Reinvention, that great American virtue, has as one of its patron saints, Holly Golightly, the hick-turned-café society darling of Truman Capote’s 1958 classic novella. Now her story is about to be reinvented by playwright Richard Greenberg (“Take Me Out”) for a Broadway adaptation, which will open this Spring.
Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) will play the young heroine, described by Capote as an “American geisha,” who escapes her dreary Texas past for the glittering social whirl of 1943 New York, which parties on even though America is at war. The enormously popular 1961 Blake Edwards film, which made an icon of both the character and Audrey Hepburn who played her, wisely updated the story and turned the writer Paul Varjak, the neighbor who befriends her, into lover material. (In the semi-autobiographical novella, the relationship is platonic, based as it is on the friendship of Capote, who was gay, with young society darling who treats him like a brother.) In a press release, Greenberg noted, “The goal of this version is to return to the original setting of the novella, which is the New York of the Second World War, as well as to resume its tone — still stylish and romantic, yes, but rougher — edged and more candid than people generally remember.
London audiences were reminded of just that in 2009 when Anna Friel played Holly Golightly in a faithful adaptation of the novella by Samuel Adamson, which was not a West End success. Much earlier, the novella had been notoriously adapted into a1966 musical, starring Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain. The legendary flop, which never officially opened, was produced by David Merrick who inexplicably brought in Edward Albee (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) to rewrite the show’s original libretto by Abe Burrows. The prickly producer took out an infamous ad in which he stated that he closed the show “rather than subject the drama critics and the public to an excruciatingly boring evening.”
One of the more curious bits of literary lore surrounds the speculation on whom Capote may have based his most famous and beloved character. Among the usual suspects are Gloria Vanderbilt, Carol Grace (later Mrs. Walter Matthau), and Oona Chaplin, the last wife of the great Charlie Chaplin. Capote always maintained that it was a composite of the women he knew, including his mother.
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