Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” F Scott Fitzgerald
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Before the words are barely out of my mouth I know most people have already conjured up the iconic pic of Ms Hepburn in all her finery standing on a deserted 5th with a cup of joe in one hand and a pastry in the other staring in a trance-like state into the window of the aforementioned. Her dress, a Givenchy, is one of the most famous items of clothing of the 20th century and perhaps the most famous LBD of all. Thanks to this role Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar, won a Golden Globe, entered fashion’s hall of fame, reignited the trend for uber long cigarette folders and got an opportunity to portray one of Hollywood’s most memorable Pygmalion/Cinderella characters.
However that she even got such an opportunity only came to pass because Capote’s first, and much preferred, choice for Golightly was talked out of the role of a prostitute, by ‘friends’ and chose instead to do The Misfits. And so we missed the opportunity to see Holly Golightly played by Monroe, an actor so removed from Hepburn and what she represented, that it is almost impossible to reimagine the film with her in the role. Capote was furious that Hepburn was chosen and felt betrayed by the studio and was very audible in his opposition to the regal and sophisticated Hepburn playing his country bumpkin, his hick who had escaped her rural and backward past to reinvent herself in the Big Apple.
Monroe’s Golightly would have been different, perhaps would have stayed true to Capote’s novella and therefore would have been a wholly different film. It would have been darker, more tragic and the fact that Ms Golightly works as a paid escort would not have been overlooked for something as trivial as an item of clothing. Monroe’s Golightly would have been a more pathetic, her past more harrowing, her future less bright. Marilyn’s past mirrored Golightly’s – she too married because there was no one else to take care of her- although Jim, Marilyn’s first hubbie, was a lot younger then Doc and did not have any, let alone a bucket load, of kids. And boy what a treat it would have been to hear Marilyn sing Moon River. Perhaps she might be remembered for her soulful rendition of this rather than her breathless birthday wishes for a certain president.
Another missed opportunity was that Steve McQueen was offered the role of Paul Varjak, but had to turn it down due to his contract and obligation to a different studio. Now George Peppard was fine and I think he did a great job, but just for one second picture McQueen and Monroe, together, hanging out in the 5 in Dime store, messing around with masks and then ending up in Tiffany’s. That both were making a living selling their bodies would be perfectly understandable, expected even, but that they were also both emotionally scarred, were fragile and drawn to one another, like jam to peanut butter, or Sinatra to Gardner, most plausible of all.
Monroe however did The Misfits, a film I love, but a film that caused her further heartache and sorrow. You have to wonder would anything have changed, would her story have had a different ending had she ignored her ‘friends’ and taken the role? Would it have earned her the respect the validation she so desired? Miller was on his way out anyway so might something have come of her and McQueen? The loving relationship she so longed for, but yet another thing that tragically eluded her. Although given his history with drugs that might not be one of the healthiest or best ideas. Marilyn didn’t need any encouragement in that department. But it would have been a fantastic ego boost,especially given the Miller was being such an ass, and a faithless one too, around this time.
Had it been McQueen and Monroe Breakfast at Tiffany’s would have been a joint affair, and that’s only assuming they were hungry enough to actually drag themselves out of bed. And it would have been a cup of joe and a cigarette – sans holder – shared.