Film adaptations may attract criticism especially when they involve a popular work with loyal reader base. It is not always possible to have a faithful adaptation which may upset either the fans of the novel or the novel’s author itself. Adaptations and subsequent creative licenses taken by the director create problems because “although some novels take very well to the screen, others depend for their power and development on their lengthiness, and they seem thin or abrupt on the screen” (Baker 191).
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Holly Golightly in the film is quite different from the Holly Golightly in the novel. While Holly’s costume, figure, and dark sunglasses in the film faithfully capture the character’s appearance in the novel, the film’s Holly also accommodates Audrey Hepburn’s unique persona. In the book, Holly’s dialogue when she loses her key is rushed and her nonchalant attitude becomes markedly over-sexual when she offers Mr. Yunioshi the opportunity to take her pictures. But in her interaction with Mr. Arbuck, she comes across as a strict businesswoman for demanding more than 20 cents if he were to accompany her on a trip to the powder room (Capote 12-15). The novel’s Holly is an ambiguous character who is neither unlikeable nor likeable. However, in the film, Hepburn’s own charisma makes the character likeable and projects Holly as innocent, vulnerable and quirky. Hepburn’s success at dramatically changing the character’s personality may also have contributed to the character’s iconic status and added to Hepburn’s fame. The film director was not afraid to inject some creativity into the movie. Another scene that allows us to witness Holly’s quirkiness is when Fred loses his key. Similarly, when Fred is in Holly’s apartment, Holly is wearing a men’s dress shirt yet there are no sexual tones due to the addition of Holly’s weird eye mask as well as a glass of milk. It is hard to imagine if anyone else could have portrayed Holly as well as Hepburn. Hepburn is really what makes the film shine. She is elegant and classy, and she makes the Holly in the film more adorable and quirky than the original Holly in the novel.
It is interesting to imagine Marilyn Monroe portraying Holly in place of Audrey Hepburn. Marilyn was a huge star and a sex symbol, thus, her portrayal of Holly might have made the character overtly sexual. Monroe as Holly would not have the same quirkiness and innocence as a call girl that Hepburn brings. Even if Monroe would have tried to emphasize the innocent aspect of the character, it would have an artificial feel to it unlike Hepburn whose looks naturally oozed innocence.
Even though the final product turned out to be amazing, I cannot help but note the fact that creativity went a little too far in the film and ignored author’s intentions at times. Capote developed the character, thus, one would assume he knew better who would have depicted Holly more realistically. Yet it feels strange that he really wanted Monroe for the role as he cites quite frequently in his prose of Holly’s waifish figure. Monroe might not have been overweight but, nonetheless, she had more voluptuous figure than the fictional Holly and Audrey Hepburn. Holly is an iconic role yet she is not primarily remembered for her sexuality, She is more of an idol and girls all across the country have adorned the walls of their bedrooms with Holly’s poster. Hepburn’s chic persona easily overshadows the call girl status of the character she has portrayed in the film.