Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Poster

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I just finished reading Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Womanby Sam Wasson. It is not a design book per se, but it is about the“design” of an emblematic, classic film adapted from Truman Capote’sbestselling novel about a free-spirited Texas transplant turned call girl in New York. The complex and controversial differences between bookand film are well documented here as are all the many fascinatingtribulations in bringing taboo material to the screen in 1961, in theage of the infamous Hollywood Production Code.

Amid all the intrigue is a small section on the making of the film poster illustrated by Robert McGinnis, who mostly illustrated paperback book covers (below). Here is quote from the Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.:

“The stills weren’t really any good, so I sort of had totake a few leaps on my own. I was shooting pictures of a model for abook cover I was doing, and had her pose with the little orange cat Ihad in those days. I put the cat on her shoulder, but the cat wouldn’tstay, so she had to put her right arm up to hold it there. It was anaccident . . .

. . . I did give the figure a little more through thehips and bust, to idealize her just a little more. But the art directorwanted more leg showing. In the photographs I got, Audrey’s dress waslong, all the way to the floor. But I was told to make her sexier, so Iexposed that leg. That came from the art director, but I’m sure he gotit from the studio.”

Wasson explains that the cat was key to the poster. Rather thanemphasize Hepburn’s Holly Golightly character as a call girl, thestudio sought instead to depict her as a “kook,” which in the beatparlance of the day, meant “crazy, man.” As Wasson writes “McGinnisdidn’t know it, but that cat…was part of their spin on ‘kook.'”Without the cat, Holly is simply seductive. “The presence of the catquite cleverly plays against that potentially alienating feature.” Formore detail, I recommend reading the book. See the movie trailer here. And listen to Capote reading from the original novel here.

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