Here is my personal list, one at a time, of the top ten movie characters ever. However, feel free to agree or offer better choices and argument. SPOILER CAUTION! The content below may give away some of the plot of the film(s) concerned.
#8 HOLLY GOLIGHTLY
“She’s a phony, but she’s a real phony”
Holly Golightly, in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a character rich in complexities and contradictions, even by the average woman’s standards! Seemingly very superficial, avoiding anything ‘real’ in her joie de vivre life she unashamedly seeks a rich husband. However, beneath this surface, there is real depth and inner turmoil in this character that actually has a great capacity for tenderness and love, but does not want to be owned by anyone or kept in their emotional cage. She seems to draw in men who really do love her, but as soon as it gets real, she runs or pushes them away.
Holly is a life-force, superbly portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, and there is always drama, excitement and adventure whenever she is around. She most definitely knows how to enjoy herself whether it is throwing a party or simply eating breakfast or idly shopping, Holly knows how to make it fun and memorable.
With her only real attachment in life being her cat, but even that only has the name ‘cat’ as she doesn’t even want that relationship to be too binding.
“We’re alike, me and cat. A couple of poor nameless slobs”
The film is based on Truman Capote’s 1958 Novella of the same name and tells the story of the friendship between Holly Golightly and her new neighbour Paul Varjak (played by the A-Team’s George Peppard) who both live in the same Manhattan brownstone Upper East Side building. Paul and Holly, who both earn their income by somewhat ‘unorthodox’ means, take an instant liking to each other and their quirky relationship (e.g. she prefers to call him Fred) blossoms.
Holly Golightly: Thursday! It can’t be! It’s too gruesome!
Paul Varjak: What’s so gruesome about Thursday?
Holly Golightly: Nothing, except I can never remember when it’s coming up.
Holly Golightly: I’ll tell you one thing, Fred, darling… I’d marry you for your money in a minute. Would you marry me for my money?
Paul Varjak: In a minute.
Holly Golightly: I guess it’s pretty lucky neither of us is rich, huh?
Paul Varjak: Yeah.
At one point during the film they spend an incredibly sweet day doing lots of different silly things, each taking a turn to pick something to do and the scene where they try to get something from Tiffany’s, the 5th Avenue jewellery store, for only $10 is adorable. More of Holly’s character is uncovered when her husband ‘Doc’ turns up (played by Buddy Ebsen, best known as Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies) and it is revealed that Holly’s real name is Lula Mae. There is a touching scene where Holly tries to tell Doc that she isn’t Lula Mae anymore:
Doc Golightly: I love you Lula Mae.
Holly Golightly: I know you do, and that’s just the trouble. It’s the mistake you always made, Doc, trying to love a wild thing. You were always lugging home wild things. Once it was a hawk with a broken wing… and another time it was a full-grown wildcat with a broken leg. Remember?
Doc Golightly: Lula Mae there’s something…
Holly Golightly: You musn’t give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get, until they’re strong enough to run into the woods or fly into a tree. And then to a higher tree and then to the sky.
The more Paul gets to know Holly, the more he falls in love with her and she pushes him away. However, they are reunited as he helps her out in a tricky situation and he tries to explain how he feels about her:
Paul Varjak: I love you.
Holly Golightly: So what.
Paul Varjak: So what? So plenty! I love you, you belong to me!
Holly Golightly: [tearfully] No. People don’t belong to people.
Paul Varjak: Of course they do!
Holly Golightly: I’ll never let ANYBODY put me in a cage.
Paul Varjak: I don’t want to put you in a cage, I want to love you!
Paul Varjak: You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.
Holly doesn’t want to be “owned” or “belong” to anyone and she pushes Paul away and even lets her cat free out of the cab. However, she comes to her senses and her and Paul kiss and rescue her cat from the pouring rain.
Holly is an unusual character and I debated her inclusion on the top 10 list the most, but there is something so endearing and fascinating about the character and Audrey Hepburn’s performance that I couldn’t bring myself to leave her out. Interestingly, Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part and it is easy to see why as her actual life was similar in many ways to Miss Golightly’s but Paramount went with Hepburn instead. Audrey felt she was miscast in this role, but she brought such an intelligence, a depth and elegance to the role that made this character very lovable and likable through personality rather than sexiness. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in her Givenchy outfit has become an icon that is still admired 50 years on.
Holly is one of the few in my list who is not heroic or particular virtuous, but I am still drawn to this character and is also a reminder, not that I need one, that the most sweet and adorable of women are also messed up in the head! Any attempt to love such creatures is infuriating, frustrating and prone to heartache.