Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bad Girl in a Black Dress

the book:

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

published 1958





[The narrator is living in a New York rooming-house, and is interested to meet a fellow-tenant.]

I went out into the hall and leaned over the banister, just enough to see without being seen. She was still on the stair, now she reached the landing, and the ragbag colours of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light. It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.


observations:


Miss Holiday Golightly (Travelling) is forever Audrey Hepburn in many people’s eyes: and the film is very entertaining in its own right. But it is not really a film of the novella, it is softened and sentimentalized, and made into a vehicle for Hepburn – a beautiful, stunning performance, but it is very hard to imagine AH as southern white trash made good. The film fancies up something which in the book is basically a form of prostitution, and while the unnamed narrator might love Holly, she is not a very nice person by most standards. But book and film will live forever. In UK the streaks in her hair would be blonde – an often unnoticed difference in usage.

The picture is of the startlingly beautiful Evelyn Nesbit Thaw (1884-1967), perhaps a Holly Golightly for her age. We cannot do justice to her life and career, but she is well worth looking up. Just for starters, her millionaire husband Harry Thaw murdered her ex-lover, noted architect Stanford White, in a case that scandalized America – “the crime of the century” - featured a lot of fascinating sexual details, and has lived on in books and films. Her beauty was legendary.

Links up with: - of all unlikely books, Anne of Green Gables, blog entries
here and here. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true) L M Montgomery ‘used a photograph of Nesbit—from the Metropolitan Magazine and pasted to the wall in her bedroom —as the model’ for Anne.

The photograph, taken in 1920, is from the Wilson Centre for Photography, and can be found on
Flickr.

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