21 November 2010

Gatsby, again

 the beautiful and the damned
zelda and scott

 look to the originals-
(not the movie)

 F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, Carey Mulligan PHOTO CREDIT: Carey Mulligan photographed auditioning for the role of Daisy Buchanan. New York City, November 2, 2010. Photo: Baz Luhrmann. Copyright: Bazmark

ZELDA by illustrator Harrison Fisher, Carey Mulligan at l.

 Zelda, l. , Carey Mulligan r.

Since Baz Luhrmann acquired the rights to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in 2008, speculation has been keen about the actress who would play Daisy Buchanan. No more-British actress Carey Mulligan will play Daisy Buchanan in Luhrmann's " in the works" Gatsby. The young and talented actress was on the reception line at The Fashion Council Awards in New York when Baz Luhrmann called to give her the news. When asked about the call, Luhrmann  said "I was privileged to explore the character with some of the world's most talented actresses, each one bringing their own particular interpretation, all of which were legitimate and exciting. However, specific to this particular production of The Great Gatsby, I was thrilled to pick up the phone an hour ago to the young Oscar-nominated British actress Carey Mulligan and say to her: "Hello, Daisy Buchanan."

Mulligan is joining Leo DiCaprio who will play Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire is set to play Nick Carraway. DiCaprio has worked with Luhrmann before- starring in his 1996 critically acclaimed modern day version of Romeo and Juliet.

Scott Fitzgerald by Harrison Fisher, Leo DiCaprio l.

FSF l., DiCaprio, r.

Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby in the 1974 version

If you didn't see the 1974 Hollywood version of the movie. Interestingly the movie went through a series of hands before it reached its final cut- directors, actors, screenwriters. Ali MacGraw as Daisy? Robert Evans to direct? Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson as Gatsby ? Truman Capote started writing the script- supposedly  his draft included making Nick- a homosexual and Jordan Baker- a vindictive lesbian. Capote was out and Francis Ford Coppola stepped in to finish the script, nixing Nick and Jordan's sexual preferences. As an aside, Nick and Jordan, played by Same Waterston and Lois Chiles, turn out to be two of the more interesting characters drawn in the script- though there attraction to one another seems to be a bit -lack luster. Sadly, respected critics of the era and  those looking back today see the film as a spectacular show with little of the complexity of Scott Fitzgerald's novel.

It brings  the 1920's to life, but it does little to delve into the psyche of Gatsby's characters.

Mia Farrow as Daisy and RR as Jay Gatsby

The final movie was brilliantly marketed, but it was all style and no substance. The film grossed $20.6 million in the U.S., roughly $85.6 million in today’s dollars, which was better than the paltry $2 million grossed by “The Last Tycoon.” But it was like a rich souffle that lacked flavor and didn’t quite rise to expectations. Peter Bart Vice President & Editorial Director Vincent Canby wrote in the NYTimes, 1974 review, "the movie itself is as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool."(read the 1974 review here)

 Mia Farrow- as Daisy Buchanan landed on PEOPLE Weekly's first issue.

Scott Fitzgerald , novelist, no Hollywood hack, did work as a scriptwriter in the 1930's due to ongoing financial woes. He considered the work demeaning and must have known the complexity of his novels would challenge film makers for years in the future. Many experts think Fitzgerald can never successfully translate to film.

So where does Luhrmann go?

Oheka Castle in Long Island was a partial inspiration for Fitzgerald's Gatsby estate

He couldn't do better than the likes of the locations from the 1974 movie: Rosecliff Mansion, Marble House-Newport, Rhode Island, Hammersmith Farm, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Heatherden Hall in Buckinghamshire, England (see a full list here)

Luhrmann is an Aussie -& likes to do it all: director, producer, screenwriter. Luhrmann's past movie successes have featured Craig Pearce  as screenwriter- solo and in collaboration with Luhrmann. Since Scott Fitzgerald left brilliant dialog - Luhrmann should go from there.

all quotes from Gatsby

"the girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.”

gouache by Francis Cugat
Fitzgerald selected Cugat personally for the Gatsby cover art

"Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans."

all paintings by Zelda Fitzgerald

"It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."

Zelda Fitzgerald

 "He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself."

Zelda Fitzgerald

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

Zelda Fitzgerald

Luhrmann's phenomenal success with the muscial Moulin Rouge could be a consideration.
What about a musical?
Scott Fitzgerald wrote amateur musical comedies while studying at Princeton, later he remarked perhaps he should have continued doing so-but concluded "I am too much a moralist at heart, and really want to preach at people in some acceptable form, rather than entertain them.
Simply put, Trust the author on this one.

The 1974 film won two Oscars--not surprisingly for costumes by  Theoni V. Aldredge. Luhrmann's wife Catherine Martin will certainly handle costuming. She has won Oscars in costuming his past films Moulin Rouge and Australia. Would that she decide to consult fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier to create the movie's costumes. Atmospherics, Color and Beauty all should be considered. It was the Jazz Age ( a term Fitzgerald is said to have coined) after all. Style mattered in the 20's.

Costumes by Gaultier

  Jean Paul Gaultier 2008 Spring Collection images from Style.com

To create the overall visual appearance of the movie-again Catherine Martin takes on Production for Luhrmann's films.

Hire a professional- a designer brilliant with period details and has a flair for the theatrical. None other than British designer Nicky Haslam.

A quick look at a few of his sketches and portfolio would convince Martin.

all images from NH Designs here
1st image- Tom and Daisy's salon, perhaps,
2nd image- Nick's cottage

& from the author, finally take this to heart

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning-- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Scott and Zelda traveled many miles-yet they could never escape themselves.

I await the movie- and in the meanwhile I'll go back and visit the book, 
and likely will again-after Luhrmann takes a go at it.



  1. One of the first american novel I read. Loved the book and went to many parties at Rosecliff, thinking of the glamour of the Gatsby days...

  2. hi PGT there great post and I love all of Fitzgerald's work and also rather liked the film, of course didn't measure up but they never do do they.

    I am sorry to say I think BL will ruin this story. His filmmaking style is incredibly superficial, almost cartoon-like. He will do brilliantly, courtesy of his clever wife, with the set and production design and costumes but the script and direction ?? No, sorry. Unlikely to soar.

  3. Magnificent entry! It's got me even more excited for the film!

  4. I adore this book. I have read it umpteen times and always read it slowly so I can savor each and every line...I didn't care for the 1974 film. It left me cold. Yes, all style and no substance. I'm hopeful about this one for some odd reason. I'd like to believe it could somehow reach the depth and scope of the novel...haha, we shall see. I'm excited to see what N.H. does with the interiors. Great post! (I enjoyed seeing Zelda's paintings too.)


  5. interesting and entertaining comments here- this prior to casting Daisy. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/15/great-gatsby-delusion

  6. I think DiCaprio can do it. I am not-was not a fan-though thought Gilbert Grape was wonderful. I think his HH made a believer out of me. He can be Jay Gatsby. I am a cockeyed optimist when it comes to movies.

  7. Francine, I can only imagine. It is a wonderful book. I have read a couple of viographies on Scott and 1 on Zelda. They were all of their books.

  8. HH &-
    Did anyone see the portrayal of Zelda in the same titled movie with Blythe Danner. A made for tv when they were good-she was pretty perfect, so much so, it was frightening. They fascinate,as people, their lives read in all those novel pages. What FSF seemed to always be doing was looking for his "utopian Midwestern past"-fortunately for Us he never found it.

    HH- of course it is all speculation on my part, so "casting" NH as designer is my own little fantasy! I was intrigued vy the Zelda paintings- some if you follow the link are children's story lines, yet quite disturbing. Wouldn't those sort of atmospherics go over greatly in the movie? pgt

  9. Gaultier would be a perfect choice with everything slightly seedy. The era would call for that sort of feel. It should be a very grand affair if he can pull it off. Stunning post for thought.

  10. Brilliant. I'll now have to read the book again.

  11. What a brilliant post. The original movie was hard to beat. Zelda and Scot were an interesting couple to say the least!

  12. I'm not hopeful.

    I don't doubt that the story can be filmed; I'm also highly confident that the prose can be filmed, in the manner of Alain Resnais. What I doubt is not that Caprio can act, but that he can play the young hero - which is what he is. It would be better to cast a comparative unknown, but of actual youth; and we've seen him. James Dean working for George Stevens in "Giant," Orson Welles working for himself in "Citizen Kane." Gatsby is pure hunger, a desperate boy.

    I think Syrie Maugham much more for the Buchanans' house, and Adler for Nick's redoubt.

    Jay Gatsby is not Scott Fitzgerald. The director must be; or this thing will collapse.

  13. Anon, seedy Yes. pgt

    ADG, me too. pgt

    David. visually the 74 movie was gorgeous, it think that "veil"cast over it all , but it didn't capture the mood of the book to me. it will be interesting to see, and I will. pgt

  14. Laurent, you might be right-as is much the consensus of the guardian comments. Since the Buchanan's were "striving"- an appearance of old money as opposed to high style seems more apropos, though it might be interesting to go back and see if any descriptions are in the novel. I think Scott Fitzgerald left much of himself on the pages of his novels,especially this one. If a producer,director could capture the essence of that what? phrenetic- edge- I think it would be a smash up- whether L. can succeed,remains.pgt

  15. After the dust settled from that 1974 remake of Gatsby, the only person who looked good was Ralph Lauren.

    Why is it, do you suppose, that so many great books written in the Twenties and Thirties have been made into such awful movies? Is it just an accident? A series of unfortunate events?

    Gatsby, Day of the Locust, Ulysses, The Sun Also Rises, Tender is the Night, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sound and the Fury, Vile Bodies, Miss Lonelyhearts -- it's a long list.

    In fact, consider how few good movies were ever made from serious novels written in those years -- A Passage to India, The Age of Innocence, The Grapes of Wrath, Brighton Rock (maybe), what else?

    (I'm omitting Agatha Christie, Hammett, Buchan, Mitchell, etc., as well as mediocre novels made into good/great movies, such as The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Rebecca (maybe), How Green Was My Valley, or Pal Joey.)

    P.S. At Deadline Hollywood, I especially liked this comment: Megan Fox would have been perfect. Beautiful, hauntingly desirable yet in the end the depth of a puddle and the brains of a box of rocks. Daisy is a woman Gatsby did everything so that he could have her, but in the end she’s not worth having. I don't know about Megan Fox, whose body of work is unknown to me, but I think everything he/she has to say about Daisy is perfect.

  16. It's Tender is the Night that I go back to again and again so this has made me want to revisit Gatsby. I think your selections of reviews from the film are kind. I thought it was horrid and flat and have rarely heard it "beloved." I so appreciate your shot of DiCaprio here - I tend to have a mental picture of him as a boy.

  17. I have to say that I love everything about this blog entry. EVERYTHING!!

  18. the Ancient, no I do not know of Megan Fox, as Holly Golightly said-Do you think she's talented, deeply and importantly talented? No. Amusingly and superficially talented, yes. But deeply and importantly, no. I think the 70's and I am a child of them, speaks for itself. pgt

  19. Mrs. Blandings- He convinced me when he portrayed Howard Hughes. pgt

    Kissing Porter- You are a Gatsvy fan, if I remember-and reading it a few summers ago. Your Polaroids were perfect for capturing that atmospherics "thing." It will be a feat if it can comes off. I love your newish blog. pgt

  20. Can't be done. Love everyone who is to be in the new one but the others were a disaster for a reason. See an excellent Guardian column, The Great Gatsby Delusion by Sarah Churchwell. I'm not usually against most novels being filmed but this is pure egotism on the filmmakers part & an especially bad move on Mulligan's. It will be her first bad choice, so she's entitled. The others should know better.

  21. They should hire you as their consultant on this film. What a well researched blog. LOVE IT! Can you belive it, I had not seen Zelda's paintings before. Their love and "The Great Gatsby" is a stories to never forget.
    Thank you:)

  22. Smart post!! I think DiCaprio can definitely do it. I like your idea of NH as designer for sets. I will link to this post and visit it again like so many others here. ; )

  23. I think a book that is heavy on symbolism that has characters who are shallow, vapid and one-dimensional (by their choice) is hard to turn into a movie that compels.Then, again, this movie will be seen by a generation or two who probably never read the book so there will not be this negative comparison. Just another example of our ongoing devolution and "... for dummies" approach, I fear.

  24. Kristin, Put in a word! I am intrigued by those paintings too-hope you went to see a few others.

    Barbara, thank You. I am fixed on NH at the moment, are you reading their blog? very inspiring.

    home- oh no, I do have to say, perhaps it will peak interest in the book? what do you think, I do hope. Gaye

  25. PGT, you sold me on NH! Now we just have to convince Luhrmann? I haven't seen the TV movie with Blythe Danner, but I can only imagine she was brilliant in it! She is so gifted...And yes, Zelda's paintings create the perfect mood for the film. Again, wonderful post. Love all the comments too.


    So much has come to light since the 70s on the Daisy character. Maybe you ve read all about Ginevra King from Chicago and Lake Forest in the "perfect hour"? She was FSFs first love and the model for Daisy-her love letters to FSF are archived at Princeton. She later became Mrs. John T Pirie as in Carson Pirie Scott. Jordan Baker in actuality was Edith Cummings who with her brother Dexter were both early golf stars plus being very rich and also from Chicago and Lake Forest. The whole midwestern element as inspiration in Gatsby has become much clearer.

  27. Anon. No I have not, I will have to put this into the mix. pgt

  28. I must say Fitzgerald is at his best in this book and I have just reread The Great Gatsby. Leonardo is maturing quite well, like Mrs B I thought of him as a boy for a very long time. Regardless, I will definitely see the film.


    Art by Karena

  29. Great post - really interesting. Carey Mulligan - inspired choice.

  30. Thanks for posting Zelda's art...looks like Goya and Frida Kahlo combined forces



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