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Mr. Movie: The strange case of F. Scott Fitzgerals

He was the personification of the Jazz Age. He was married to the beautiful and talented Zelda. He turned out one big seller after another, and was greatly loved by his readers and his fellow writers.


So what do I mean “The Strange Case of F. Scott Fitzgerald"?


Well, I’ll tell you. After all, this is a movie column. And in all the great novels and sto-ries he wrote, you will not find but maybe one movie worth watching.


It’s not that Hollywood didn’t try. Lord knows, they spent barrels of money on his stories, trying to turn them into cinematic masterpieces. But it just didn’t seem to take. Scott liked Hollywood much more than the grumpy Hemingway. Scott grateful-ly took their money. Shoot, he even worked there as a screenwriter for all of five months in 1938. And he didn’t turn out one single thing that was ever made into a movie. Then he either quit or was fired. Take your pick. He was known to take a drink. 


The Great Gatsby was his sig-nature novel. Jay Gatsby was pret-ty much Scott with more money, and Long Island was immortalized by this book. Hollywood panted after the rights. Movies were made of Gatsby in 1926, 1949, 1958, 1974, 2000 and 2013. Really. And every last one of these is just not very good! It’s a great story. So why can’t they make it into a good movie? I don’t know; I just know they didn’t. I can only tell you which one is the least bad of this group: The 1974 with Robert Redford as Gatsby is more true to the book, but the 2013 with Leonardo Dicaprio in the title role is more dazzling. Baz Luhrman directed that one and his fingerprints are all over it. Not in a good way. 


Tender Is The Night is so close to the actual life of the Fitzgeralds that it’s almost painful. Dick Diver is a psychologist who drinks too much and Nicole is his mentally disturbed wife. Her mental prob-lems and his drinking lead to a di-vorce. Hollywood took a shot at this one in 1962. Jason Robards played Dick and Jennifer Jones played the doomed Nicole. It’s not awful. Can I recommend it? Nope. 


The Last Tycoon (1976) is, I’m sorry, a dog. Robert DiNiro, Jack Nicholson and Robert Mitchum can’t save it. The Beautiful and Damned was bad in the 1922 and no better in the 2009. This Side of Paradise (1999) is a woeful documentary. 


There are lots of biopics about the Fitzgeralds. Are any very good? Nope. The only ray of sunshine here is in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris (2012) when screenwriter Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is magically transported back to 1920 and he runs into the Fitzgeralds in the City Of Light.


So, where is the one good movie I promised? It’s based on a Fitzgerald short story and it’s really good. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button stars Brad Pitt in the title role. He ages backward! He starts out as an elderly man and gradually ages all the way back. Cate Blanchett is Daisy, a female friend of Benjamin. She ages naturally.


 All of the movies in this article may be available somewhere. All are for adults. 


- Rusty Hammond, a former judge, has been watching, studying and reviewing movies for various publications.