A Look at the Inspiration Behind Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly Golightly

Perri Ormont Blumberg
·2-min read
Audrey Hepburn Acting
Audrey Hepburn Acting

Mondadori via Getty Images

For fans of Truman Capote's inimitable novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, it's hard not to evoke an image of silver screen darling Audrey Hepburn when thinking of the character Holly Golightly. Hepburn did, after all, play the role of Golightly in the 1961 film rendition of the literary sensation.

But when the author conceived the timeless character, on whom did he based her? The answer is multi-layered and complicated. According to a fascinating recent piece from Town & Country, there are many alleged contenders for who inspired Capote to pen the unforgettable character.

"From Capote’s high school chum, Phoebe Pierce Vreeland, to less conceivably, Irish writer, Maeve Brennan. Supermodel of the day, Dorian Leigh, claimed she was the source because Capote had given her the homophonic nickname, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky.’ Her sister, Suzy Parker, is also occasionally thrown in the mix," writes the article's author Callahan Tormey. "Muddle things further with maybe a German refugee who was a neighbor of Capote’s brownstone, as he told to Playboy in 1968. Then a vague reference to a woman from Montana, who according to James Michener in Conversations with Capote, had 'a minimum talent, a maximum beauty…Also, she was six feet, two inches tall.'"

The article also postulates several other women as being a fit for the formation of Golightly's character from Marilyn Monroe, who was Capote's first choice to cast for the role in the movie, to socialite, author, and actor Gloria Vanderbilt. In all likelihood, Golightly is a composite of several women in Capote's life, coupled with his imagination. Read more on the backstory of Holly Golightly in the full article here.

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Whoever inspired Holly Golightly, one thing is for sure: The 1958 book remains as wonderful today as it did when it was published. We know our next quarantine read.