I had a lovely time at the multi-plex this afternoon, where I had the rare opportunity to watch a classic film in the kind of theater that is usually home to the latest big screen blockbuster. Because of this, it always feels like a triumph to me to attend movies presented by TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events. In the past I have fulfilled the dream of seeing Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) in a theater through these screenings. Today I saw a film I have loved since I was a teenager, but never had the chance to see on the big screen: Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).
The screening included an intro and outro by TCM host Tiffany Vasquez. This is one of my favorite parts of the series, because it always makes the event feel intimate and special. While I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about Breakfast at Tiffany's, Vasquez did share a few tidbits after the film that were new to me.
Seeing a film that has been a part of your life for many years in a theater is always an interesting experience. You end up laughing at jokes that would never inspire a giggle at home and some audience reactions can be shocking and even cringe worthy. In this case I was a bit stunned by the laughter that Mickey Rooney's racist portrayal of the photographer Mr. Yunioshi inspired; a performance that the actor and director Blake Edwards themselves would later regret.
I was also amused to hear snoring from near the front of the theater, starting less than an hour into the film and lasting until the end. Maybe someone was trying to humor their significant other and failed?
Over the decades I've been watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, my feelings about it have gone through many changes. As a teenager, I was impatient with the developments of the plot, and more interested in Hepburn, her gorgeous fashions and the rhythm of the dialogue and Henry Mancini score. In later years, I paid more attention to the relationships, and eventually fully understood the lonely aimlessness of Holly Golightly (Hepburn) and her upstairs neighbor Paul Varjack's (George Peppard) lives and of those who tried to control them.
While I still adored the fashion, music and amusing script, this time around I felt more indignation than I had before about the way people treated Holly Golightly. Just about everyone she meets feels the need to tell her how to be and even what to feel. From the men she meets in nightclubs, to her ex-husband and even Paul himself, she is treated like their possession.
Oddly enough, I also felt more sympathy for those people than I had before too. I teared up when Doc Golightly opened those blue eyes and showed he knew he was going to get on a bus broken hearted. It made me crumble a bit when Paul thought Holly was married and realized how disappointed he was to lose the possibility of her love. It isn't just Holly's suitors that tugged at me either, as 2E, the glamorous society lady keeping Paul, Patricia Neal made me feel her need to have some control, over a man, over the decoration of his apartment and in the kind of attention he paid her.
While Breakfast at Tiffany's has its flaws, it is deservedly a classic. Beneath its glossy exterior is a cast of desperate characters; their heartache, and the skill of the actors who play them, keeps the production from becoming insubstantial fluff. As if to soften the edges, this film is also devoted to romance, making a dramatic change from the ending of the Truman Capote novella upon which it was based to claim that Hollywood happy ending in a way that has rarely, if ever, been matched.
There are still showings of this film across the country this week! Tickets for the 2:00pm and 7:00pm shows on Wednesday, 11/30, can be purchased at Fathom Events.
Next up for TCM Big Screen Classics: From Here to Eternity, with showings on December 11 and 14.
Many thanks to Fathom Events for providing tickets to the show.
Image courtesy of Fathom Events.