The book Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson is like Breakfast at Tiffany's, the movie whose inside story the book reveals: fabulous and fun, but underneath all the delicious fluff, history is being made -- or in the case of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., being told. Before going further into the book or the fun or the history, I have to make two confessions. First, when I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's as a teenager I had not read Truman Capote's novel and the fact that Holly is a prostitute went right over my head -- it took this book by Wasson to light that bulb in my brain (I followed up by reading the novel Breakfast at Tiffany's and everything became very clear). And second, Julia Cheiffetz, the editor of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is my editor at HarperCollins. I hope she has the touch of magic with all her books. Reading Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is a magical ride through Hollywood deal-making, star-making, and movie-making.
In Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. Wasson covers all the angles of making a movie from finding a story and the writer to bring it to the screen, to securing a director, to casting the stars and then costuming them, to choreographing the shots and then cutting, fitting, and forming the final product from a collection of scenes, and, in the case of Breakfast at Tiffany's, finally choosing the right ending from two different endings and then sending the film out to the world via premieres and opening parties.
As for the fun, Wasson gives great gossip, scandals, truths and myths about the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's, as well as up close and personal moments with all of its stars -- most prominently, Audrey Hepburn -- and the behind the scenes guys, including the director Blake Edwards, writer George Axelrod, and composer Henry Mancini. Wasson includes fascinating background about Truman Capote and the possible models for his creation, Holly Golightly.
The most arresting part of the book- - and so easy to forget in the post-Pretty Woman era -- is how the filmmakers presented the story of Holly Golightly, a husband-abandoning, wild-partying, mafia-helping paid escort, in a way that both satisfied the Production Code Administration and presented a new and appealing and empowering expression of womanhood. No longer would only "bad girls" have fun and sex and independence. After seeing Holly Golightly, women around the country could shake off their peter pan-collared green dresses and start wearing little black dresses; they could live alone and pursue their dreams, both sexually and career-wise. Breakfast at Tiffany's didn't make this all happen, political and social changes of the 1960s which had roots back to World War II were responsible, but the movie made female freedom look good and glamorous and accessible -- and fabulous and fun. History in the making, and history told, in Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.
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