RIP Patricia Neal: Breakfast At Tiffany's Other Style Icon

10 August 2010

So Hollywood reports this morning that Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal has died. Not only was she the star of iconic movies The Fountainhead and Hud (for which she won her Oscar co-starring with Paul Newman) but she also romanced the likes of hearthrobs-of-their-day Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan before finally marrying much-loved children's author Roald Dahl. Neal was struck down by a series of strokes and subsequent coma at the height of her career in the Sixties, which left her paralysed and with impaired speech. Dahl's  'tough love' course of rehabilitation on his wife was so successful it has become a blueprint for the recovery treatment of stroke victims worldwide. Neal eventually returned to acting, winning another Oscar nomination.

But Grazia Daily will always remember the actress for her role as Emily Eustace in Breakfast at Tiffany's; the husky-voiced mysterious sugar-momma to struggling novelist Paul Varjak, who would introduce her to society girl Holly Golightly as his "...erm, 'decorator'".

Let's just agree that it's pretty much impossible to upstage Audrey Hepburn in any movie, let alone Breakfast at Tiffany's, where her portrayal as the delightfully ditzy Holly Golightly would become the actress' most iconic role. Add in Audrey's Givenchy couture wardrobe of darling cocktail dresses, kooky hats and to-die-for cashmere coats and Patricia Neal would be forgiven for staying in her trailer. Instead, the actress gave a brilliantly subtle scene-stealing performance which Grazia Daily has come to appreciate more and more over the years...

While Holly Golightly fluttered around like a pretty canary, Emily Eustace was as dark and sleek as a raven. Purring "you're sweet" at the boyish Varjak (a young and incredibly handsome George Peppard), smiling menacingly at her love rival Golightly, and writing (large) cheques with an ink pen and the kind of elegant flourish that makes us want to ditch our pin codes forever, Eustace was, above all, a lady (deportment note: nobody has ever crossed their legs more elegantly than Neal wearing a below-the-knee pencil skirt).

Holly may have had that very A/W'10 beehive, but it's Emily Eustace who is our style icon for next season - all plaid swing coats, neat Hitchcock heroine skirt suits, dramatic high collared capes, over-the-elbow gloves and cheek-bone enhancing turbans, in a moodily-hued palette that was decades ahead of its time.

As Paul Varjak said to Emily as he tried to end their affair in order to move on to Holly; "you're a very stylish girl. Can't we end this....stylishly?"

To which Eustace purred; "I am a very stylish girl".

Hear, hear.


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