Book review: ‘Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.’ by Sam Wasson

Gearing up for my weekend in New York City, I wanted a themed cosmpolitan read — and Sam Wasson’s Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. seemed to fit the bill. Though the nuances of some references probably went over my head, it was still a quick and enjoyable read — perfect for the train ride.

“Audrey Hepburn is an icon like no other, yet the image many of us have of Audrey — dainty, immaculate — is anything but true to life. Here, for the first time, Sam Wasson presents the woman behind the little black dress that rocked the nation in 1961.

The first complete account of the making of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. reveals little-known facts about the cinema classic: Truman Capote desperately wanted Marilyn Monroe for the leading role; director Blake Edwards filmed multiple endings; Hepburn herself felt very conflicted about balancing the roles of mother and movie star. With a colorful cast of characters including Truman Capote, Edith Head, Givenchy, ‘Moon River’ composer Henry Mancini, and, of course, Hepburn herself, Wasson immerses us in the America of the late fifties before Woodstock and birth control, when a not-so-virginal girl by the name of Holly Golightly raised eyebrows across the country, changing fashion, film, and sex for good.

In this meticulously researched gem of a book, Wasson delivers us from the penthouses of the Upper East Side to the pools of Beverly Hills, presenting ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ as we have never seen it before: through the eyes of those who made it. Written with delicious prose and considerable wit, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. shines new light on a beloved film and its incomparable star.” (LibraryThing)

Oh, Audrey. Has there ever been a more elegant, beguiling star? Despite having never seen “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” as a teenager, I was adamant I would channel her for my senior prom. I wore a long black dress, the white pearls; my hair was swept up in that signature style. All I lacked was a cat named Cat, and that was probably fine; I can go without white hair on a black gown.

Oddly enough, more than 40 years after the release of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” I arrived for pre-event pictures with a group of friends and discovered there was another Audrey in the group — and her name was also Megan. Though initially horrified that my fellow Megan had such a similar look (same hair, similar dress, pearls, etc.), I now look back with amusement at the staying power of such an iconic woman. Two suburban high schoolers as miniature Audreys — in 2003.

As mentioned, I knew little of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” before renting it in 2011. I knew it was famous, that Audrey was glamorous — but the behind-the-scenes of what made this movie so controversial in its day? That’s where author Wasson stepped in. Providing enough background on society’s temperature in 1961 and the unexpected choice of good girl Hepburn as a charming prostitute, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. was a treat that taught me a little something, too.

For devout fans of the famous film, I’d imagine they’ve seen this song and dance before — but Wasson clearly did his research and might have uncovered new things. He begins with Truman Capote, author of the original “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” and weaves in stories of who the “real” Holly Golightly could have been. Though the women possibly inspiring the character might not have considered it a good thing, there’s no doubt Holly captured the American imagination. And all these years later, we’re still talking about her.

Beyond Capote’s characters and their journey to the big screen, we get glimpses of those who brought the movie to life: director Blake Edwards; composer Henry Mancini, who wrote the haunting “Moon River”; famed costume designer Edith Head, who felt displaced after Audrey’s wardrobe selections were usurped by Givenchy. Pivotal to the book, too, is Audrey’s struggles within her marriage and attempts to start a family. Throw in a generous dash of feminism and changing ideals of womanhood and you’re left with a quick read that attempts to do much — and largely succeeds. Could it have delved deeper into many issues, especially Audrey’s abusive relationship? Sure. But that would been an entirely different book.

If you’re only vaguely familiar with “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” have no fear — Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. did a solid job of explaining “the woman behind the little black dress that rocked the nation,” as the jacket copy so accurately states. If you enjoy “making of” glimpses at life for the rich, famous and everyone in between, this makes for a fun read.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061774162 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy won from Amused By Books

14 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.’ by Sam Wasson

  1. I found your site after a search for Ali In Wonderland led me here. I absolutely adore Audrey Hepburn! I have watched the movie umpteen times, though I am guilty of not reading the book. Thanks for the review, this is going to make the perfect present for a friend who is also an Audrey junkie!


  2. Thanks for the write-up on this one. The book’s been on my wish list for awhile. One of my all time favorite movies! I even went as Holly for Halloween a couple of years ago, and ran into another Holly at the party; it was great!


  3. My whole life growing up, I was always prepared to answer the question “if you could be transformed to look like any star, who would it be?”. How in the world would ANYBODY want to be anything other than Audrey? Lord she was gorgeous, and tiny and graceful. So much elegance and class. I need to read this book.


  4. I’ve watched the Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie since I was a little girl because it was my mother’s favorite movie. When I was older we read the book together. The book is great but I love the movie because of Audrey Hepburn. She’s a beautiful woman and an amazing actress. I’M going to make sure I get a copy of this book which sounds great and filled with interesting facts about the movie. I didn’ know how controversial it was although it’s not difficult to guess why!

    Thanks you for this great post!


  5. I’m the rare person who hates this film, only because I love Capote’s story with my whole body. However, I adore Hepburn and her style — this book is right up my alley because it combines so many elements I love.


  6. Oh I read this at the end of last year and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I love Capote AND Audrey and my husband was a film major in college so we did have some fun with the book. Glad you enjoyed it! :O)


  7. Katherine was my favorite Hepburn, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s is my favorite movie.

    Still, I love Audrey. So classic. I actually channeled her last night for a wedding. Long black gown, up do, pearls.

    A classic never goes out of style.


  8. i have yet to read this
    (but it’s on my kindle!)

    i’m glad you liked it. i haven’t even read the original book, but i loooove the movie (and audrey, of course).


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