As infectious as Mancini’s score, and sure to please lovers of classic American cinema.

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FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M.

AUDREY HEPBURN, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, AND THE DAWN OF THE MODERN WOMAN

Behind the scenes of the cinema’s gold standard for sparkling romantic comedy.

In this slim, fast-paced volume, Wasson (A Splurch in the Kisser: The Films of Blake Edwards, 2009) presents an irresistibly gossipy account of the production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), charting the transformation of actress Audrey Hepburn into an icon of emerging sexual liberation—the good/bad girl, the lovable “kook,” independent and sexually experienced but sufficiently charming to bring home to mother. Rich in incident and set among the glitterati of America’s most glamorous era, the book reads like a novel. Hepburn’s “discovery” by the regal French author Colette, searching for an actress to incarnate her character Gigi on the stage, has the fairy-tale resonance of the actress’ star-making turns in Roman Holiday (1953) and Sabrina (1954). Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a tricky proposition for a film adaptation. The novel’s sexually progressive elements were severely at odds with Hollywood’s notions of acceptable content. Truman Capote lobbied for pal Marilyn Monroe to play the part of party girl Holly Golightly—and, startlingly, expressed wishes to play the male lead himself—but Monroe’s image was too sexual for such delicate material, and the part went instead to the girlish Hepburn, a doe-eyed ingénue convinced she could not do justice to the part. Other players in the Wasson’s narrative include writer George Axelrod, frustrated by the neutering of his previous screenplays and eager to get a sophisticated, adult sex comedy on screen; up-and-coming director Blake Edwards, witty and enthusiastic but nobody’s first choice for the job; male lead George Peppard, disliked and mocked by the rest of the company for his method-acting pretensions and general arrogance; and composer Henry Mancini, whose jazzy score ushered in a sea change for movie music and whose classic song “Moon River” was nearly cut at the 11th hour by a producer who preferred more traditional Broadway fare. Wasson marshals this rich material in a page-turning delight. Even if his assertions of the movie’s sociological significance don’t fully convince, he has assembled a sparkling time capsule of old Hollywood magic and mythmaking.

As infectious as Mancini’s score, and sure to please lovers of classic American cinema.

Pub Date: June 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-177415-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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