WEIRDLAND: F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner: Hollywood & the Deep South

Friday, December 05, 2014

F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner: Hollywood & the Deep South

Few major Hollywood names have failed to make at least one appearance at Musso’s. And we’re not talking just the directors and actors (Chaplin, Bogart, Bacall, Monroe), either, but also the writers – who habitually used the excuse of its proximity to the long-shuttered Stanley Rose Book Shop to slide in for a quick freshener or two. Raymond Chandler knew his way around the bar blindfolded, as did F Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner, back in the days when glamour, literary talent and heavyweight boozing were inseparable. The red-jacketed bartenders will recommend a martini in the classic style (with gin rather than vodka), while the furnishings glow with original noir-era authenticity. Source:

Hollywood income was money that compelled writers like William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Aldous Huxley to try their hands at screenwriting. As an employee at MGM, Fitzgerald was just another scenario-writing cog in the massive machine built and operated by Irving Thalberg, the wunderkind producer who oversaw the production of more than 400 films in 12 years.

“Part of our fascination with Fitzgerald involves his fall from grace,” noted Arthur Krystal in The New Yorker in 2009. “The man who commanded between $3,000 and $4,000 for a short story as late as 1930 was forgotten by the reading public six years later; in 1936, his total book royalties amounted to just over $80.” In his preface, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli wrote that “even in its preliminary and incomplete condition, The Love of the Last Tycoon is regarded as the best novel written about the movies.” Faulkner, Nabokov, Huxley and Fitzgerald were novelists in the postmodern tradition. They used prose to play with time and space, which is what filmmakers have been doing for the past hundred years. Innovators like Joyce, Beckett, Dos Passos, Woolf, and Proust used words to explore the dream-like experience of conscious — and unconscious — thought. Source:

Each character in "The Great Gatsby" represents some particular variety of moral failure; Lionel Trilling says that they are “treated as if they were ideographs,” a true observation; but the treatment does not detract from their reality as persons. Jordan Baker feels “safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible.” Tom Buchanan is wealth brutalized by selfishness and arrogance. Daisy Buchanan offers a continual promise “that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour”; but it is a false promise, since at heart she is as self-centered as Tom and even colder. When Daisy drives the monster through the valley of ashes, she runs down and kills Myrtle Wilson; then, by concealing her guilt, she causes the death of Gatsby. The symbols are not synthetic or contrived, as are many of those in more recent novels; they are images that Fitzgerald instinctively found to represent his characters and their destiny.

When he says, “Daisy took her face in her hands as if feeling its lovely shape,” he is watching her act the charade of her self-love. We end by feeling that Gatsby has a double value: it the best picture we possess of the age in which it was written, and it also achieves a sort of moral permanence. Fitzgerald’s story of the suitor betrayed by the princess and murdered in his innocence is a fable of the 1920s that has survived as a legend for other times. Much of the endurance of The Great Gatsby results from its investigation of the American Dream as Fitzgerald enlarged a Horatio Alger story into a meditation on the New World myth. He was profoundly moved by the innocence and generosity he perceived in American history—what he would refer to as “a willingness of the heart.” Gatsby becomes an archetypal figure who betrays and is betrayed by the promises of America. The reverberating meanings of the fable have never been depleted.

Always sensitive to the moods of place, Fitzgerald examined the Deep South in several stories, later implying that he had anticipated Faulkner in discovering the literary uses of the South. (“It is a grotesquely pictorial country as I found out long ago, and as Mr. Faulkner has since abundantly demonstrated.”) Fitzgerald’s Southern stories drew on Zelda and the responses to her world that were generated by his love for her. -"Fitzgerald: The Romance of Money" (1953) by Malcolm Cowley and "Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald" (2002) by Matthew J. Bruccoli

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