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Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman Hardcover – June 22, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061774154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061774157
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Wasson, who wrote on the career of writer-director Blake Edwards in A Splurch in the Kisser, tightens his focus for a closeup of Edwards's memorable Breakfast at Tiffany's, which received five Oscar nominations (with two wins). Interviewing Edwards and others, he skillfully interweaves key events during the making of this cinema classic. He begins (and ends) with Truman Capote, whose novel was initially regarded as unadaptable by the producers, since they hadn't the faintest idea how the hell they were going to take a novel with no second act, a nameless gay protagonist, a motiveless drama, and an unhappy ending and turn it into a Hollywood movie. The flow of Wasson's words carries the reader from pre-production to on-set feuds and conflicts, while also noting Hepburn's impact on fashion (Givenchy's little black dress), Hollywood glamour, sexual politics, and the new morality. Always stingy with praise, Capote dismissed the finished film as a mawkish valentine to New York City, but one feels he would have been entranced by Wasson's prismatic approach as he walks a perilous path between the analytic interpretation and the imaginative one. The result deserves Capote's nonfiction novel label. Recapturing an era, this evocative factual re-creation reads like carefully crafted fiction. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“So smart and entertaining it should come with its own popcorn.” (People)

“A bonbon of a book...as well tailored as the little black dress the movie made famous.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

“Anyone even slightly interested in Capote/Hepburn/Breakfast at Tiffany’s will delight in [Wasson’s] account.” (USA Today)

“This splendid new book is more than a mere ‘making-of’ chronicle. Wasson has pulled it off with verve, intelligence, and a consistent ring of truth...compulsively readable. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is both enjoyable and informative: everything a film book ought to be.” (Leonard Maltin, author of Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen)

“A fascination with fascination is one way of describing Wasson’s interest in a film that not only captures the sedate elegance of a New York long gone, but that continues to entrance as a love story, a style manifesto, and a way to live.” (New York magazine)

“Crammed with irresistible tidbits…[Wasson’s] book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that Breakfast at Tiffany’s made famous.” (New York Times)

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. offers lots of savory tidbits [from the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s]. Mr. Wasson brings a lively and impudent approach to his subject.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Wasson’s story is part encyclopedia, part valentine, and worth reading just to find out what exactly went into making the amazing party scene.” (The Huffington Post)

“Sam Wasson is a fabulous social historian...[Fifth Avenue, 5 AM] is as melancholy and glittering as Capote’s story of Holly Golightly.” (The New Yorker)

“A brilliant chronicle of the creation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Wasson has woven the whole so deftly that it reads like a compulsively page-turning novel. This is a memorable achievement.” (Peter Bogdanovich)

“Wasson offers enough drama to occupy anyone for days...The whole thing reads like a cool sip of water.” (Daily News)

“Reads like carefully crafted fiction…[Wasson] carries the reader from pre-production to on-set feuds and conflicts, while also noting Hepburn’s impact on fashion (Givenchy’s little black dress), Hollywood glamour, sexual politics, and the new morality. Capote would have been entranced.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“A breezy tale of dresses and breakfast pastries, this is not.... The subtexts of Breakfast at Tiffany’s—materialism, sexual freedom—were decidedly more complicated.” (Women's Wear Daily)

“Rich in incident and set among the glitterati of America’s most glamorous era, the book reads like a novel…[Wasson] has assembled a sparkling time capsule of old Hollywood magic and mythmaking.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“The anecdotes are numerous and deftly told. This well-researched, entertaining page-turner should appeal to a broad audience, particularly those who enjoy film history that focuses on the human factors involved in the creative process while also drawing on larger social and cultural contexts.” (Library Journal)

“Sam Wasson unfolds the dramatic story of the film’s creation. He also offers a fascinating slice of social history.” (Arrive Magazine)

“Reading a book about a movie is seldom as entertaining as watching the film, but Wasson’s is the rare exception.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“[We] couldn’t put down Sam Wasson’s new book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M..... Along with juicy film gossip, the book offers behind-the-scenes insight on how Hepburn and designer Hubert de Givenchy created Holly Golightly’s iconic style.” (AOL Stylelist)

“Sam Wasson’s exquisite portrait of Audrey Hepburn peels backs her sweet facade to reveal a much more complicated and interesting woman. He also captures a fascinating turning point in American history— when women started to loosen their pearls, and their inhibitions. I devoured this book.” (Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City)

More About the Author

SAM WASSON is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M .: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman" and two works of film criticism. His latest book is "Fosse," a full-scale biography of the legendary director-choreographer. You can visit Sam at www.samwasson.com

Customer Reviews

I have no such qualms about this trifle.
Brahms four
Sam Wasson's just-released and delightful book on the making of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is so chock-full of great anecdotes that you're sorry when it's over.
B. Mernit
What really helps make this book good is Sam Wasson's writing.
LadyGolightly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By B. Mernit on June 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sam Wasson's just-released and delightful book on the making of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is so chock-full of great anecdotes that you're sorry when it's over. For awhile, you are there - a privileged insider-witness to a marvelous bygone moment in moviemaking history - and it's with a feeling of bittersweet regret that you step from its closing pages back into a realm of noisy 3D sequels and superfluous comic book franchises. Everything you'd want to know and more is delivered in the book, from the reader's coverage producer Marty Jurow was first handed, re: adapting Capote's book for the screen ("In any event this is more of a character sketch than a story. NOT RECOMMENDED") to the guest list for the post-premiere party (including such unlikely elbow-rubbers as Dennis Hopper, Buster Keaton, Charles Laughton, and Jane Mansfield).

A delicious through-line in the book is how close the movie came to not coming out so well as it did, with such jaw-droppers as everyone's resistance to having Henry Mancini write a song for the thing (eventual collaborator Johnny Mercer's original lyric, we learn, one of three eventually presented to Mancini, was called "Blue River"). An intimate exploration of the myriad personalities in conflict and collusion when a casual classic is being created, the book is cannily adept at detailing the logic of the so many minute decisions that lead to what we now accept as inevitable. Of course Audrey Hepburn played Holly Golightly, you think, until you hear how hard Capote lobbied for Marilyn Monroe.

Wasson is a formidable researcher. He doesn't so much know where the bodies are buried as he knows where the hearts and minds are hidden.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Budgell on June 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Paramount was gearing up to release "Breakfast at Tiffany's," a film that would go on to usher in an entirely new and more authentic depiction of women on screen (even if it had still had a long way to go), they had to be careful. Audrey Hepburn, the darling of such films as "Roman Holiday" (which won her an Oscar) and "Sabrina," was very conscious of her public image. Unlike other stars who carefully constructed their images, Audrey was essentially the kind woman she was perceived by the public to be. Hepburn, who could sometimes be found knitting on set, didn't want that reputation tarnished. So, unsurprisingly, Hepburn nearly turned the role of the free spirited good time girl Holly Golightly, the film she is most remembered for today.

And therein lies the crux of Sam Wasson's masterful book on the making Breakfast at "Tiffany's" and its cultural significance. At this time in film history it wasn't okay to play this type of character. On screen good girls were good and bad girls were bad. There was no gray area. But "Tiffany's" would change all that, and show the world that not only did this gray area indeed exist, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to be single and sexually liberated woman--even if you were just playing one.

Golightly, as it turns out, was an amalgam of so many of the society ladies that Truman Capote (the author of the original novella on which the film is based on) knew and socialized with, but it was Babe Paley and Capote's own mother, Nina, who most pervaded the character of Holly.

This slim volume (coming in at just over 200 pages) is also a history of Hollywood during the mid 1950s and through the filming of "Tiffany's.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Penny Baxter on June 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
After all the critical praise I've read, I have to admit, I had high expectations for Fifth Avenue, 5 AM, but this gem of a book actually managed to exceed them. (When does that ever happen?)
I think that's due, in part, to the way Wasson deftly weaves together the full story of the making of the movie, a social history of the era, Audrey, Capote, Edith Head, Paramount, et al. The end result is a sparkling tapestry of considerable heft -- substance and FUN. Peter Bogdanovich (famed director of Paper Moon & The Last Picture Show) asserted "it reads like a compulsively page-turning novel" and I couldn't agree more. I devoured it. But I also picked up quite a bit of new info along the way--about Audrey, about the film, the era, fashion, and the genesis of the now prevalent `single girl' phenomenon. Wasson's prose is delightful--rich and alive. This book belongs at your bedside table, in your beach bag and maybe even selected as next month's read for your book club.
Really, I thought it was fantastic.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By EJ on July 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read rave reviews on this book in several magazines so I bought it. Though I think Breakfast at Tiffany's was a great movie, and adore Audrey Hepburn (who doesn't?), I wouldn't call myself a rabid fan of either. Hence my perspective is not one of a die-hard fan.

For the good points, the author seems to be in the know about the inner workings of Hollywood and the making of movies. There are some interesting stories and factoids in the book, and the story really did explain some of the basis for Audrey Hepburn's star appeal. The author also made a fairly compelling case for the role of Hepburn and the movie in changing the portrayal of women in movies--and this perhaps was the strongest part of the book.

However, many of the tantalizing tidbits advertised were sort of exaggerated by the book's description. For example, some of the press about the book included remarks like "can you imagine Breakfast at Tiffany's without 'Moon River'? This leads the reader to think that there will be an in-depth story about controversy related to the song, but there really wasn't. There were about two pages at most about a non-event related to the song.

Another annoyance with the book was the way it was structured. It is almost written as a series of very short articles with chapter headings that look like scene headings from scripts. Some might find this technique charming but it seemed to be a convenient way to avoid making transitions in the story and sort of disrupted the flow. I found it distracting.

I give this book a definite recommend for Hepburn and Tiffany's diehards, and a lukewarm recommend for the average reader.
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