Saturday, February 20, 2010


Yes, there really is a Tulip, Texas – in northeast Texas, east of Denison, twelve miles north of Bonham and south of the Tulip Bend of the Red River (hence its name) - just about on the Texas-Oklahoma line and 81 miles north and east of my home in Dallas. Not a whole lot of folks live in Tulip now and the once productive farmland of that area has since been turned into cattle ranches.

Tulip was the fictitious home of Doc Golightly, horse doctor and erstwhile abandoned husband of the runaway Lula Mae Barnes aka the over the top, very disturbed Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT) fame. I have no idea where BAT author Truman Capote conjured up Tulip though with eyes closed pointing to a spot on a Southern US map works for me…

The 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s film defined a whole generation and part of the life of this writer. I know of a young man who first fell in love with an equally young local Lady from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to the strains of Moon River only to have his heart broken when she went out with one of his Friends who was only trying to “show him her true spots”. He never saw her again… Turns out she was the epitome of the untamed Holly, the flirtatious and enigmatic Texas fugitive who owed no allegiance to anybody while seeking sanctuary and security somewhere else.

The scene where Holly plays the guitar and nostalgically sings what is unquestionably the greatest version of
Moon River attracting the attention of burned out writer Paul “Fred” Varjak (George Peppard) has for me been one of the more memorable scenes in all of cinema. Varjak looks down from his above window to the lithe and beautiful Holly (with those incredible eyes) who sitting on the sill of her open window by the fire escape was wistfully finishing the song. Holly sees her ultimate Huckleberry Friend Paul and peers up at him with that incomparable smile and once in a lifetime look of innocent acknowledgement and pure hello. He responds and the rest is history… Though while separately negotiating the hurdles of complicated lives the two develop a symbiosis and end up rescuing each other (“There once was a very lovely, very frightened little girl…”). I know Andy Williams surely appreciated that scene and song as it continues to define his career…

We learn early in the movie that the “innocent and experienced” Holly Golightly with all of her absurdities and crazy yearnings is a confusingly complicated, multi-faceted character. Indeed, we ultimately discover that this former barefoot child bride is a courtesan (OK a call girl).

Capote’s relentless pursuit of a harsher reality in his novella gives us no hope of a happy future. Holly is always in a state of perpetual negative motion - traveling and searching for her place in the world - a destination she never achieves. For me the movie’s happy ending, while a dramatic departure from Capote’s book, is a feel good victory for the good guy and a metaphor for life and our generation. The journey is all played out in Holly’s head for she remains, in reality, Lula Mae.

The movie and Capote’s novella upon which it is based has become the subject of such micro examination so as to define absurdity. Seems like more than a few folks in academia and book reviewers have used Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a springboard to their five minutes of fame and an advanced degree or two. In short, the movie is what it is and genre-inspired sociologists need only realize that Holly, Doc and Paul are the collective us as we try and find our ultimate selves… Like one writer stated, BAT, “reflects the cultural and critical trends of the two decades wherein they took place.” Capote just looked around and pessimistically wrote BAT in a lighter and more humorous style, a distinct departure from his patented Southern Gothic approach. I am certainly glad that the brilliant writer George Alexrod and iconic director Blake Edwards lightened up Capote’s still darker side. Lula Mae is like Cat, the loner who was looking for a home and ironically found one with like sign Holly. Now they have each other…

For this writer that shared look on the fire escape was the real beginning for Lula Mae Barnes. Welcome home Holly… and rest in peace, Audrey, George, Buddy and Truman.

Moon River is the Tulip Bend of the Red River and Lula Mae is that little girl from Tulip, Texas (though originally from "about a 100 mile east of Tulip") who for all of us is still looking for sanctuary, that Rainbow’s End, that still out of sight but never out of mind representation of those kinder and gentler times of our youth.


Ned Buxton

1 comment:

sp3lly said...

Great post.

I was thinking of driving over to Tulip myself... seems like there ain't much there anymore.

One 2000 website says 48 people live there. Thing is, Holly was not from Tulip -- that is just where she "runned off" to (to use a spelling from another movie)... Anyway, here's the mention in the script:




That location is in Arkansas, just north of the Texas border and southeast of the Oklahoma border. Still, this doesn't tell us where Holly was born.

And I wonder if there was a drought in 1955, as the movie says.