It’s Audrey Hepburn’s movie, but George Peppard deserves some credit.
His performance channels a young William Holden or Steve McQueen. Sure, seeing colonel John “Hannibal” Smith play a romantic lead will shock those of a certain age, but the jolt proves short-lived. Peppard pulls off the role with aplomb.
It starts with his clothes. Okay—not really, but I love his wardrobe.
Peppard plays Paul, a writer posing as a gigolo or vice versa. As the film opens, he’s moving into a converted New York brownstone apartment. There he meets Holly Golightly, a quirky socialite played by Hepburn.
He falls for her. She for him. Complications ensue. What makes Breakfast at Tiffany’s special is not the plot, but the characters.
Paul and Holly are both damaged people, skirting responsibility and commitment with a fear bordering on phobic. When Paul meets Holly, he’s drawn by her fragile nature. The diminutive Hepburn looks the part. Paul longs to swoop in and save Holly. Unlike her other suitors, Paul’s in no position to save anyone. He’s just as wounded.
Patricia Neal plays the rich, married woman who pays Paul’s rent and keeps him in nice clothes. She impresses by underplaying her role. As does Buddy Ebsen as a lovesick figure from Holly’s shadowy past.
It’s this willingness to embrace flawed characters—and not flawed in cute ways, but morally suspect ones—that makes Breakfast at Tiffany’s stand out.
Sure, we get plenty of soft focus close-ups, Mickey Rooney as a racist caricature intended as comic relief, and a finale set in a rainy, yet well-lit alley, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s transcends the tropes.
My biggest complaint lies with the ending. Holly isn’t a real person—she’s a ghost, drifting in and out of people’s lives, leaving an indelible impression. That Paul could end up with her doesn’t ring true. She’s not the girl you marry, she’s the girl you wonder about years later.
In pulling off such an enigmatic role, Hepburn deserves the kudos showered upon her performance. But Peppard wins us over too.