Jenny’s Classic Critiques: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Feel the love in the air this Valentine’s season and catch a classic romance film to set the mood.

Released in 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a romantic comedy film starring Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly) and George Peppard (Paul Varjak), both in the lead character roles. The film is set in New York City, and based on the novel of the same name by author and playwright Truman Capote. The plot is centered around Holly Golightly, a naïve high-end society girl who frequently accompanies wealthy men. Glamorous and charming, Golightly lives with her cat, who has no name but is referred to as “cat.” This becomes significant towards the end of the film as Golightly begins to examine her true identity which she eventually comes to terms with later on.  The “men” that Golightly seemingly surrounds herself with also appear to offer money and gifts in exchange for her companionship in which she often escorts them to parties, dinners, and various other high-end social gatherings.

At the beginning of the film, Golightly meets Paul Varjak who moves above her apartment. Varjak is an aspiring writer who is a “kept man” by the wealthy and married Mrs. Emily Failenso, played by Patricia Neal. The Mrs. is Varjak’s lover and supports him financially as he struggles to make ends meet as a writer. As Golightly and Varjak begin to form a friendship, it becomes clear they are attracted to each other, but steer clear of that attraction for the time being. It also becomes clear that Golightly leads an extraordinary life as she socializes with various eccentric and shady characters from high society. As the storyline unfolds, Golightly finds herself in questionable predicaments including visits to the local prison where she gives coded messages to an assumed mob associate. Her ambitions lead her to troubled situations as she is set on marrying the wealthiest man available, in doing so she also disregards her feelings for the handsome and caring Varjak and others who get too attached. Varjak on the other hand realizes his misgivings and decides to steer in a new direction which affects his relationship with his married lover. The relationship between Golightly and Varjak progresses throughout the film and their chemistry is spot on. We also see  Golightly’s past life come back to haunt her as an ex-husband (Buddy Ebsen) suddenly appears shocked at her transformation. What we learn is, is that Golightly has transformed her identity and livelihood eagerly ready to erase her past, which she’s ashamed of. The shame explains her ambitious endeavors and lust for glamor and wealth. 

George Peppard & Audrey Hepburn, 1961

When it comes to the casting, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard pair well together, as they are close in age and are equally attractive. At the time of the film, Hepburn was around 31 years of age, and Peppard at 32. Up until this point in Hepburn’s career, she had been paired with men significantly older than her, so seeing her with Peppard is genuinely refreshing. The film’s cinematography is quite exquisite as well, especially the famous scene of Hepburn strolling in front of the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store in New York City while eating a pastry. At the time of its release in 1961, the film became a huge success along with the iconic song “Moon River,” in which Hepburn briefly sings in a scene. The lyrics “Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way, Two drifters, off to see the world, There’s such a lot of world to see,” appear to reference both Golightly and Varjack who essentially are two lost souls looking for their purpose in life. 

In the end, it’s obviously clear Golightly and Varjak are similar complex personalities both using others to get ahead in life, but there is also something lovable and vulnerable about both characters that makes them very relatable in that sense. In looking at Holly Golightly closely, there is a perceived notion that she is in fact a high-end call girl. Author Truman Capote refers to her as “An American Geisha,” but you can interpret otherwise. Capote was also furious at the casting of Hepburn as he modeled Golightly after Marilyn Monroe and advocated for her casting which did not happen.

Regardless, Hepburn does a lovely job in this role that seemed so out of reach for her. George Peppard is also a sufficient enough leading man, along with the rest of the casting, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s will always be synonymous with Audrey Hepburn as her portrait in the famous black Hubert de Givenchy dress is known worldwide and is often seen in fashion magazines, portraits, and on merchandise such as t-shirts and purses everywhere. Curious how Golightly and Varjak’s situationship ends? Can Golightly look past Varjak’s lack of wealth? With stunning fashion, emotional outbursts, and selfish desires, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is truly a timeless film which continues to inspire women’s fashion and self-worth even today.

Catch the film for free on Youtube now to witness Hepburn’s iconic portrayal. 



  • Jenny Castro

    Jenny Castro is a part of the editorial team for Latinitas Magazine. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Justice from Central Washington University, and also holds a certificate in women’s entrepreneurial studies from the University of Washington. Jenny has a passion for storytelling, and loves highlighting diverse topics such as historical events, pop-culture, music, film, and leaders in the Latino community. She strives to provoke thoughtful and factual genuine storytelling in her pieces and takes pride in researching truth and authenticity. In her free time, she spends time reading her favorite books, and watching classic Hollywood films. In 2020, Jenny also appeared on the Turner Classic Movies Network where she provided commentary on classic film. She is excited to be a part of the Latinitas team.

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