Who could forget the iconic four-story townhouse that Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly lived in on the Upper East Side?
Now the real thing, where the exterior shots and some of the interior scenes were filmed for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is on the market for $5.85 million. (I’d bet Holly paid a lot less than that to stay there in 1961!)
It has changed so much in the past 50 years that I’m not sure I would have recognized it. Let’s revisit the classic brownstone from the movie and the sets they created for it.
The Brownstone from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
In the movie, which was based on a short novel by Truman Capote,
the building sported green and white-striped awnings and a green-painted double door.
Audrey Hepburn was not who Truman Capote had in mind for Holly. He pictured Marilyn Monroe in the role, but she turned it down. Kim Novac was reportedly offered the part, as well.
Hepburn was an unlikely actress to play the 19-year old country girl from Texas whose real name was Lulamae Barnes.
For one thing, Hepburn was in her 30s; for another, her accent was anything but Texan.
In the novella, a character says, “When she opens her mouth…you don’t know if she’s a hillbilly or an Okie or what.”
Hepburn herself felt she was miscast and said she was uncomfortable with the role.
She essentially created a new, and memorable, version of Holly for the movie.
According to an article in the New York Times about the brownstone, most of the interiors were shot on a soundstage.
However, the previous owners reported that it was used for some scenes, “with cameras perched outside so they could shoot into the rooms.”
It’s believed that the party Holly hosted in a bed sheet, for example, was held in the real living room.
In the book, the story takes place during the war, in the 1940s. In the movie, it’s 1960.
Holly was a much more scandalous character in the original story, especially for those times.
A lot of her rough edges were smoothed down for the movie.
Hepburn said the worst thing she ever had to do in a movie was throw the cat out of the cab in the rain.
See the little white “loveseat” in her living room? It’s a claw-foot tub cut in half:
Hepburn wears the same black dress about four times in the movie, but it looks different the way it’s styled and accessorized.
George Peppard played Holly’s upstairs neighbor Paul Varjak, a struggling writer who is “kept” by a wealthy woman.
I always want a better look at this screen in Holly’s bathroom:
She’s so thin in this movie that it’s hard to believe she gave birth to her son Sean only three months before filming began.
Paul’s apartment has been furnished by his “decorator,” a woman who goes by the name 2-E (they don’t explain it in the movie but it’s because her name is Emily Eustace).
In the novella, Holly and her neighbor were never lovers, she never finds the cat again after throwing it out of the cab, and she moves to Brazil in search of a rich husband.
In the movie, she changes her mind and stays with Paul — and the cat, which they find in an alley.
Mr. Yunioshi was played by Mickey Rooney, pretending to be Japanese (different times, I know, but I cringe through those scenes).
He lived in an apartment on the top floor.
The listing for the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” brownstone says:
Beautiful brownstone with elegant stoop divided into 2 duplexes located off Lexington Avenue. The upper duplex consists of a sunny living room with wood burning fireplace and sweeping staircase, powder room, dining room with a wood burning fireplace and a renovated kitchen with laundry.
Upstairs are two bedroom suites each with its own renovated bath. The garden duplex apartment with a separate entrance has a living room with a woodburning fireplace, full bath, kitchen and glass enclosed solarium with backyard perfect for entertaining.
The upper level includes a front library/office with wood burning fireplace and powder room and a rear large bedroom with wood burning fireplace and bath.
For more photos and information about 169 East 71st Street, check the listing with Corcoran.
You can see the floorplans at Curbed and read about the current owner in the NYT article.
Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see the other movies I’ve featured, listed A-Z.