Moon River by
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Every week I come up with a song that fits my story. But this week it is such fun to write a story to fit the song.

Moon River was almost cut from Breakfast at Tiffany's; fortunately they kept it in and it won the Oscar for best original song.

As I have mentioned many times before, I adore Audrey Hepburn, even named my first daughter after her, and one of my favorite movies of all time is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (See Hooray for Hollywood and Unforgettable among others.)

Ever since I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s — in 1961 when I was ten years old — I have loved the song “Moon River.” Especially as sung by Audrey herself in the movie. Many other artists have covered it, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and even Elton John. Andy Williams made it the theme song of his television show, which ran from 1962 to 1971. His version was good, but it didn’t have the magic that Audrey’s rendition did. As Holly Golightly, sitting on the fire escape of her third floor walk-up New York apartment, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, her hair in a towel, accompanying herself on the guitar, she sang it so sweetly that it was irresistible. Initially Paramount wanted to dub in the voice of a trained singer, but Henry Mancini was determined to have Audrey sing it herself, so he deliberately wrote it in a range that he knew she could sing. Then it was almost cut when the movie ran too long, but Mancini, Hepburn, and others protested, so the studio found other places to make cuts instead. Good thing the song stayed in, because it won the Oscar for best original song that year. Andy Williams sang it at the awards ceremony.

Decades later, when I married my second husband, we had the wedding in our living room with just a small gathering of family and friends. (Let’s Start the New Year Right.) As I walked down the staircase of my house instead of walking down the aisle, wearing an ecru dress and carrying a bouquet, my sister played “Moon River” on the piano. She knew that it was the song that would be more special to me than any other. And then that made it even more special.

For my featured image, I could have gone to the internet, where there are countless images of the sheet music. But instead I went to my piano bench, because I knew I had the sheet music there, and took my own picture of it. Now it’s sitting on my desk and I can look at it as I write. I was hoping there would be some notations in it from the 1960s in my childish handwriting, but alas there were not.

 

 

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Love, love, love this, Suzy! I, too, am a huge Audrey fan and love (and watch) this movie over and over again. Like you, I knew that Mancini wrote the song in a range simple enough for Audrey to perform it herself. I took Vocal Technique at camp one summer and used this as the song to work on (not because it was a difficult song – as we’ve just noted, it is not – but because I love it so much). The scene where she sings it is, indeed, a tender moment, where she isn’t the sophisticated call girl, but the simple girl, missing her brother Fred. I love that you walked down the staircase to this song during your second wedding. How lovely.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    I, too, anticipated that this week you would be looking for a story to fit a song title rather than vice versa, and you didn’t disappoint, Suzy. And it is a terrific song. And thanks for the history of it especially. I didn’t realize that it was almost cut — what were they thinking? — or that Audrey sang it herself in the movie. I am just so used to the Andy Williams version, and even remember him singing it at the Academy Awards ceremony. I am wondering/assuming that Audrey declined to sing it herself then; I wonder why.

    In any event, thank you for another great earworm — though this week it will be in competition inside my head with any number of others.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, John. I don’t know if Audrey was asked to sing at the Oscars, and couldn’t find anything about it online. She was nominated for Best Actress (Sophia Loren won), so maybe she didn’t want to perform at the ceremony. Or maybe the producers preferred to go with a professional singer.

  3. Mister Ed says:

    Wonderful song in a great movie. I particularly liked how it fit into your wedding. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

  4. Marian says:

    The perfect synergy of a great movie, compelling star, and terrific song, Suzy. It all fits together, and it’s no wonder this song is the one that moves you. Thanks for all the details which I either didn’t know or didn’t remember. Yes, it can be an earworm, but one I will enjoy for the rest of the day.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I like Moon River too, though I resisted liking it because I thought Pat Boone sang it. Maybe he did, but now I can associate it with Audrey and Andy instead. I have to admit I have never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s (!!!) and may have to seek it out. The story about your sister playing it at your wedding is sweet—and perfect for two people launching into a life together.

    • Suzy says:

      Khati, I was about to deny vehemently that Pat Boone had ever sung it, but then figured I should look it up first. It seems he did an album of movie themes in 1973, entitled Moon River & Other Great Movie Themes. That was a dozen years after the movie came out. So please don’t judge the song by that.

      You must see Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it is now on Netflix. An almost perfect movie, you just have to ignore Mickey Rooney playing a caricature of a Japanese person. He has apologized and so has the director, Blake Edwards. At the time, nobody objected, but that was 1961.

  6. I love this song also. It’s the song I picked on my post to this prompt. But as to your enthusiasm for Audrey Hepburn’s voice in the movie, not so much. I think Andy Williams did it right.

  7. John Zussman says:

    Lovely story, Suzy, and the history of the song is fascinating. I can just picture you walking down the aisle to it; it seems very you.

    Here’s my history with that song. Senior year of high school I was pianist for our school musical, Bye Bye Birdie, which meant I had to accompany (as well as judge) the auditions, although I’m not a natural sight-reader on the piano. One of the first aspiring actors to audition handed me Moon River. I had never played it before but of course I knew the tune, so I was able to muddle through. It turned out that I got a chance to improve, however, because at least half of the auditioners wanted to sing it too! A few nailed it, most were middling, and one or two just massacred the thing. By the time auditions ended, I was sick of the damn piece.

    The good thing that came out of my auditions was that one of the other judges, the choreographer, volunteered to turn pages for me. She was pretty, talented, and (it turned out) smart, so that was quite a gift. I wonder whatever happened to her?

    Oh right … I married her. 🙂

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, John. I knew the story of how you and Patti met. Sorry that so many of the auditioners subjected you to Moon River, but hey, that was easier than having to sightread a different song for each person, right?

  8. OMG, great choice, and I love Audrey’s rendition of Moon River the most. Such a sweet story, Suzy…brought tears to my eyes, first at the description of Audrey/Holly singing on the fire escape, and then at the thought of you walking down the stairs to it to marry a very lucky man. ❤️

  9. With your encyclopedic knowledge of songs Suzy, I wondered which would move you most – and now we know!

    Brava Audrey Hepburn! Bravo Moon River!

  10. Dave Ventre says:

    Somehow, Audrey’s seems sad while Andy’s seems hopeful. Both are sweet and beautiful. I’ll not seek out the Pat Boone version if there is one….

  11. Jim Willis says:

    Suzy, why did I know Moon River would be your favorite song? Because I still remember your love for Breakfast at Tiffany’s in your “Hooray for Hollywood” piece! I remember you letting me excerpt from it for my book on the 1960s. Thanks so much for that and for updating your thoughts on the song here!

  12. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for sharing that clip. I just watched it and am a bit teary. Such a sweet song. It must have moved everyone at your wedding.

  13. Susan Bennet says:

    I had forgotten Audrey’s rendition of MR, Suzy, thank you for taking us back. Audrey would have been a wonderful role model for you as a little girl. (Look what she did in her later life with UNICEF.) Altogether, with the image of you walking down the staircase to your husband, a Valentine’s confection. Thank you.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, she was a wonderful role model in so many ways. She also made me feel okay about my figure because it was just like hers. She was so talented, and is one of only 16 people who are EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). Not that I aspire to win any of those!

  14. I loved your first-time response to the film, Suzy. I think 10-year-old, pre-adolescent romance is vastly underrated and should be taken more seriously by adults. Just because grownups don’t know how to handle romance doesn’t mean that kids don’t know either. Of course, I’m not talking about sexual love, just that deep, heart-rending longing that you intimated in your post. And such a sophisticated romance it would have been for a young girl from, well… anywhere. So interesting to learn that the producers wanted to cut the song from the film. Ah, Hollywood!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Charlie. Yes, I was a romantic child. And as to the song, several people, including Mancini and Audrey herself, were reputed to have said “over my dead body” when the Paramount exec wanted to cut it.

  15. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie, and therefore I’m quite sure this is the first time I’ve heard and seen her rendition of the song. Which is a wonderful rendition–as was everything the young Audrey Hepburn did. I wish my mother were around to ask her if she first encountered this version of the song (and if she had seen and liked the movie). We engaged a professional vocalist (friend of the family, who would have attended anyway) to perform this song in between some of the eulogies–knowing Mom had loved the song. My dad predeceased her, so he wasn’t around to answer this question either.
    Thanks for a lovely homage to a great song.

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