Day 296: The Great Gatsby (1949)

81jfNBbRwOL._SL1500_This 1949 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famed book The Great Gatsby opens with two people (MacDonald Carey as Nick Carraway and Ruth Hussey as Jordan Baker) standing next to the tombstone of Jay Gatsby reminiscing about the life of the dearly departed.

Methinks it foreshadows the events to come too quickly, and too on the nose.

There’s a lot wrong with this movie, not least of which is the hideously ham-fisted dialogue, which is about as natural as a Beagle in a jump suit. As a result, the movie plays like a melodramatic soap opera, one that hops, skips, and jumps through Fitzgerald’s book, quickly reaching the end without bothering to develop the characters along the way.

It’s an epic cast:

Alan Ladd … Jay Gatsby
Betty Field … Daisy Buchanan
Macdonald Carey … Nicholas ‘Nick’ Carraway
Ruth Hussey … Jordan Baker
Barry Sullivan … Tom Buchanaan
Howard Da Silva … Wilson
Shelley Winters … Myrtle Wilson
Henry Hull … Dan Cody
Ed Begley … Myron Lupus
Elisha Cook Jr. … Klipspringer

But not even talented character actor Elisha Cook, Jr., can save this film.

A blogger wrote a great review of this version of Gatsby on his site The Ol’ Fish-Eye. I recommend it. I agree with every word. Especially his description of Alan Ladd’s characterization of Gatsby.

The ending of the movie – during and immediately following the car accident – is Continue reading

Day 282: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Beethoven190Good-bye Beethoven.

Hello F. Scott.

This leg of my three-year journey through the works of the world’s greatest composers, authors, filmmakers, musicians, and actors is a three-week assessment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel The Great Gatsby.

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession for the beautiful debutante Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

Fitzgerald, inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island’s north shore, began planning the novel in 1923 desiring to produce, in his words, “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” Progress was slow with Fitzgerald completing his first draft following a move to the French Riviera in 1924. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, felt the book was too vague and convinced the author to revise over the next winter. Fitzgerald was ambivalent about the book’s title, at various times wishing to re-title the novel Trimalchio in West Egg.

And that’s where my journey begins – with Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby.

Over the course of the next 24 days, I’ll read Trimalchio, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s novel that became the basis for a bunch of film versions…and then watch all four said movies (a 1925 silent adaptation is a lost film):

1949 – starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field and Shelley Winters
1974 – starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston
2000 – starring Paul Rudd, Mira Sorvino and Toby Stephens
2013 – starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire

And then compare and contrast them (as my college professors asked me to do on exams).

I’m not sure how I’ll keep the blog, though.

It’s one thing to listen to a CD every day and write about it. It’s another thing to read a book and…what? Do I write how many pages I read? What I’m thinking as I read it?

I’ll figure it out.

I’m a big boy.