August 2nd, 2010
05:54 PM ET
Pop quiz: Which actress gave the most influential, ground-breaking performance in movie history?
The answer would be none other than Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." At least, that's the impression you get reading Sam Wasson's recent book, "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman."
Hepburn's role as the carefree party girl "Holly Golightly," Wasson argues, influenced fashion forever (the little black dress), challenged Hollywood's notions of beauty (not everyone had to look like Marilyn Monroe) and opened up things for women on screen.
In the movies before "Tiffany's," he says, "if the women were having sex, even a little bit of sex, they were gonna repent for it by the end of the movie... You couldn't really be a single girl going out, having a great time, meeting a lot of men, and get away with it. And the casting of Audrey in this part confirms that it's okay."
Like most authors tackling an old subject, Wasson tried to unearth new nuggets of information, one of which being that an alternate ending was shot for "Tiffany's."
In it, "Holly and Paul, they don't really get together, they kind of embrace in the alley after finding the cat, but it's a platonic, friendly thing. It's not charged with sex and romance." He also learned leading man George Peppard was “difficult,” “pretentious” and “unanimously disliked by everyone on the film."
The search for new info had Wasson chasing down hot tips – including one that led him to pose a highly personal question to the film's director, Blake Edwards, inquiring if there was ever a romance between him and Audrey. Edwards responded, "In those days, we were all in love with Audrey."
This answer led Wasson to muse that "Either it means Blake did have an affair with Audrey and doesn't want to tell tales, or he didn't have an affair with Audrey and wants us to think maybe he did. Well I guess it's either one of the two, isn't it?”
But does the public still care about a 50-year-old movie? Will they care 50 years from now? Yes on both counts, Wasson says, and he credits it all to “Tiffany’s” iconic star.
“I put all my chips on Audrey," says the author. "As long as there are women - and men, but mostly women - growing up with the movies, identifying with an actress, really connecting, Audrey Hepburn will be utterly relevant.”
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