Note: The material for The Last Tycoon includes more than two hundred pages of notes: character sketches, outlines, plot ideas, bits of dialogue, descriptions, biographical material about Irving Thalberg, background on Hollywood, and two hollywood stories ( “Last Kiss” and Director’s Special”). Nearly all of this material is in typescript, indicating it was either typed from Fitzgerald’s holograph or dictated by Fitzgerald. The pages are not consecutively numbered, and the order of the material probably changes whenever a scholar handles it.
Edmund Wilson granted himself considerable flexibility in preparing a selection from Fitzgerald’s notes for publication. In addition to correcting spelling and punctuation, Wilson omitted parts of notes and conflated notes.
Some of the more useful or interesting of Fitzgerald’s notes follow. They are printed here exactly as Fitzgerald left them, but an attempt has been made to group them into notes on the novel and general notes. The spacing between entries in the notes has not been preserved.
The morale of the studio, Stahr’s morale, had survived the expansion, the arrival of sound and, up to this point, the crash and the depression. Other studios had lost identity, changed personel,changed policies, wavered in subjection to Eastern stockholders, or meekly followed the procession. But Stahr’s incalculable prestige had created an optimism only equalled by that of the River Rouge plant in its great days.
Some of the conversation in the long day more sexy in tone. Not too much and in good taste.
For Stahr: Call from a red-head (35 yrs. old) His refusal. I think this is necessary if it is not sordid.
Change Garcia to a Greek
Explain his attitude towards authors and how it was like the attitude of Bernard Shaw’s attitude in the preface to “Plays pleasant and unpleasant.” That is, he liked them, but to some extent he saw them as a necessary evil. How thereafter, he developed the process of having the author working behind another, practically his invention; his ideas about continuity, how the links of the chain should be very closely knit rather than merely linked.
Very funny scene of Aldous Huxley trying to be a regular scenario writer and Sidney Franklin against. Huxley quoting Wells whom he thinks of as a popular writer ( “Wells—he’s had some success here hasn’t he?”) Quotes: “Wells says in some early novel we’re all Hegelians in spite of ourselves and perhaps the 31st member is a communist and the 4th is double talk man.”
Tracing Stahr biologically through a day in terms of blood pressure. Did he take coffee? Was it all will? Did he rest well?
Must describe Thalia definitely the first time he really sees her.
La Borwitz. Joe Mank—pictures smell of rotten bananas.
Curiously calm, soft voice as if his words were a sort of poetry.
The idea of a certain great film which Stahr has long planned—a very rough subject or irreligious. An original. And have the censor interfere.
Be sure the solution of the director incident is not too neat. Keep the coat thing but somehow remove the smarty superman element with a little irony.
Firing director seems a small thing to do unless someone else is scared, or director is fierce and brutal.
He was under no illusion about success—the varying components of its make up. For instance he was right a little more often than most men but this was trebly reinforced by his habit of saying things in an utterly assured way, no less forceful for being soft. He knew that the intuitional proportion of superior Tightness in his thoughts was simply incalculable importance—he knew also that it might cease at any time but this was something he did not like to think about.
General low autocracy a la Louis XI with observers (le barbier) Acute attention and quick weighing. Quite pleasant without warmth. Knows the value of praise. Distrusts theatrics—hence Nunnaly’s success with him.
Stahr tells someone a plot half in Yiddish.
Correction: Ridingwood Scene—
You didn’t want to work with Lewin did you King?
I couldn’t stand it Monroe.
You didn’t want these scenes rewritten.
If I can have my own man. I don’t want some writer like X who doesn’t know his ass about pictures sit here and kibitz.
Stahr’s face flexed. He reached out suddenly and tore open King’s blouse the great buttons bursting off to the floor. (one button?)
They never really see the ventriloquist for the doll. Even the intellectuals like to hear about the pretentions and extravagances and vulgarities—tell them pictures have a private and complex grammar like politics and automobile production or society and watch the blank look come into their faces. I could try for instance to make you understand what Stahr meant by his peculiar use of the word “nice” something like what St. Simon meant by La Politesse—and you would classify what I had said as a lecture on taste.
Free from the presentiment that any of his disciples will deny or even contradict him. This was the later trouble.
Kept an amazing amount of detail in his head. Could spend a day aiding in the cutting room, editing and photographing or working on continuity of a dozen different pictures besides keeping his office appointments. Was a creative artist, was never pompous, always extremely considerate to others. (Sheilah’s report)
Stahr subscribes heartily to what the perfume trade might call the law of packaging—that a mediocre scene in a sleek flacon is a better commodity than the perfumes of India in a tin can. MGM pictures are always superlatively well-packaged—both the scenes and personalities which inclose the drama have a high sheen. In general he is betting on good taste as nationally salable.
The situation on the big lot was that every producer, director, and scenarist there could adduce proof that he was a money maker. With the initial distrust of the industry by business, with the weeding out of better men from the needs of speed, with the emphasis as in a mining camp on the lower virtues; then with the growing complication of technique and the exclusiveness it created—it could be fairly said of all and by all of those who remained that they had made money—despite the fact that not a third of the producers or one twentieth of the writers could have earned their living in the East. There was not one of these men, no matter how low grade and incompetent a fellow who could not claim to have participated largely in success. This made difficulty in dealing with them.
For Guest—Died: Prince Aage of Denmark, 52 veteran officer in the French Foreign Legion; after brief illness; in Taza, French Morocco. Cousin of King George V, Tsar Nicholas II, King ChristianX of Denmark, King Haakon VII of Norway, King Constantine of Greece, he renounced his rights to the Danish throne when he was 26. Said he then: “It wasn’t such a sacrifice.” Don’t divulge who he is until far in the scene.
“One of the Bauberg brothers is waiting in Mr. Brady’s office. It’s either Jefferson or Moe.”
“It’s Jefferson—that was Moe on the phone. This afternoon Charles’ll phone and I’ll run into Abe tomorrow. The Old brother game—work in shifts and wear you down—”
“I think they want to borrow—”
Above all her beauty was a great mass of dyed hair that looked like nothing else but that. He knew that played a part in what had attracted him. She looked like a whore—he was wearied of “ladies,” the middle class actress who became haute bourgeoise or the authentic plutocrats that gravitated toward or around the industry. Half of the girl was like the etc. etc.
A few little unattached sections of her sun-warm hair blew back and trickled against the lobe of the ear closest to him, as if to indicate that she was listening.
The long-haired, set-faced, I-won’t-act young actors.
Must solve the forgotten author problem. Perhaps in the studio chapter. Make a joke of him from the producer’s angle.
If you think there are a lot of attractive young men around Hollywood you are wrong. There are handsome males but even when their names are Brown or Jones or Robinson they seem like the type you can find on any cheap beach in Italy. Like the oranges and lemons they are plentiful and large but they have no taste. That’s why I went with Wylie White. He was a southerner and at his worst he had a code to violate. It was fun to watch him doing it.
This will concern itself with Cecelia’s love for Stahr and the episode will concern itself with her discovery of her father.
(a) This episode begins with Cecelia taking up the story directly and describing an affair she was having with a young man. Have her describe it just as women do when they feel that they will be more convincing by telling almost everything and leaving out the main thing rather than the second method which, of course, is wiser for women not to mention anything or any incident about which they are not prepared to reveal the whole truth. That is, she tells our listener, our reader, our recorder a lot about this affair which was engrossing her attention at this time, but always casually reassuring him that while there had been a lot of struggling, she had preservedher “virtue” Have her make a great emphasis on this enough so that perhaps the wisest of the readers may think “she does protest too much.” Nevertheless let her in a burst of conventional self-righteousness think that she has convinced the reader that her relations with this undetermined man are essentially not most extreme. Now at this point, either by an accidental meeting on her way to see her father on the lot or perhaps because Stahr has sent for her thinking she could do something for Thalia—something he has planned for Thalia, perhaps something in the nature of a job or some sort of work that Thalia’s interested in.
In the scene that takes place, she, Cecelia the narrator, should realize the depth of her love for this man at its fullest and I would like to do some very strong, quiet writing there to describe her feelings. In the writing, Cecelia should appear at her best and at her most profound. It is rather her feeling about Stahr that I want to describe than an objective picture of Stahr at this particular point. I want to find some new method of describing this. Some method in which everything that surrounds him assumes a magical touch, a magical quality without resorting to any of the old dodges of her touching the objects that he touches. I want her feelings to soar to the highest pitch of which she is capable and I want her in this episode to, for the benefit of the reader, to set away everything tawdry or superficial in her nature. This should be one of the strongest episodes in the book.
Now when the episode with Stahr is over, I want her to leave his office and have outside his office, a tremendous reaction from this exaltation and in this reaction I want her to tell the reader or the recorder the truth about the fact that she had given herself to this other man the night before—whom she has no intention of marrying, perhaps an almost experimental gesture.
She turns a man down in narrative, then to readers’ surprise: Except that I did sleep with him—that afternoon. I’d rather you’d put that in too.
I went to the screen actors ball. I shall not describe it. Suffice to say the lights shone over fair women and brave, not very brave men.
If the ball room of the Ambassador that night had been the Sis-tine Chapel Stahr could have covered it with innumerable figures like Michael Angelo.
Scotty comes up to people when she meets them as if she were going to kiss them on the mouth, or walk right thru them, looking them straight in the eye—then stops a bare foot away and says her Hello, in a very disarming understatement of a voice. This approach is her nearest to Zelda’s personality. Zelda’s was always a vast surprise. (Celia imitates another girl in this)
This girl had a life—it was very seldom he met anyone whose life did not depend in some way on him or hope to depend on him.
Reinforce sense of a deep rich past with Minna—he brusquely says to Kathleen that it can never be the same. Her reaction is in spunkily saying the same, but knowing it’s comparatively in a minor key.
Shaken by the flare-up they go back, she still thinking she can withdraw. She could not bear to think. It was tonight. It is a murky rainy dusk, a dreary day (change former time to sunset) They left the hotel a little more than three hours ago but it seemed a long time. Get them there quickly. Odd effect of the place like a set. The mood should be two people—free—He has an overwhelming urge toward the girl who promises to give life back to him—though he has no idea yet of marriage—she is the heart of hope and freshness. He seduces her because she is slipping away—she lets herself be seduced because of overwhelming admiration (the phone call). Once settled it is sexual, breathless, immediate. Then gentle and tender for awhile.
Her voice and the drooping of her eyes when she finished speaking like a sort of exercise in control, fascinated him. He had felt that they both tolerated something, that each knew half of some secret about people and life, and that if they rushed toward each other there would be a romantic communion of almost unbelievable intensity. It was this element of promise and possibility that had haunted him for a fortnight and was now dying away. (half used)
Wise and fond and chokingly sweet as it had been with Minna when sometimes they had gone for many days.
Physical attraction not clear. Time lapses wrong. Indicate desire and confidence and have it grow.
Women having only one role, their own charm—all the rest is mimicry.
Kathleen is physically attracted. Also playing with idea that she might marry him right away. But her debt makes her dismiss this.
He is struck again by her beauty which must be redescribed, her manner, her gestures, way of talking, style, content. It becomes apparent to Stahr that she has a great deal of culture—from the Baron-Goldbeck man.
She says something smart and he sees it’s in another world and gets her to say it again and again. She fascinates him like some writers. She thinks what a long way she’s come. I’d better like it and it starts may be a certain jealousy.
The phone in the workman’s shed actually rings and she catches a glimpse of his power which he hadn’t intended. It fascinates her. He represents action. He hadn’t intended to answer the phone.
Meets Bugsy Siegel out on bail in Brady’s office.
This is Celia taking up the story. I should probably explain why I spent so much of the summer hanging around the studio. Well, for one thing I was too big to keep out now and I knew how to do it without bothering people. I had had a difference with Wylie White about who had the say about my body so there was——, whom I didn’t intend to marry who was playing the man who almost got the girl in three pictures at once and had to be on the lot. And thirdly, most important I had nothing else to do. (Finish with description of Hollywood boys.)
“A man offered to cut somebody’s throat for me last week,” said Stahr.
“You’re just drunk with power. “
Stahr was amused. That was the way Wylie White talked to him but no girl had ever talked to him like that before.
It is doubtful if any of these head men read through a single work of the imagination in a year. And Stahr who had no time whatever to read and must depend on synopses began to doubt that any of his supervisors read more than what was ordered; he doubted that his casting people (note for a character here) covered the rangehe would have wanted them to. A show played a year and a half in San Francisco—the speciality in it was discovered only after it reached Los Angeles where the young teats of a girl show drew a tired satiated audience and the specialty was in a boom market within a week. And had to be paid for against important budgets where alertness would have bought it for nothing.
Stahr as a sort of Rimbeau. Precocity and irony which is born young.
Origin of “fair play” as it began to extend to the bourgeoise. and the proletariat (about 1840 then 1880). It was formerly exclusive to chivalry.
Stahr accepting it with the American tradition. Bradogue not. Bradogue a mere survival morality—slums of Dublin or Manx. Like Sicily.
Stahr had had more men and women that loved him than anyone he knew, but whether that made him a scoundrel or leader he didn’t know.
Stahr overhearing a conversation between gentiles about Jews. A sharp cutting scene. The effect on him in toto.
Stahr: Those men won’t want to make good pictures after I’m gone—
Stahr didn’t die of overwork—he died of a certain number of forces allied against him.
Stahr’s memory of Dartmouth where he never went—delirium.
Question of girl using the phrase S——house of the world. Possibly make this half heard. Stahr turns around hardly believing, thinking it’s someone else. It haunts him—later makes her pronounce it.
Men who have been endowed with unusual powers for work or analysis or ingredients that go to make big personal successes, seem to forget as soon as they are rich that such abilities are not evenly distributed among the other men of their kind. So when the suggestion of a Union springs out of this act of Baird’s Stahr seems to reverse his form, join the other side and almost to ally himself with Baird. Note also in the epilogue that I want to show that Stahr left certain harm behind him just as he left good behind him. That some of his reactionary creations such as the Screen Playwrights existed long after his death just as so much of his valuable creative work survived him.
Stahr wants to see Washington. Goes there and is sick the whole time and sees it only as he leaves.
Bradogue who is great on the horses and has long rebelled against what he thinks of as Stahr’s idealism and extravagance in the picture business, seeing cuts made in other industries is taking advantage of a special situation. The situation is that Stahr who is in the East has fallen ill and has succumbed to a complete nervous and physical breakdown affecting his heart so that what he thought would be a four or five day trip devoted largely to discussion with certain blocks of stockholders has become a conference around a sickbed. Stahr who has previously been in general good health, though conscious of a growing fatigue, has the natural rebellion of an active man and of what the doctor says and asks for a specialist. The specialist confirms what the doctor said and gives Stahr what amounts to an ultimatum: That is a death sentence unless he stops here and now and rests himself in some quiet way. He suggests a trip around the world or a year off or anything that will divorce him from work.
The idea fills Stahr with a horror that I must write a big scene to bring off. Such a scene as has never been written. The scene that to Stahr is the equivalent to that of an amorous man being told that he is about to be castrated. In other words, the words of the doctor fill Stahr with a horror that I must be able to convey to the laziest reader—the blow to Stahr and the utter unwillingness to admit that at this point, 35 years old, his body should refuse to serve him and carry on these plans which he has built up like a pyramid of fairy skyscrapers in his imagination.
He has survived the talkies, the depression, carried his company over terrific obstacles and done it all with a growing sense of kingliness—of some essential difference which he could not help feeling between himself and the ordinary run of man and now from themere accident of one organ of his body refusing to pull its weight, he is incapacitated from continuing. Let him go through every stage of revolt.
Meanwhile, however, the stockholders are meeting around his bed and only by certain things that he lets slip to them does he divulge what is going on inside himself. However, enough has been divulged so that there have been telephone calls to Bradogue and Bradogue himself has gotten in touch with both doctors and in his winning way, posing as Stahr’s friend, found out the truth that Stahr is definitely an unwell man. All this Cecelia finds out from her father on her return. Once again, we see Cecelia at her best, not as a very effectual character, but again as a person who under certain circumstances might have been quite a person. She tells the recorder or the reader how she got in touch with Rogers and was rather surprised to find that Rogers had been re-hired before Stahr left (she has heard, of course, about how Stahr found him in his office, in fact she has heard everything that is told in the book). Rogers knows that the whole lot is in a ferment and that various meetings are being called.
We are going to cut at this point to the meeting of camera men (cutters) at which Robinson will be present.
This meeting will be very briefly summarized—these men being only medium salaried and as a rule not very thoughtful men or very articulate men and are very easily bamboozled into taking this 50% cut that Bradogue is going to put over in Stahr’s absence. At the end of the meeting, Robinson should be summoned from the meeting or called aside in almost a mysterious way suggesting to the reader that there is some significance in his being called away though this is a fact that will not be explained at this time. We will go from here to what I hope will be a big scene in which Bradogue asks the directors, writers, supervisors to accept a 50% cut which he says he is going to accept himself, using as his argument, to their surprise and rather to their confusion, the specious argument that by accepting this they will save those in the lower salary brackets—the secretaries from $12. a week up and the prop boys, etc., to whom the drastic cut would mean a terrible hardship. He gets over his idea for two reasons—one because the amorphous unions—though the name isnot used—which are called into being among workers with common interest such as directors and writers are split by jealousies and factual disagreements, certain of them for example, have never even thought of themselves as workers and some are haunted by the old fashioned dream of communism and Bradogue is wise enough to use every stop on the organ including personal ties to increase these differences and to rule by dividing. In any case, he wins his point to the great disgust of those of the writers who are the more politically advanced or the shrewdest and who detect in this a very definite manifestation of a class war reaching Hollywood.
We will go from here, by the very quickest way, to an office where Cecelia is talking to a secretary who happens to be a personal friend who has helped her as a reader and who was called to the office of the chief of secretaries and now we learn that the whole thing has been a frame-up—that a great proportion of the secretaries are going to be laid-off without warning, that extensive cuts are to be made in their pay of 40% instead of 50% but still the very things that he has made his point by promising to avoid, are going to happen. Women with families to support are going to find that they have scarcely enough with which to buy bread and that they are without jobs and no chance to get a job in any other studio for to a certain extent, other studios have waited for this studio to start cutting and then take the same steps.
When Stahr is sick he keeps saying give it back to the directors again. Don’t leave it with these men. Give it back. I took it away from etc. (Rearrange)
The blind luck that had attended the industry, and he knew the croupiers who raked in the earnings of that vast gambling house. And he knew that the Europeans were impressed with it as they were impressed with thesky-scrapers, as something without human rhythm or movement. He was tired of his own rhythm and the rhythms of the people in Hollywood. He wanted to see people with more secrets than the necessity of concealing a proclivity for morphine.
Stahr had a working of technics but because he had been head man for so long and so many apprentices had grown up during his sway more knowledge was attributed to him than he possessed. He accepted this as the easiest way and was an adept though cautious bluffer. In the dubbing room, which was for sound what the cutting room was for sight he worked by ear alone and was often lost amid the chorus of ever newer terms and slang (get this up). So on the stages. He watched the new processes of faking animated backgrounds. Moving pictures taken against the background of other moving pictures, with a secret child’s approval. He could have understood easily enough often he preferred not to preserve a sensual acceptance when he saw the scene unfold in the rushes. There were smart young men about—Rienmund was one—who phrased their remarks toconvey the impression that they understood everything about pictures. Not Stahr. When he interfered it was always from his own point of view not from theirs. Thus his function was different from Griffith in the early days who had been all things to every finished frame of film.
Baird and Stahr go into terrible row about pay-cut and at the same time all his writer friends desert him on the Film Guild issue.
What would I be as Stahr’s wife—another Mrs. Rich Bitch of Beverly Hills. I could promote him from Beverly Hills to Pasadena except he wouldn’t want to be promoted.
I’ll pay for passion—so will the public. But it’s rare, and it doesn’t consist of being born on Grand Street, and sometimes it wears out.
Incident of Stahr calmly telling off an agent he was an overgrown errand boy. Implication, you can get away with it with writers who are soft but not with him. Something like quarrel of Knopf with Swanie.
There is a place for a hint somewhere of a big agent to complete the picture. Myron or Berg though—no mercy for Swanson.
In order to forgive Stahr for what he did that afternoon it should be remembered that he came out of the old Hollywood that was rough and tough and where the wildest bluffs hold. He had manufactured gloss and polish and contour of new Hollywood but occasionally he liked to tear it apart just to see if it was there.
It’s fun to stretch and see the blue heavens spreading once more, spreading azure thighs for adventure.
Dash Hammet’s exit for Wylie—good plot.
Stahr is miserable and embittered toward the end.
Never wanted his name on pictures— “I don’t want my name on the screen because credit is something that should be given to others. If you are in a position to give credit to yourself then you do not need it.”
Suddenly outdated he dies. (accidentally, naturally, murdered)
And they build the Stahr Building.
Harry Cary gets Cary Wilson’s invite. A new career
A brilliant producer, Stahr, has everything, but has lost his wife whom he loved. He meets her image, falls for her, finding in mid-channel that he is breaking up a good marriage.
He leaves her, takes up with another girl, and is plunged into a growing row in his business which gets worse and finally strikes him down in Washington. On his return his ambitious partner has done some dirty tricks. Stahr calls him and in his disgust throws over the man’s daughter, returns to the girl and tries for a divorce.
His enemy strikes by going to the jealous husband.’ Stahr takes counter-measures then seeing it makes him as low as what he is fighting he gives up and goes away—with no future that he sees. The plane falls.
Brady and Stahr are ostensibly great friends but Brady wants him out—Schwartze tries to warn him. Stahr meets the English wife of a cutter and is haunted by her. He meets her half secretly at the football—everywhere except at his office. There is absolutely no privacy and the seduction finally takes place at Malibu in his unfinished house.
Cecelia knows all this and it breaks her heart. But nobody knows, including her, who the girl really is. She inadvertently tellsher father who discovers who the girl is and immediately sees his chance—he goes to Stahr, threatening him in a pleasant way and suggesting he marry Cecelia but Stahr counters with what he knows about Brady (the affair of the girl’s husband murdered—Stahr has found it out from his wife’s trained nurse when he died.)
Stahr’s problem is whether to quit or go on in the face of inevitable discovery. He and Kathleen are taking breathless chances. Now the storm breaks and everyone he had counted on turns against him. He plays with the idea of marrying Cecelia as the best way of getting out and is seen everywhere with her. The reds see him as a conservative—Wall Street as a red. He has one last fling with Kathleen, tells Cecelia about it—throws her over and goes to Washington where he falls sick, with worry.
Meanwhile Brady gets the news to the cutter who has long suspected something. Robinson (who is——) feels it’s the perfect anti-semitic smear gets backing and prepares the bomb.
Knowing nothing of this Stahr gets word of the salary cuts and comes west sick. Kathleen gets word to him. He goes to work and crushes the whole thing by doing just what Brady did—plan to have Robinson killed. The clock has gone around. He leaves Hollywood for an alibi—in the air he decides against it. The plane falls.
Kathleen is ruined. She never went inside a studio.
Brady killed Stahr. The Academy dream. Artists get more than bosses. The phone companies trying to milk them. Collective bargaining. How Warner protracted salary cuts. “You trying to tell me how to run my business.” Collecting from him. His revenge—wrecking the Academy. Stahr not making pictures at the end—only going through the motions. Lying low—his own company. He was in Europe when the banks were closed and the committee met agreeing to the cuts. Mayer’s company did not need the cut. Smaller companies would have gone broke. He used to faint all the time toward the end. His political opinions (?) Grousing about taxes. His selfishness.
For Mankiewicz—the ten days that shook down the world.
These blows hit Stahr all at once. But at first he has them in control. It is not till they hit his great picture which should be planted back in 10., that he realizes what they mean. He should quarrel with the writers in such a way as to effect the great pictures.
Paradox about Stahr the artist standing for reaction and corruption and——, and the people who stood for all the good things were horrible.
A midnight frolic of four years ago at Mishawum Manor, a roadhouse in Woburn said to be conducted by a woman known as Brownie Kennedy, whose guests included several motion picture producers was described today at the hearing on a petition for the removal of Nathan A. Tufts, District Attorney of Middlesex. Attorney General Weston Allen preferred charges that Tufts was concerned in a conspiracy by which the motion picture men paid $100,000 to escape prosecution threatened on account of their presence at this dinner party.
The affair took place on March 6, 1917. It followed a dinner to Fatty Arbuckle at the Copley Plaza. 20 or 25 people were at this party and there were 10 or 12 women at the house. The company remained from midnight until 4 a.m. The bill was $1050. Abrams who was president of the New England Baseball League said he paid it.
The affair was referred to as “drunken affair.” There was a conference at Tufts’ office. Coakly, Boston Attorney, said if he could prove the men were innocent he hoped Tufts would drop it. District Attorney said that if complainents could be gotten off his back he would not prosecute them. Lasky, Zukor, Walter Green, Abe Berman were present at the “drunken affair.” It was agreed that all the complainants would be satisfied and the lawyers fees for $100,000 would be paid. They wanted to have time to prove the men were innocent. Tufts agreed to grant the time.
Two checks of $85,000 were investigated. They were said to be paid in full settlement of a case growing out of this incident. There were releases signed which were submitted to Zukor and Lasky and Abrams who denied recognition of the signatures on the releases.
There was no trace that Tufts got any of the $100,000 to hush up this affair and it was finally settled.
How Brady got his start?
The day Stahr died everyone on the lot (including the Marx Brothers) were crying and trying to see who was watching them. “Trash,” I could hear him say. “Trash.”
A scene where a communist insults Stahr intolerably, belittles his whole life.
The Love of the Last Tycoon
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Remember my summing up in Crazy Sunday—don’t give the impression that these are bad people.
These are the picture people. Do not blame them too much. I am sure you would do much better in their place if you had all that money to spend and that strange story of what happened to—to produce. We all have one story. But what would you do after that and that and that day after day after dozens hundreds thousands and ten thousands of time.
He did not love anyone at all because the dead did not count. It was not fair to love the dead.
Her Father bought her a Christian but she didn’t like it.
Stahr with my theory of what success is: learning from precursors and inferiors and then cutting them to pieces even though they are better men.
P. 174—Chateaubriand— “There are men,” said he to Metternich, “who believe themselves universally competent because they have one quality or one talent. Among such men is Chateaubriand, who goes in for opposition because I will not employ him. The man is a reasoner in the void, but he has great powers of dialectic. If only he would use his powers within the lines laid down for him, he might be useful, but he will do no such thing, and so is no use at all. A man must either know how to govern himself or submit to orders. He can do neither the one nor the other, so he must not be given employment. A score of times he has offered himself to me, but rather as though to bend me to his imagination—which alwaysleads him astray—than to obey me. I have refused his services; that is to say, I have refused to serve him.”—Does it apply to Stahr?
Don’t make her Tarkington.
Cecelia does not tell the story though I write it as if she does whenever I can get the effect of looking out.
Let the glamor show as from far away. Cling to reality, for any departure from a high pitch of reality at which the Jews live leads to farce in which the Christians live. Hollywood is a Jewish holiday, a gentiles tragedy. Stahr should be half Jewish like Hunt. Or is this a compromise. I think it is.
Schwartz typifies the excitement of going to this mining town the same way that some unidentified people might typify a lot of miners approaching gold settled in Alaska. It is necessary that this episode shall have that and also a definitely sexual touch again without compromising Cecelia in the reader’s eyes.
The man who has struggled madly for a pot of gold and had his finger tips on it and it has slipped away and now he has gone a little bit crazy in his attempts to catch up with it and that very intensity (typified by his trying to meet this man who is in the private compartment and who will later develop as Stahr) is making a pot of gold more and more inaccessible to him.
Important that he knew the business side first. His submission of a scenario was probably a very quaking venture on his part—very timorous. He must have had no more aesthetic education after finishing secondary school than I did. He had to pick the whole thing up out of the air not even by reading though probably he did some—still in all he probably learned pictures from pictures and naturally got his sense of realities from acute observation and men. He was therefore as unliterate a man as you can imagine in regard to formative influence.
Plant his anonymity—his many plans. Your contributions can’t be measured. They have to pay in statue. On his deathbed that haunts him. Maybe a statue.
I must not alienate the reader from her at the beginning, but must give the feeling that “well, I don’t like this girl much, but I am going to stick around and see what she has to say because she has let drop a few things that make me think that given the right circumstances she might have been worthwhile.”
Nevertheless, the first episode must close with something definitely arresting or shocking about herself.
Action is character.
Consider transferring strong scenes to rear.
He had to leave school on account of illness and took a job at his grandfather’s dept. store, where he taught himself to type in his spare time. He then felt ready for bigger things and put an ad in the paper for a job. “Situation wanted—secretary, stenographer, Spanish, English. Highschool education. Inexperienced. $15.” He got four answers and took a job in an importing company.
While he was on the make Stahr was as shrewd, ruthless, and opportunistic as the next man, but he arrived quickly after only a short breathless struggle, and once arrived he found it easier to be fair and generous and honorable than not to be. So he granted the premises on which he was founded—he was a better man than most of us, less bruised, less fearful, and less corrupt.
The girl must be humble; there is a lack of humility in Wolfe, Saroyan, Schlessinger that I find as depressing as O’Hara’s glooms.
I want to tell also of his great failing of surrounding himself with men who were very far below him—men of the type of Al Lewin and Sam Marx. However, this may have been because of a surety of his health that he felt in his 20’s that he himself was able to keep a direct eye on everything and therefore, would have been hindered rather than helped by men who were positive-minded supervisors. His relation with directors, his importance in that he brought interference with their work to a minimum and while he made enemies—(and this is important) up to his arrival the director had been King Pin* in pictures since Griffith made the Birth of a Nation.Now, therefore, some of the directors resented the fact that he reduced their position from one of complete king to being simply one element in a combine. His interest in the lot itself is important, his utter democracy, his popularity with the rank and file of the studio.
However this is not really thinking out Stahr from the beginning. I must go back into his childhood and remember that remark of his mother “We always knew that Milton would be all right.” Perhaps before I get to this chapter, I could have a talk with Sam Marx and find out a little more about his prototype’s early life than I know now. What the original circumstances of his parents were, but the best thing to find somebody who knew him as a boy. Remember also that he was a fighter even though he was a small man—certainly not more than 5’6 1/2”, weighing very little (which is one reason he always liked to see people sitting down) and Remember when the man tried to get fresh with his wife at Venice how he lost his temper and got into a fight. I gather he must have been a scrapper from early boyhood, probably a neighborhood scrapper. Remember also How popular he was with men from the beginning in a free and easy way, that is to say, as a man that liked to sit around with his feet up and smoke and “be one of the boys.” He was essentially more of a man’s man than a ladies’ man.
There was never anything priggish or self-superiority in his casual conversation that make men uneasy in the company of other men. He used to run sometimes with a rather fast crowd of directors—many of them heavy drinkers though he wasn’t one himself. And they accepted him as one of themselves in a “hail fellow, well met spirit” that is: in spite of the growing austerity which over-work forced on him in later years, Stahr never had any touch of the prig or the siss about him and I think this was real and not an overlay. To that extent he was Napoleonic and actually liked combat—which leads me back to the supposition that probably he was a scrapper as a boy and had always been that way. If, after he came into full power, he sometimes resorted to subterfuge to have his way that was the result of his position rather than anything in his nature. I think, by nature, he was very direct, frank, challenging. Try to analyze what his probably boyhood was from the above.
This chapter must not develop into merely a piece of characteranalysis. Each statement that I make about him must contain at the end of every few hundred words some pointed anecdote or story to keep it alive. I do not want it to have the ring of an analysis. I want it to have as much drama throughout as the story of old Laemele himself on the telephone.
I would like this episode to give a picture of the work of a cutter, camera man or second unit director in the making of such a thing as Winter Carnival accenting the speed with which Robinson works, his reactions, why he is what he is instead of being the very high-salaried man which his technical abilities entitle him to be. I might as well use some of the Dartmouth atmosphere, snow, etc. being careful not to impinge at all on any material that Walter Wanger may be using in Winter Carnival or that I may have ever suggested as material to him.
I could begin the chapter through Cecelia’s eyes who is a guest at the Carnival, skip quickly to Robinson and have them perhaps meet at a telegraph desk where she sees him sending a wire to Thalia. But by this time and through the material I choose—photographing backgrounds for the snow picture—I should not only develop the character of Robinson as he is, but leave a loophole showing the possibility of his being later corrupted. In a very short transition or montage, I bring the whole party West on the Chief, Cecelia perhaps with friends of her own coax the producer who has been in charge (ineffectual producer) and Robinson.
A plant is necessary at the beginning of this chapter to show that for a period of several weeks Stahr and Thalia had been parted—perhaps two weeks would be enough (also for the mechanics of this chapter, it is necessary that it shall happen at least six weeks after the first affair of Stahr and Thalia in order that his house may be complete and furniture installed and the place in good running order).
The break between Stahr and Thalia has been of Stahr’s making. I may or may not show the scene in which this occurs, but Stahr’s motive is roughly:
“I am not going to marry this girl. My plans do not include marrying again. She hasn’t the particular shine, glamor, poise, cultural background that would make her the fitting match for this high adestiny toward which I seem to be going or this position in which I find myself; therefore, I am really indulging myself by cutting her off from Robinson who is obviously a fine fellow, who adores her and would be a good provider and a good husband.” The break has affected them in different ways though this doesn’t emerge until later in the chapter. It has given Stahr a great restlessness which is more than merely physical because the girl has bitten into him rather deeply emotionally; Thalia, being more of a realist and more inclined as women are, to accept the inevitable. It has begotten an impatience and restlessness which leads to Thalia’s break with the ex-wife or widow, Katherine. The break comes in such a way that she finds herself in an almost desperate position and now she makes the realization that many American women must have made during the depression that she has absolutely no “skill.” That there is no position, however humble, to which she is really qualified—she couldn’t even make up a bed in a hospital in the proper way. In a rather frightening two or three days, she discovers this.
She considers some course of training such as a secretarial school, but finds that she hasn’t adequate funds for this and that it takes more time than she imagined. Perhaps she knows how to peck at a typewriter. She considers wildly this plan or that and on a very hot, dreary afternoon in Los Angeles when she has come about to the end of her resources (—forgot to say that she now has broken entirely with Robinson and is too proud to call upon him) Perhaps a scene if it is not too hackneyed in which she is offered a job with the concealed suggestion that she would have to be nice to some man to hold it—though if I use this, it must be done in some absolutely new way because it is a somewhat hackneyed situation;—she has taken on that day a room in a boarding house, which room happens to be unfurnished, but the landlady is going to supply furniture during the day.
She reaches home at an extremely low pitch thinking of fairly desperate measures—there is something about coming back to the room and finding nothing in it except a chair and a picture upon the wall upon which the landlady seems to place great value (the bed and rugs and other things are to arrive later) which makes more vivid her state of utter desolation.
And at this point, Stahr comes in. She stands up and they come together in a second, clinging together in a great wave of emotion.On her part composed of love, relief, gratitude, complete losing herself in him—on his part, a full realization of how much he has missed her, of the terrific appeal that she has for him physically and psychologically and spiritually. For a while they just cling together and then he almost, literally, picks her up and takes her out of the house, paying the landlady and takes her, puts her in his automobile and they ride together to his house in Malibu.
At first, for some hours, they share an overwhelming joy. They eat together and make love, cling together at times, each cannot bear to let the other out of his sight. The reunion has been so strong in its emotional implications that it seems to the reader as well as to Stahr and Thalia that it is the prelude to an immediate marriage and almost a fade out and a happy ending. At some point though, during that same evening or perhaps the next morning which would be necessarily then a Sunday, something happens (invent some detail or small instant) which gives Stahr the idea: After all, this is not what I intended. I didn’t intend to marry this girl. It is against the logic of my life. The premises that I set out for myself when I was young do not include this. The cold part of Stahr has crept in a little, not the cold emotion, but the cold part of his mind and almost at the instant in which he realizes and shows it perhaps by some flicker of his expression, Thalia who by now is as close to him as if she had lived with him for fifty years, knows it and makes up her mind what to do.
Stahr goes to his office thinking, “well, that can be decided later” and find it the beginning of the situation which will later take us with Stahr to New York and will later culminate in the doings of Chapter 9. When he comes back that night, he finds Thalia gone and a note from her telling him that it’s better that they don’t enter into any such alliance and the note is written in a way that will touch the reader, but because of these absorptions Stahr for once, doesn’t realize its full import, especially as almost immediately necessity arises for him to leave for New York.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
In thirty-four and thirty-five the party line crept into everything except the Sears Roebuck Catalogue.
It is the custom now to look back ourselves on the boom days with a disapproval that approaches horror. But it had its virtues, that old boom: Life was a great deal larger and gayer for most people, and the stampede to the spartan virtues in times of war and famine shouldn’t make us too dizzy to remember its hilarious glory. There were so many good things. These eyes have been hallowed by watching a man order champagne for his two thousand guests, by listening while a woman ordered a whole staircase from the greatest sculptor in the world, by seeing a man tear up a good check for eight hundred thousand dollars.
Fastest typist isn’t best secretary. Swinburne. Trick golfer with watch, lightening calculator, kicker, et. Faulkner and Wolfe are those.
Sid Perleman is effete—new style. He has the manners of Gerald Murphy and almost always an exquisite tact in prose that borders on the precieuse. I feel that he and I (as with John O’Hara and the football-glamor-confession complex) have some early undisclosed experience in common so that at this point in our lives we find each other peculiarly sympathetic. We do not need to talk.
Sheilah noted his strange grace doing his interpretation of “Slythy” in the Charade the other night.
I like his brother-in-law West. I wonder if he’s long-winded as a defense mechanism. I think that when I am that’s why. I don’t want to be liked or to teach or to interest. That is my way of saying “Don’t like me—I want to go back into my dream.”
I know Nat through his books which are morbid as hell, doomed to the underworld of literature. But literature. He reminds me of someone. That heaviness. But in the other person it could be got used to—in Nat it has no flashes except what I see in his eyes, in his foolish passion for that tough and stupid child Mc——. Sid knows what I know so well that it would be blasphemy to put it in conversation.
Nine girls out of ten can stand good looks without going to pieces though only one boy out of ten ever comes out from under them.
There are no second acts in American lives.
That moment I felt from time to time with Zelda that she has unravelled the whole skien—that I am speaking with the lightly rolled skien before me, not wanting to disturb it. That even in my most alone and savage and atavistic moment I am doing so. Note Rousseau went a little crazy after finishing the Contract Sociale.
I wasn’t precocious, I was merely impatient (or hurried?)
As a novelist I reach out to the end of all man’s variance, all man’s villainy—as a man I do not go that far. I cannot claim honor—but even the knights of the Holy Grail were only striving for it, as I remember.
Native Son—A well written penny dreadful with the apparent moral that it is good thing for the cause when a feeble minded negro runs amuck.
Biography is the falsest of the arts. That is because there were no Keatzians before Keats, no Lincolnians before Lincoln.
As soon as a man is made a producer he gets to be two things—a son-of-a-bitch and Bernard Shaw.
A FABLE FOR TED PARAMORE
((Then whom there is no one to whom it is less necessary))
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A great city set in a valley, desired a cathedral. They sent for an eminent architect who designed one distinguished by a great central tower. No sooner was it begun, however, than critics arose who objected to the tower calling it useless, ornamental, illogical, and what not—destroyed his plan and commissioning another architect to build a cathedral of great blocks and masses. It was very beautiful and Grecian in its purity but no one ever loved the cathedral of thatcity as they did those of Rome and Sienna and the great Duomo of Florence.
After thirty years wondering why, the citizens dug up the plans of the first architect (since grown famous) and built from it. From the first Mass the cathedral seized the imagination of the multitude and fools said it was because the tower pointed heavenward, etc., but one young realist decided to dig up the artist, now an old man, and ask him why.
The artist was too old to remember, he said—and he added “I doubt if I ever knew. But I knew I was right.”
“How did you know if you don’t know your reasons?”
“Because I felt good that day,” answered the architect, “and if I feel good I have a reason for what I do even if I don’t know the reason.” So the realist went away unanswered.
On that same day a young boy going to Mass with his mother quickened his step as he crossed the cathedral square.
“Oh I like our new cathedral so much better than the old,” he said.
“But the academy thinks it’s not nearly so beautiful.”
“But it’s because of the mountains,” said the little boy. “Before we had the tower I could see the mountains and they made everything seem little when you went inside the Church. Now you can’t see the mountains so God inside is more important.”
That was what the architect had envisioned without thinking when he accidentally raised his forfinger against the sky fifty years before.
There’s no such thing as a “minor” character in Dostoevski.
The episodic book (Dos P. and Romaine, etc.) may be wonderful but the fact remains that it is episodic, and such definition implies a limitation. You are with the character until the author gets tired of him—then you leave him for a while. In the true novel, you have to stay with the character all the time, and you acquire a sort of second wind about him, a depth of realization.
The purpose of a fiction story is to create passionate curiosity and then to gratify it unexpectedly, orgasmically. Isn’t that what we expect from all contacts?
Tender is less interesting toward the climax because of the absence of conversation. The eye flies for it and skips essential stuff for they don’t want their characters resolved in desiccation and analysis but like me in action that results from the previous. All the more reason for emotional planning.
The great homosexual theses—that all great pansies were pansies.
Ernest Hemingway and Ernest Lubitsch—Dotty “We’re all shits.”
I talk with the authority of failure—Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the table again.
People like Ernest and me were very sensitive once and saw so much that it agonized us to give pain. People like Ernest and me love to make people very happy, caring desperately about their happiness. And then people like Ernest and me had reactions and punished people for being stupid, etc., etc. People like Ernest and me——
As to Ernest as a boy—reckless, adventurous, etc. Yet it is undeniable that the dark was peopled for him. His bravery and acquired characteristics.
Ideas on Fear as being removed as well as profit motive. We know the latter can—but the former. Some day when the psycho-an are forgotten E. H. will be read for his great studies into fear.
Nevertheless value of Ernest’s feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words the comparatively pure heart, the “house in order.”
An inferiority complex comes simply from not feeling you’re doing the best you can—Ernest’s “drink” was simply a form of this.
It is so to speak Ernest’s ’Tale of Two Cities’ though the comparison isn’t apt. I mean it is a thoroughly superficial book which has all the profundity of Rebecca.
I want to write scenes that are frightening and inimitable. I don’t want to be as intelligible to my contemporaries as Ernest who as Gertrude Stein said, is bound for the Museums. I am sure I am far enough ahead to have some small immortality if I can keep well.
I am the last of the novelists for a long time now.
Taken from “The Last of the Novelists”: F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Last Tycoon (Appendix), by Matthew J. Bruccoli