his system. But he doesn't want the check, he only wants the sports jacket he had when they first met. He leaves her, and Neal is out of the picture. It's too bad, because then "Breakfast at Tiffany's" further devolves into a kind of slapstick jaunt, and the sharper edges of the movie, as hidden as they were anyway, fade away from view completely.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is not filled with very nice people, if you think about it. Holly uses her sexual allure to pay her rent. Peppard's Paul Varjak is a gigilo first and a writer second. Most of the men in the movie use Holly - the "rats and super rats" as she calls them. They only want to pay her for sex -- fifty dollars to meet in the "powder room." But their natures as obscured partially by the glitz of the stars.

Neal saunters into the movie, as sexy as any of them, but she doesn't hide her character behind a veneer of niceness and cute facial expressions. She pays Varjak to satisfy her sexual appetite, it's as simple as that, and she isn't particularly distressed over that fact. She alone balances out the movie in the few short scenes she's in.

The continued popularity of the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is no doubt due to the beautiful Audrey Hepburn. No question about it. But if Patricia Neal wasn't in it, it would still be remembered fondly, but it wouldn't be nearly as good as it manages to be.