Despite the stigma of failure at MGM Fitzgerald's name had a lingering aura in Hollywood and producers still wanted him to work on romantic subjects. Unlike Dorothy Parker and other cynical writers, he was hardworking, eager to learn and respectful to the studio executives. In January 1939 he was hired to polish the dialogue of Gone with the Wind. His efforts were absurdly impeded, however, when he was forbidden to use any words that had not already been written by Margaret Mitchell. When lines had to be invented, Fitzgerald would diligently thumb through her novel as if it were Scripture and find familiar words to fit the new scene.
The film's producer, David Selznick, subjected Fitzgerald to the duplicity and humiliation that all but the most successful writers had to suffer in Hollywood. Selznick's biographer wrote that George Cukor, soon to be replaced as director of the film,
was present at the story conferences with Fitzgerald. At the close of one of them, David told the writer, "Scott, I want to thank you for all you've done on the picture. Now, we've talked about these pages. Go away and write them-and we'll meet tomorrow." But as soon as Fitzgerald had left, Selznick picked up the phone and dictated a cable firing him, telling him not to report the next day. As Cukor observed it, David had needed to act out his superiority to the once great writer. Yet he had not managed to do it face-to-face.
This assignment ended after two weeks.
Fitzgerald's most sordid and calamitous experience as a film writer took place in February when he was hired by the producer Walter Wanger. He was to collaborate with Budd Schulberg on an apparently congenial script about the Dartmouth Winter Carnival and be paid at his MGM salary of $1,250 a week. Mankiewicz respected Wanger, who also produced Stagecoach in 1939, and considered him well educated and well read. But he admitted that Wanger had lost control of Winter Carnival. Schulberg, much more severe about his former boss, called him "a Dartmouth dropout with intellectual pretensions." Later on, he elaborated his original judgment. Wanger, he said, was a poseur. Though he smoked a pipe, talked about books and liked to seem more cultivated than most producers, he was crass and tactless with writers. Both Fitzgerald and Schulberg looked down on him.1
The twenty-four-year-old Budd-son of B. P. Schulberg, the former head of production at Paramount-had recently graduated from Dartmouth and was trying to break into movies. Sheilah Graham described him as a gangling and seemingly shy young man who "stuttered rather painfully. He was always knocking things over and apologizing in a mumble of words." When Wanger told Schulberg he had hired Fitzgerald to work with him on the script, Budd (confirming Anthony Powell's statement) exclaimed: " 'My God, isn't Scott Fitzgerald dead?' 'On the contrary,' said Wanger, 'he's in the next office reading your script.' " Budd, honored to be working with his literary hero, was shocked at how sad and anxious he looked. His skin was pallid and unhealthy, and he seemed much older than forty-two.
The two men spent many hours together, supposedly working on the script, but actually engaged in long literary discussions. Budd's youthful admiration for his work encouraged Scott to reminisce about his past success and talk about his future novels. According to Schulberg, Fitzgerald spoke of himself as a has-been, but felt his creative powers had not been entirely extinguished: "You know, I used to have a beautiful talent once, Baby. It used to be a wonderful feeling to know it was there, and it isn't all gone yet. I think I have enough left to stretch out over two more novels. I may have to stretch it a little thin, so maybe they won't be as good as the best things I've done. But they won't be completely bad either, because nothing I ever write can ever be completely bad."2
Wanger wanted Fitzgerald to pick up the local color and to advise the film crew by attending the Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Fitzgerald, all too familiar with college celebrations, thought the long and tiring journey was unnecessary. Remembering his alcoholic trip to Chicago with Sheilah in 1938, he feared the festivities would upset the calm routine he had established with her and tempt him with drink. The studio executives were well aware of his alcoholism. But his film agent, H. N. Swanson, had assured them, since Scott had been on the wagon, that drink was no longer a problem. Schulberg believed that Wanger's real motive was to show off Fitzgerald, his tame bear and captive writer, to the appreciative English professors at Dartmouth.
Sheilah, worried about Scott, took the same flight across the country. But since their affair had to be kept secret in moralistic Hollywood, she sat apart from him in the plane and waited in New York while he and Budd took the train up to Hanover, New Hampshire. Her fears were well founded. Budd's father gave them two bottles of champagne to divert them on the flight, and this set Fitzgerald off on a week-long, non-stop binge.
On arrival they discovered that no one had made reservations for them at the Hanover Inn. The only place available on that busy weekend was a bare servants' room in the attic, with a double bunk bed. This makeshift arrangement symbolized their menial status and intensified their resentment. The Dartmouth English professors, disappointed by Fitzgerald's drunken and rambling conversation at the faculty reception, treated him rudely and scarcely bothered to conceal their derision. One of them remarked, with considerable hostility: "He really is a washed up old drunk."
But even when Fitzgerald was a falling-down drunk, he never lost his heightened perception of what was happening around him and continued to mutter shrewd observations under his breath. "Wanger will never forgive me for this," he told Schulberg, "because he sees himself as the intellectual producer and above all wanted to impress Dartmouth with the fact that he used real writers, not vulgar hacks, and here I, his real writer, have disgraced him before all these people."
On February 12, after Fitzgerald had spent three idle and miserable days in Hanover, Wanger, who was there with the film crew, discovered that he had been drinking heavily and that very little of the screenplay had been written. He angrily declared: "That son-of-a-bitch gave me his word that he wouldn't go off the wagon," and instantly fired both writers. Eager to get them out of town as quickly as possible, Wanger put them on the next train, without giving them time to pack their bags, and said the luggage would be sent after them. Angry and mortified at having lost the job, Fitzgerald went completely out of control on the train. When they got to New York-without luggage, unshaven, unkempt and completely drunk-no hotel would admit them. With Sheilah's help Fitzgerald finally entered Doctors Hospital and took three days to dry out.3
During the next half century Schulberg repeated the sad story of Fitzgerald at Dartmouth in a series of articles, books, interviews and lectures. He always portrayed Wanger as the intolerant villain and himself as the exasperated but loyal keeper of his unruly charge. But he was partly responsible for what happened to Fitzgerald. Schulberg's youthful lark with a great writer was Fitzgerald's unmitigated disaster. Because Budd did not try to restrain Scott and write the screenplay with him as he was hired to do, Fitzgerald got horribly drunk, was fired, became seriously ill and never got another job with a film studio. Schulberg, protected by his powerful father, was rehired by Wanger to complete the embarrassingly bad script. And he went on to have a successful film career.
After this episode his relations with Fitzgerald were predictably strained. When Fitzgerald dropped by Schulberg's house, eager to discuss the historical theories of Oswald Spengler, Budd abandoned him for a trivial dinner invitation. Though he later felt guilty about his rudeness, the incident shows that he felt Scott could be as tedious when sober as he was when drunk, and that he had much less respect for Fitzgerald than he later claimed to have had.
When Fitzgerald read the typescript of Schulberg's first Hollywood novel, What Makes Sammy Run? (1941), he recorded the harsh judgment: "Budd, the untalented." Budd was hurt by Fitzgerald's appropriation in The Last Tycoon of his early life in Hollywood and by the negative portrayal of his personality in the character of the young narrator, Cecilia Brady. This resentment provoked the hostile portrait of Fitzgerald in his best-selling novel, The Disenchanted (1950), which described Scott's appalling behavior at Dartmouth. Though most of Fitzgerald's friends disliked the novel, which tarnished his reputation, Scottie said: "I really felt I was in the room with Daddy the entire time during the drunken scenes-that was exactly the way he talked and acted during those bouts."4 Though Mankiewicz has been the villain and Schulberg the hero in biographies of Fitzgerald, Scott received a screen credit and had his contract renewed after working with Joe, but had his film career destroyed when working with Budd.
The experience at Dartmouth also destroyed whatever remained of Fitzgerald's confidence and reputation. His principal handicap in the picture business, he told Ober in July 1939, was "a neurosis about anyone's uncertainty about my ability." But he now lived with his own uncertainty principle. Though he worked sporadically on a few more films until July 1940, the rest of his screen work was trivial. His health continued to deteriorate under the assault of alcohol, and when drunk he quarreled again with Sheilah. Despite his attempts to comply with their wishes, he ended up on bad terms with most of the producers who had hired him, and all the film projects he proposed-including a Marx Brothers version of The Wizard of Oz-were rejected.
In September 1939 David Niven, who saw him on the set of Raffles, condescendingly noted his physical decline, his addiction to sweets and his singularly depressing conversation: "he looked so frail that he seemed to be floating: mid-forties, Valentino profile, rather weak mouth, and haunted eyes. He carried a large writing pad and a cardboard container of Coca-Cola bottles when I first saw him and made a little nest for himself in a corner of the sound stage… Actually, I found him rather heavy going, with his long silences and tales of bad luck at the hands of the movie moguls."
In April 1940, still anxious about money and eager to buy time to write his novel, Fitzgerald sold the screen rights of his best story, "Babylon Revisited," to the producer Lester Cowan for one thousand dollars. He received another five thousand dollars for completing a screenplay of the story (called Cosmopolitan), which Nunnally Johnson had thought was so poor. Fitzgerald tried to interest Shirley Temple in playing the daughter, Honoria, but she refused the role and that film was not made. Like David Niven, Shirley Temple noted Fitzgerald's sickly appearance, craving for sweet drinks and ludicrous six-pack of Cokes: "I remember Fitzgerald as a kindly, thin and pale man, who was recovering from an illness. The thing that impressed me the most as an eleven or twelve-year-old was that he drank six or eight Coca-Colas during his visit. As a young girl, I thought this to be a stunning accomplishment-in fact, I still do." In 1954 Cowan resold the rights of "Babylon Revisited" to MGM for forty thousand dollars and the film, which had little to do with the story, was made with Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson as The Last Time I Saw Paris.
Fitzgerald was well suited for his final job, which lasted from August to October 1940: a film script based on Emlyn Williams' stage play, The Light of Heart, about an alcoholic actor. But Fitzgerald's screenplay was rejected and he was replaced by Nunnally Johnson, whom he had tried to warn about the dangers of writing for Hollywood. In May 1940 Fitzgerald had truthfully told Perkins: "I just couldn't make the grade as a hack-that, like everything else, requires a certain practiced excellence."5
Fitzgerald also tried to help another promising writer, Nathanael West, whom he had met through S. J. Perelman in early 1939. Unlike Hemingway, who felt threatened by younger rivals, especially when they invaded his territory, Fitzgerald, even when his own career was in decline, was always kind and helpful to his colleagues. In 1934 he had included West's Miss Lonelyhearts (along with Wilson's I Thought of Daisy) in a list of "Good Books That Almost Nobody Has Read." In his Introduction to the Modern Library edition of The Great Gatsby (1934) he pleaded for more generous book reviewing, made a favorable reference to West and said: "it has been saddening recently to see young talents in fiction expire from sheer lack of a stage to act on: West, [Vincent] McHugh and many others." He also recommended West for a Guggenheim Fellowship that year, recognizing his talents and calling him "a potential leader in the field of prose fiction." And in 1939 he wrote a blurb for the dust wrapper of West's great novel, The Day of the Locust. Emphasizing the most effective scenes and the weird mood of the book, Fitzgerald said: "I was impressed by the pathological crowd at the premiere, the character and handling of the aspirant actress and the uncanny almost medieval feeling of some of the Hollywood background set off by those vividly drawn grotesques."6 The day after Fitzgerald died, West was killed in a car crash near the Mexican border.
While struggling to survive in distant Hollywood, Fitzgerald tried as always to be a good father and husband. As Scottie grew more mature and independent, and Fitzgerald continued to criticize her during their infrequent meetings, she drew even closer to the kindly Obers. They lived fairly near Vassar and Scottie usually stayed with them during her school holidays. Fitzgerald had to play the strict parent while the Obers spoiled her. As he tried to stiffen Scottie's backbone and get her to work hard in college, Anne Ober irritated him by buying her party dresses. He willingly gave the Obers parental authority and was grateful for their kindness, but also resented their usurpation of his role and criticized their efforts on his behalf.
He admitted that he was often too nervous and too dogmatic with Scottie. In August 1939, just before her summer visit to Hollywood, he apologized (in a letter to Zelda) for apparently rejecting his daughter and for harshly telling her "that she had no home except Vassar." But he defended himself by explaining that Scottie had actually rejected him: "When I tried to make a home for her she didn't want it, and I have a sick-man's feeling that she will arrive in a manner to break up such tranquility as I have managed to establish after this illness." In late September 1939, when the college term was about to begin, he sent Scottie a pitiful telegram that was meant to make her feel guilty about what he had done for her: YOU CAN REGISTER AT VASSAR STOP IT COST A HEMORRHAGE BUT I RAISED SOME MONEY FROM ESQUIRE.
When Fitzgerald confessed that he and Zelda had been bad parents and urged Scottie to reject their negative example, she seized the initiative, defended herself and spoke out publicly for her own generation in Mademoiselle of July 1939. "We feel we know what's right and wrong for us better than our parents," Scottie insisted. "The fact that we've turned out as well as we have is more to our credit than that of our parents."7
Scottie, not surprisingly, was deeply ambivalent about her parents: saddened about her mother's emotional withdrawal and exasperated by her father's misguided attempts to direct her life. She later spoke bitterly to scholars and friends, and published several essays about her unhappy relations with her father. "We never got along at all well," she told Mizener, "except in letters (which have given everyone the impression we were a most devoted father and daughter)." Late in life she told an Alabama confidante that her childhood and youth had been extremely difficult, and that it had been hard to have a writer as a father: "I can remember nothing except the troubles of the 30s which were reflected in our relations: my mother's hopeless illness, Daddy's own bad health and lack of money and, hardest of all, I think, his literary eclipse… In my next incarnation, I may not choose again to be the daughter of a famous author. People who live entirely by the fertility of their imagination are fascinating, brilliant and often charming but they should be sat next to at dinner parties, not lived with."
Yet Fitzgerald's deeply moving Letters to His Daughter-edited by Andrew Turnbull and introduced by Scottie in 1965-did show his devotion to her. Though Scott and Zelda were unstable and unreliable, the very antithesis of conventionally good parents, they nevertheless gave Scottie-with the help of governesses and generous friends-the love and happiness that was necessary to develop and strengthen her character. As Scottie herself observed: "Daddy never let me feel the tragedy of mother's illness and I never had a sense of being unloved."8
In his fiction Fitzgerald paid tribute to Scottie, who (like Zelda) inspired a number of charming characters: Daisy's daughter Pammy in The Great Gatsby, the wise little girl in "Outside the Cabinet-Maker's," Honoria in "Babylon Revisited," Topsy in Tender Is the Night, Gwen in the four stories of 1935-36 and Cecilia, the Hollywood child and Bennington student who is hopelessly in love with Monroe Stahr, in The Last Tycoon.
Zelda also tried, in her rare lucid moments, to be a good mother to Scottie. But their relations remained troubled during her daughter's adolescence and teenage years. So Fitzgerald could not count on Scottie's help when caring for Zelda. Despite-or perhaps because of-his guilt-ridden liaison with Sheilah, he continued to fly east to take the intensely disturbing but only vaguely therapeutic holidays with Zelda. In April 1939, after a particularly unpleasant fight with Sheilah, he impulsively flew across the country and took Zelda on a trip to Cuba. He had been beaten up while drunk and aggressive at Cottage Club in Princeton in 1920, in the Jungle Club in New York in 1921 and, worst of all, by the police in Rome in 1924. Though now forty-two, he was still remarkably combative. In Havana Scott fought with a cab driver, incensed that he could not speak English. In a sudden access of humanitarianism or confused heroism, he also tried to stop a local cockfight, which involved heavy betting, and was badly beaten up for his pains. After he returned to New York, he rounded off his horrible holiday by quarreling, on the way to Ober's house in Scarsdale, with another cab driver who gave him a black and swollen eye. This trip was the last time he saw Zelda.
The debate about the terms of her confinement continued to disturb Fitzgerald's relations with the Sayres. In January 1939, three months before the trip to Cuba, he told his mother-in-law that it would be dangerous to let Zelda out of Highland: "Carroll says that if I take her away he will not take her back-he feels that I will weakly destroy his entire work of bringing her from a state of horror, shame, suicide and despair to the level of a bored and often grouchy but by no means miserable invalid." Scott was afraid that he would be morally and legally responsible if Zelda killed herself or hurt someone else when she was out of the hospital. Nevertheless, Dr. Carroll finally changed his mind. In April 1940, after four years in Highland, Zelda was allowed to return to the rather run-down family house at 322 Sayre Street in Montgomery and to live with her eighty-year-old mother.
Even before Mrs. Sayre assumed immediate responsibility, Scott began to find the strain intolerable and to withdraw from the woman who called herself a "middle-aged, untrained, graduate of half-a-dozen mental Institutes." During a bout of tuberculosis in October 1939, he begged Zelda to "leave me in peace with my hemorrhages and my hopes." And he bitterly told Dr. Carroll: "She has cost me everything a woman can cost a man-his health, his work, his money."9
Scottie confirmed Fitzgerald's remark by telling Mizener, in an important letter, that Zelda had destroyed Scott: "She was extravagant, yes, but that was part of her disease, and God knows she was an overwhelming egotist and probably a terribly tough person to live with on a day-to-day basis-and she probably ruined Daddy." Even Zelda seemed to recognize the truth about their marriage when in 1939 she thanked Scott for all the sacrifices he had made during her mental illness: "I am always grateful for all the loyalties you gave me… I love, always, your fine writing talent, your tolerance and generosity; and all your happy endowments. Nothing could have survived our life."10
While his relations with Scottie and Zelda were deteriorating, Fitzgerald also quarreled irrevocably in July 1939 with Harold Ober, who had been his agent, adviser, banker and faithful friend since 1919. He had managed to pay off his huge debt to Ober during his first eighteen months in Hollywood. But when MGM failed to renew his contract, he began once again to slide into debt. In his Christmas card of 1937 Fitzgerald-who said he had paid his "bill collector" more than fifty thousand dollars in commissions for magazine stories-emphasized the difference in financial status between the wealthy agent, comfortably housed in Scarsdale, and the impoverished author, enslaved in the salt mines of Hollywood: "I recognized the dogs individually in your Christmas card. I'm going to have my suite photographed with the mice in the hall for next Xmas."
During the Depression Fitzgerald had depended on Ober to advance money (contrary to normal practice) for stories he had conceived and promised, but not yet written. By 1939, however, Fitzgerald had either failed to complete many of the promised stories or sent inferior work that Ober was unable to sell. Having paid off his debt, Fitzgerald thought his credit was still good. Well aware of Fitzgerald's declining reputation and failure in Hollywood, Ober believed he would never recover his debt if he allowed it to pile up again. So he gave up on Fitzgerald and decided to cut his losses. On June 21, 1939, Ober wrote but-to spare Scott's feelings-did not mail a carefully considered letter that stated his new financial policy: "I think, however, it would be a great mistake for us to get back into the position we were in. I think it is bad for you and difficult for me. The margin of profit in the agency business is very narrow. The expenses are many and high and I reckon the net profit is only about three per cent. I hope, therefore, we can keep things on a 'Pay as we go' basis."
Scottie later defended Ober, saying that he had discussed this matter with both Perkins and Scribner, who agreed with him, and then telephoned Sheilah to explain his decision and ask her to convey it to Scott. Despite Ober's attempts to warn his client, on July 14 Fitzgerald asked for his usual advance on an undelivered story. And Ober was forced to telegraph a polite refusal: SORRY COLLECTIONS SLOW AND IMPOSSIBLE MAKE ADVANCE. Scott was shocked and furious about Harold's disloyalty. He wrote on the telegram: "The insult to my intelligence in the phrase 'collections slow' makes me laugh,"11 returned it to Ober and decided to break with him.
Fitzgerald, at first, accepted responsibility for this incident in a surprisingly clear-minded letter of July 18 to Kenneth Littauer, his editor at Collier's: "Harold is a fine man and has been a fine agent and the fault is mine. Through one illness he backed me with a substantial amount of money (all paid back to him now with Hollywood gold) but he is not prepared to do that again with growing boys to educate." But as time passed his resentment increased. He then reversed his position and began to blame Ober for what had happened. Writing to him on August 2, he portrayed himself as a drowning victim, whom Ober had been morally obliged to rescue: "I don't have to explain that even though a man has once saved another from drowning, when he refuses to stretch out his arm a second time the victim has to act quickly and desperately to save himself. For change you did, Harold, and without warning." It is unlikely, however, that Ober's warning, if sent, would have discouraged Fitzgerald's demands.
Scott also complained to Perkins, who had urged him to remain with his agent, that Ober's original interest in his works and forgiveness of his sins had now changed to a lack of confidence in his literary prospects and a general disapproval of his behavior. He also said that he had never been emotionally or intellectually close to Ober. Though Ober had witnessed his drunkenness and decline throughout the 1930s, in October 1939 Fitzgerald called him "a stupid hard-headed man [who] has a highly erroneous idea of how I live; moreover he has made it a noble duty to piously depress me at every possible opportunity." Though Fitzgerald maintained his friendship with Perkins and Murphy, he had by mid-1939 drifted away from Edmund Wilson, become estranged from Zelda and Scottie, and quarreled with three of his closest friends: first Hemingway and Bishop, and then Ober-an essential ally.
Fitzgerald earned $21,500 in 1939 but owed money for federal taxes, life insurance, Zelda's hospital and Scottie's college. After Ober dried up as a source of money, Scott was forced to borrow from Perkins, Murphy and his St. Paul friend Oscar Kalman. Trying to bolster the pathetic sales of his books, Scott bought all the copies he could find in Los Angeles and gave them away to friends. Almost everyone who writes about Fitzgerald mentions that during the last year of his life he sold only forty copies of his books and received a princely royalty of $13.13. But no one has noticed that his book sales were virtually the same at the end of the 1920s as they were at the end of the 1930s. In 1927, two years after he published The Great Gatsby, his books earned only $153; in 1929 they earned $32. Most of his income, throughout his career, came from magazine stories and screenwriting rather than from books.
Fitzgerald found it extremely difficult to accept this painful fact. Toward the end of his life, when The Great Gatsby was dropped from the Modern Library because it failed to sell, he told Perkins that he felt rather neglected. He also asked his editor to salvage the remnants of his reputation by reprinting some of his earlier works. Speaking of himself in the past tense, he lamented his moribund career: "But to die, so completely and unjustly after having given so much. Even now there is little published in American fiction that doesn't slightly bear my stamp-in a small way I was an original."12
Fitzgerald's failure and obscurity were driven home once again when Scribner's published in October 1940 Hemingway's long-awaited, highly acclaimed and immensely successful novel about the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls. The novel was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, sold more than half a million copies in the first five months and was bought by the movies for one hundred thousand dollars. Fitzgerald was deeply moved when he received a copy inscribed, "To Scott with affection and esteem Ernest." He carefully studied the technical aspects of the book and praised the battle scenes in a rather insincere letter to the author: "It's a fine novel, better than anybody else writing could do. Thanks for thinking of me and for your dedication. I read it with intense interest, participating in a lot of the writing problems as they came along and often quite unable to discover how you brought off some of the effects, but you always did. The massacre was magnificent and also the fight on the mountain and the actual dynamiting scene… The scene in which the father says goodbye to his son is very powerful."
But, envious of Hemingway's success, Scott failed to recognize the greatness of the novel. When speaking and writing to friends, he condemned the love scenes-his own strong point. In his Notebooks he called it "a thoroughly superficial book that has all the profundity of [Daphne du Maurier's] Rebecca"-which Selznick and Hitchcock had just made into an extremely popular film. And he told Schulberg, at great length, how the romantic encounters between Robert Jordan and Maria were "dreadful." In The Last Tycoon he slyly mocked the most famous love scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls ("Did thee feel the earth move?") when Kathleen says to Stahr: "When you do that, you can feel the earth turn, can't you?" Scott told Sheilah: "It's not up to his standard. He wrote it for the movies," and complained that his former hero, in his public pronouncements, "has become a pompous bore." He also sent Zelda a more seriously considered judgment: "It is not as good as A Farewell to Arms. It doesn't seem to have the tensity or the freshness, nor has it the inspired poetic moments… It is full of a lot of rounded adventures on the Huckleberry Finn order and of course it is highly intelligent and literate like everything he does."13
Hemingway had come a long way from the humble flat near the sawmill in Paris, and their original positions were now exactly reversed. When they first met in May 1925 Fitzgerald was the well-established author and Hemingway was virtually unknown. By 1940 Fitzgerald's reputation had disappeared while Hemingway had become the preeminent American novelist. After Scott's death Ernest took steps to maintain his considerable advantage. He was conspicuously absent from the friends who paid tribute to Fitzgerald in The Crack-Up volume. In a series of fascinating letters to Mizener, he consistently denigrated his former and ever-more-threatening rival, and wittily remarked: "He had a very steep trajectory and was almost like a guided missile with no one guiding him."
When Mizener published an innocuous article on Fitzgerald in Life magazine of January 1951, just before the appearance of The Far Side of Paradise, Hemingway, fearing what might one day happen to him, poured a torrent of abuse on the head of the innocent biographer: "I would rather clean sewers for a living, every day, or bounce in a bad whorehouse or pimp for a living than to sign such an article." He also felt that Schulberg's novel, The Disenchanted, was "grave robbing." But Hemingway did more damage to Fitzgerald's reputation than Mizener and Schulberg ever did and tried to "destroy" him in A Moveable Feast just as he claimed Zelda had done in real life. Hemingway's most sincere but ambivalent judgment of his old friend, recorded by his son Gregory, distinguished between the early and the mature novels, and recognized that Scott had overcome formidable obstacles to achieve a strong finish. In the end, the guided missile hit the target:
Papa rarely forgot Scott Fitzgerald when we had these [literary] talks. "Gatsby was a great book. I've read it twice in the last five years. It gets better with each reading. Tender Is the Night is a fine book, too. Flawed in the middle. But so is my To Have and Have Not. This Side of Paradise is a joke, though. And The Beautiful and Damned is so damned unbeautiful I couldn't finish it! Scott's writing got better and better, but no one realized it, not even Scott. Despite his rummyhood and perhaps because of Zelda, who really made him the box with the handles, he got better and better. The stuff he was writing at the end was the best of all. Poor bastard."14
Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who were obsessed with each other throughout their lives, seemed completely different. But, as Fitzgerald had predicted ("he is quite as nervously broken down as I am"), they actually had many of the same weaknesses. Though Ernest had consistently scorned Scott's flawed character, he became tragically like Fitzgerald at the end of his life. He too had become a Catholic, been dazzled by the rich, turned into a celebrity, created a legend that made his life better known than his works; he too had been blocked as a writer, failed in marriage, escaped into alcoholism and become suicidal.
As Fitzgerald's film work petered out after the Winter Carnival fiasco, he returned to short fiction and to the Hollywood novel he hoped would restore his reputation and place him on the same level as Hemingway. In the fall of 1939 the emotionally battered writer (who owed money to Highland Hospital) told Dr. Carroll that he was no longer capable of producing the slick, formulaic tales that had earned high fees from the Saturday Evening Post: "I seem to have completely lost the gift for the commercial short story, which depends on the 'boy-meets-girl' motif. I can't write them convincingly any more which takes me completely out of the big money in that regard."
Fitzgerald published no fiction during his first two years in Hollywood (July 1937 to July 1939), but wrote twenty-four stories during the last eighteen months of his life. All but two of these stories were sold to Arnold Gingrich at Esquire. But Fitzgerald's fee had dropped to $250; and it now took sixteen stories to earn the $4,000 the Post used to pay for each one. The best late story was "The Lost Decade" (December 1939), an effective description of a man trying to get back in touch with the real world after ten years in an alcoholic stupor.
Seventeen of Fitzgerald's late, rather thin stories, published between January 1940 and May 1941, concerned the Hollywood hack Pat Hobby. They caught the desperation of a washed-up writer who was still trying to sell himself and portrayed, in an extreme form, what might happen to Fitzgerald himself if he could no longer earn any money in films. Pat Hobby is an impoverished alcoholic, hanger-on and con man, homeless and sleeping at the studio; a parasitic, thrice-divorced, intellectual thief. His old car is owned by the finance company, he has no real friends and he must live by his wits. But he somehow manages to survive.
While living in role-playing Hollywood, spending most of his time with the self-created Sheilah and portraying the worst aspects of his own character in the Pat Hobby stories, Fitzgerald had another unsettling identity crisis. As early as 1924 he had told Perkins that he wished to discard his old image and establish a new literary identity with The Great Gatsby: "I'm tired of being the author of This Side of Paradise and I want to start over." He had said there was no "I" any more in "The Crack-Up," and written himself the strange, dissociated postcard while living at the Garden of Allah. In February 1940 he sent Arnold Gingrich (who took everything he wrote) another Pat Hobby story and, remembering Father Darcy in his first novel, urged him to "publish it under a pseudonym-say, John Darcy? I'm awfully tired of being Scott Fitzgerald anyhow, as there doesn't seem to be so much money in it." Though he did not want to be himself, it was extremely difficult to shed his own identity and adopt another one.
In September 1939 Fitzgerald had sent Kenneth Littauer of Collier's magazine his plan for The Last Tycoon, and the editor had agreed to pay up to thirty thousand dollars for serial rights if he approved the first 15,000 words. Though he was sometimes interrupted by short spells of film work, Fitzgerald now devoted most of his time to the novel. Fiction allowed him to do what he could not do as a screenwriter: use his Hollywood experience, work without a supervisor or collaborator, retain complete control and do the kind of writing that best suited his talents. But during the last year of his life he could work for only a few hours at a time before becoming completely exhausted. His secretary Frances Kroll recalled that "he wrote in bed, in longhand… Once the plan for a story or idea was clear in his mind, he wrote rapidly. Although it took him several years to accumulate and coordinate notes for The Last Tycoon, the actual writing time of the unfinished novel was only four months."15
Monroe Stahr, the hero of The Last Tycoon, is closely modeled on the gifted producer Irving Thalberg, whose successful films of the 1930s included Grand Hotel, Mutiny on the Bounty and Camille. Thalberg's charm, good looks, bountiful achievements and imminent tragedy had fascinated Fitzgerald ever since their first meeting in 1927. Like Thalberg, Stahr is Jewish, fairly short, attractive and of limited education. He lives in a rented house, comes to the studio at 11 a.m. and has a habit of tossing a coin in the air. Hard-working and loyal to subordinates, he is also reserved and dignified; he never puts his name on a film and is willing to take a loss on an experimental picture. Good at establishing high morale among his employees, he also uses teams of different writers working separately-and unknowingly-on the same script. Stahr also has a damaged heart from a childhood bout of rheumatic fever and does not have long to live.
Stahr's struggle for control of the studio with Pat Brady, an executive who is interested only in money, was based on Thalberg's dispute with Louis Mayer, the most powerful man in Hollywood, about taking protracted medical leave. While the sickly Thalberg was traveling in Europe in 1933, Mayer suddenly relieved him of his duties as head of production at MGM. Stahr's violent quarrel with the union leader Brimmer was based on Thalberg's vehement and ultimately effective opposition to the Screen Writers Guild, which (like Brady) threatened his preeminence in the studio. "I never thought that I had more brains than a writer has," Stahr arrogantly tells Brimmer in the novel. "But I always thought that his brains belonged to me-because I knew how to use them."
When Thalberg died in 1936, leaving Fitzgerald free to write about him, Scott expressed his complex feelings about the man in a letter to Oscar Kalman. Fitzgerald had portrayed Thalberg's suspicion of his wife's infidelity in the love affair of Joel Coles and Stella Calman in "Crazy Sunday"; but he too had suspected Thalberg of ruining the prospects of a film based on his most recent novel: "Thalberg's final collapse is the death of an enemy for me, though I liked the guy enormously. He had an idea that his wife and I were playing around, which was absolute nonsense, but I think even so that he killed the idea of either [Miriam] Hopkins or Fredric March doing Tender Is the Night."16
Stahr demonstrates his personal and intellectual superiority throughout The Last Tycoon. The airline pilot in the opening scene says he could teach him to fly in ten minutes. He shows qualities of heroism and leadership, and courageously cancels four inferior films. He teaches Boxley about screenwriting and relieves Roderiguez's fears of impotence; exhibits decisiveness and good taste when removing a director, Red Ridingwood, who has lost artistic control of a film, and shows compassionate interest in the health of Zavras, a Greek cameraman. Despite his potentially fatal heart disease, he drives himself mercilessly and sacrifices himself for the good of the studio. He is always in control of the situation, revealing a complete mastery of all the technical and artistic aspects of his films. Violently opposed to a screenwriters' union, Stahr confronts Brimmer. When their negotiations break down, he tries to punch him (Fitzgerald's method of settling disputes in real life) and is beaten up by Brimmer. Unlike the brutal film producer Joseph Bloeckman, who thrashes the drunken Anthony Patch in The Beautiful and Damned, Stahr is the kind of Jew who is "butchered" because he is "too wise."
Though Brady was based on Mayer (whom Fitzgerald disliked) and Brimmer was a Communist organizer (with whom he had little sympathy), neither of them was, as one might expect, portrayed as a Jew. Fitzgerald told Kenneth Littauer that he had also minimized Thalberg's Jewishness and that "the racial angle shall scarcely be touched on at all." But he provides crucial information about the religious background of the stubborn and single-minded Stahr: "He was a rationalist who did his own reasoning without benefit of books-and had just managed to climb out of a thousand years of Jewry into the late eighteenth century." Intelligent and thoughtful, "he had an intense respect for learning, a racial memory of the old schules." An admiring director, noting the grandeur of Stahr's vision, deliberately rejects a deep-rooted stereotype and thinks: "He had worked with Jews too long to believe legends that they were small with money."
After forming friendships with many sympathetic and generous Jews in New York, Europe and Hollywood, Fitzgerald had rejected the anti-Semitism, endemic among middle-class white Americans, which he had learned during his youth in St. Paul.17 The radical transformation in his personal attitude was clearly reflected in his novels, which moved from the extremely negative portraits of Joseph Bloeckman and the gangster Meyer Wolfsheim to an unbounded respect for Monroe Stahr, his most impressive and appealing fictional character. Fitzgerald strongly identified with Thalberg, who was torn between his emotional life and his professional career, and was also a sickly artist doomed to destruction by the materialistic power of Hollywood.
In The Last Tycoon, as in Tender Is the Night, most of the characters were based, like Stahr and Brady, on real people. We have seen that the English screenwriter Boxley was modeled on Aldous Huxley, Stahr's English lover, Kathleen, on Sheilah Graham. Kathleen reminds Stahr of his dead wife, Minna, just as Sheilah reminded Scott of his insane wife, Zelda. Brady's daughter, Cecilia, who is hopelessly in love with Stahr, was a composite of Scottie (a Catholic student at Vassar, rather than at Bennington) and Budd Schulberg (who had grown up in Hollywood and had movie stars come to his birthday parties). The lovable Jane Meloney, who earns three thousand dollars a week and is married to an alcoholic husband who beats her, seems based on the highly paid and heavy-drinking Dorothy Parker, who had a tumultuous marriage to her much-younger co-author, Alan Campbell. Red Ridingwood, the incompetent director who is deftly fired by Stahr, seemed to be a retaliatory portrait of Joseph Mankiewicz. And Brimmer was probably a mixture of both Donald Ogden Stewart and Max Eastman, who were actively involved in Communist politics.
The novel opens as Cecilia Brady meets Monroe Stahr, along with the screenwriters Manny Schwartz and Wylie White, on a westward cross-country flight. During a forced stop in Nashville, Cecilia, White and Schwartz make a visit at dawn to Andrew Jackson's house, the Hermitage. Their inability to enter the locked house, or even to see it clearly, symbolizes the lamentable failure of the film industry to embody and represent the ideals and traditions of America.
Their strange visit to the Hermitage is a reprise of the disillusioning scene in The Beautiful and Damned in which Anthony and Gloria Patch visit, while on their honeymoon, Robert E. Lee's mansion in Arlington, Virginia. Fitzgerald probably chose the home of Jackson because he was a hero in the War of 1812, which had inspired Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner." Fitzgerald himself once made an unscheduled stop in Nashville during a stormy transcontinental flight. As he told Ober in February 1938: "We had a terrible trip back and the plane flew all over the South before it could buck through the winds up to Memphis, then it flew back and forth for three hours between Memphis and Nashville, trying to land."
This dangerous flight undoubtedly gave Fitzgerald premonitions of disaster. In "Crazy Sunday" Joel Coles sleeps with Stella Calman on the night that her husband Miles (a character also based on Thalberg) is killed in a plane crash on the way back to Hollywood. According to Fitzgerald's plan for the end of the novel, Stahr, on the way to New York to call off the murder of Brady, who had planned to murder him, is also killed in a plane crash. His personal possessions-his symbolic heritage-are salvaged from a mountain by a group of schoolchildren, who gradually learn to admire his achievements.
Stahr's tragic defeat in the projected plane crash at the end of The Last Tycoon was influenced by the plane crash at the end of Andre Malraux's Man's Hope (1938) and by its idealistic culminating scene, in which a procession of peasants expresses solidarity with the Loyalists by carrying the dead and wounded down the side of a mountain. Malraux, like Hemingway, spoke in Hollywood, while Fitzgerald was there, to raise money for the Spanish Loyalists. Fitzgerald owned a copy of Man's Hope and wrote notes about the sources of The Great Gatsby on the endpaper of Malraux's book.
In Tender Is the Night Fitzgerald had made some shrewd comments about the movies, based on his observation of the careers of Carmel Myers and Lois Moran. In The Last Tycoon he anatomizes the film industry more thoroughly and offers an oblique explanation of his own failure. Fitzgerald's Hollywood is dominated by the meretricious beauty of the film stars, by status and power, by crude toadyism and sexual corruption. In that rotten yet illusory atmosphere-which consistently destroys artistic integrity and moral identity-writers, struggling for a screen credit, are soon driven to alcohol. Self-betrayal is a dominant theme in both novels. The later book portrays the conflict between Stahr's self-consuming career in film and his courtship of Kathleen. During their romance she describes her "College of One" education with a previous lover and they make love in the half-finished movie set of a house he is building at Malibu. In the end Stahr cannot fully commit himself to her. He chooses to remain an artist, an enlightened despot and a tycoon, and she leaves him to marry another man.
The Last Tycoon has a strong love story and many dramatic incidents: Manny Schwartz's suicide, an earthquake and flood in the studio when Stahr first sees Kathleen floating on the head of the Goddess Shiva, Cecilia's discovery of a naked secretary hiding in her father's office, Stahr's fist fight with Brimmer and his fatal plane crash. Fitzgerald was therefore confident that Collier's would buy the serial rights and finance the completion of the novel. In November 1939, after planning the entire book and writing the first chapter, he sent 6,000 words instead of the promised 15,000 to Collier's and asked for an immediate decision. Littauer quite reasonably wired back: FIRST SIX THOUSAND PRETTY CRYPTIC THERFORE [sic] DISAPPOINTING… CAN WE DEFER VERDICT UNTIL FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF STORY?
Ober had warned the volatile Fitzgerald not to deal directly with editors. As shattered by this rejection as he had been by Ober's in July, Fitzgerald impulsively broke off negotiations instead of allowing Littauer to see more of his work. After throwing away the chance of substantial payment from Collier's, he could not sell serial rights to another magazine. He then went on a compensatory and self-punishing alcoholic binge, and had his most violent quarrel with Sheilah. Collier's rejection forced him back into occasional film work and once again delayed completion of The Last Tycoon. While struggling to finish the novel in October 1940, Fitzgerald, who had once thought "life was something you dominated," bitterly told Scottie: "life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat."18
Fitzgerald wrote the first half of the novel before he died and left an outline for the rest. His notes show how the book came into being and comment on the part that was completed. Had he lived to finish it, the novel would have been much more polished and densely textured. But, like Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Fitzgerald's last work proved that he retained his full creative powers and wrote some of his best fiction at the very end of his life. When The Last Tycoon appeared posthumously in October 1941, critics tried to atone for their neglect of Fitzgerald. J. Donald Adams in the New York Times Book Review, Fanny Butcher in the Chicago Tribune, Clifton Fadiman in the New Yorker, Margaret Marshall in the Nation and James Thurber in the New Republic all praised it as a major work, equal to The Great Gatsby, and called it the finest novel about Hollywood. Four years later the novelist J. F. Powers, in a perceptive essay, agreed that it "contained more of his best writing than anything he had ever done and Fitzgerald's best had always been the best there was."19
Fitzgerald's work on the novel was also delayed by bad health. After the trip to Cuba in April 1939 a lesion was discovered in one of his lungs and he had to spend the next two months in bed. In July he told Scottie that he not only had had a flare-up of tuberculosis, but he had also suffered another nervous breakdown that threatened to paralyze both arms. In fact, his arms got twisted in the bedclothes when he was drunk and his doctors, to scare him away from alcohol, threatened him with paralysis.
He was overcome by another imaginary illness in March 1940 when he was again flying across the country. He suddenly felt terribly sick, panicked and rather grandly asked the airline stewardess to wire for a doctor, nurse and ambulance to meet him at Tucson airport. By the time they landed, Fitzgerald had miraculously recovered and decided to remain on the plane. When pressed for payment by the Lusk Detective and Collection Agency, B. A. Budd, attorney-at-law, and Bring's Funeral Home, he candidly replied: "You can't get blood out of a stone." But he took the precaution of telling Perkins not to disclose his private address. "The claimant is, of all things, an undertaker," Scott explained, rather enjoying the ghoulish joke. "Not that I owe him for a corpse, but for an ambulance which he claims that I ordered. In any case he now writes me threatening to serve me with a summons and a complaint." Perkins was also instructed to say that he did not know if his wayward author was in New Orleans or at the North Pole.
But Fitzgerald's illness was not entirely fanciful. Like Monroe Stahr, he was perilously close to ambulances and funeral homes. When the playwright Clifford Odets saw him at Dorothy Parker's cocktail party in September 1940, he apprehensively noted: "Fitzgerald, pale, unhealthy, as if the tension of life had been wrenched out of him." Scott was taking potentially lethal doses of barbiturates and forty-eight drops of digitalis to keep his heart working overnight. But his medicine did not do much good. In late November 1940 he had his first heart attack in Schwab's drugstore. He almost fainted, and said that "everything started to fade."
After this attack he could no longer climb the stairs to his third-floor apartment on Laurel Avenue and moved into Sheilah's first-floor flat at 1443 North Hayworth Avenue, on the next street. He was glad to leave his place, which had an unnerving surrealistic element: a woman tenant, who performed professionally on radio, regularly practiced laughing and screaming. Fitzgerald settled into a sickbed routine, writing whenever he could; and told the California tax commissioner, who also failed to extract money from him: "life is one cardiogram after another, which is a pleasant change from X-rays."20 In October 1940-remembering his father's heart disease and wondering if he was near the finish line-Scott had bravely told Zelda: "the constitution is an amazing thing and nothing quite kills it until the heart has run its entire race."
On December 20, after seeing a film with Sheilah, he had a second heart attack and just managed with her help to stagger out of the Pantages Theater. The following day, Saturday, December 21, at three o'clock in the afternoon, Fitzgerald suffered his third-and this time fatal-heart attack. He was in Sheilah's apartment, sitting in a green armchair, finishing a chocolate bar and making notes on an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly: "An Analytical Long Range View of the 1940 Football Team." Suddenly, he started out of his chair as if jerked by a wire, clutched at the mantelpiece and fell silently to the floor. He lay on his back, breathing heavily. Sheilah summoned medical help, which arrived too late to save him.21 Like Robert Louis Stevenson and D. H. Lawrence, Fitzgerald died at the age of forty-four.
His body was taken to the Wordsworth Room of Pierce Brothers Mortuary at 720 West Washington Boulevard, in a seedy part of downtown Los Angeles. Defaced by a cosmetic mortician, he had highly rouged cheeks and looked like a badly painted portrait. One of the few visitors recalled:
Except for one bouquet of flowers and a few empty chairs, there was nothing to keep him company except his casket… I never saw a sadder [scene] than the end of the father of all the sad young men. He was laid out to look like a cross between a floor-walker and a wax dummy… But in technicolor… His hands were horribly wrinkled and thin, the only proof left after death that for all the props of youth, he actually had suffered and died an old man.
When Fitzgerald heard of the death of his literary master, he had stood on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and mournfully repeated: "Conrad is dead!"22 When Dorothy Parker saw Fitzgerald in the Los Angeles funeral home, she ironically quoted Owl-eyes' comment on Jay Gatsby and said: "The poor son-of-a-bitch."
Fanny Myers was shocked to hear that her friend Scottie had gone to the opera-probably to distract her from the tragedy-on the day her father died. Gerald Murphy reported, the day before the funeral, that the nineteen-year-old Scottie was distraught, that Zelda was devastated and that Sheilah would be tactfully excluded from the ceremony:
Little Scottie is tragic and bewildered tho' she says that she has thought for so long that every day he would die for some reason… Zelda seized upon his death as the only reality that had pierced the membrane since they separated … gave weird orders for the disposition of the body … then collapsed. She is not allowed to come to the funeral… Sheilah Graham had wired that she wants to see us and she arrives by plane Saturday.
Fitzgerald's original will had requested a rather grand funeral in "accordance with my station." Later on, realizing he had no station, he crossed this phrase out and substituted "the cheapest possible funeral." Because he had not been a practicing Catholic, the authorities in Maryland-where Father Fay once had great pull with Cardinal Gibbons-would not permit, despite the urgent pleas of family and friends, a Catholic funeral service in St. Mary's Church in Rockville or burial next to his parents in his ancestral cemetery. Instead, an Episcopal service was conducted on December 27 by the Reverend Raymond Black in the Pumphrey Funeral Home in Bethesda. It was attended by about twenty people, including Scottie, cousin Cecilia Taylor and her four daughters from Norfolk, Scott's brother-in-law Newman Smith, Gerald and Sara Murphy, Max and Louise Perkins, Harold and Anne Ober, John and Anna Biggs, Ludlow Fowler (the best man at Scott's wedding) and the Turnbulls. Judge Biggs, a Princeton friend and sometime Scribner's novelist, resented Scott's success and said he had "the estate of a pauper and the will of a millionaire."23 But his estate, mainly derived from his life insurance policy (since he had no assets and his royalties were then worth very little), came to $44,000 gross and about $32,000 after his debts had been paid.
In late December 1940 Zelda seemed to recover her lucidity, once again expressed her gratitude to Scott and paid tribute to his magnanimous character in two moving letters to Harold Ober and the Murphys:
He was as spiritually generous a soul as ever was… In retrospect it seems as if he was always planning happinesses for Scottie, and for me. Books to read-places to go. Life seemed so promisory always when he was around: and I always believed that he could take care of anything.
I grieve for his brilliant talent, his faithful effort to keep me under the best of very expensive care and Scottie in school; his devotion to those that he felt were contributing to the aesthetic and spiritual purposes of life-and for his generous and vibrant soul that never spared itself, and never found anything too much trouble save the fundamentals of life itself.24
Fitzgerald could never decide where he wanted to live and had never bought a house. He seemed permanently torn between America and Europe, St. Paul and Montgomery, city life in Manhattan and suburban life in Westport and Great Neck; between Wilmington and New York, Baltimore and Asheville. Even in Los Angeles he drifted between hotels, flats and houses in Hollywood, the Valley and the beach at Malibu. And, like Poe's heroines, he continued to move about after death. In 1975 the Catholic authorities changed their minds. The bodies of Scott and Zelda were then disinterred, and moved from Rockville Union Cemetery to St. Mary's Church in the busy center of town. The last line of The Great Gatsby-"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"-was cut on their gravestone.
Strongly influenced by "The Crack-Up," by Mok's damaging interview and by Fitzgerald's alcoholism and declining reputation, the brief obituaries ignored his achievements. They suggested that he had not fulfilled his early promise, had faded out and been forgotten during the last decade of his life. The rabidly Right-wing journalist Westbrook Pegler was the nastiest of the lot. He declared that Fitzgerald had a malign influence on the "queer brand of undisciplined and self-indulgent brats" of the 1920s, and that this "cult of juvenile crying-drunks … seized upon Fitzgerald's writing as an excuse to … flout every ordinance of morality, responsibility, respectability and manhood."
Edmund Wilson, who had often scorned Scott during his lifetime, was primarily responsible for reviving his reputation after he died. Just after hearing about Scott's death, Wilson stressed, in a letter to Zelda, his closeness to Fitzgerald, who seemed to represent an aspect of his own character that had somehow failed to develop: "I feel myself as if I had been suddenly robbed of some part of my own personality." Deeply moved by Scott's death and perhaps remorseful that he had not fully reciprocated his friendship and appreciated his genius, Wilson attempted to make amends for his blindness and occasional cruelty by becoming the guardian of Fitzgerald's posthumous reputation. In February and March 1941 Wilson commissioned for the New Republic critical essays on Fitzgerald by Dos Passos, Glenway Wescott, John O'Hara and Budd Schulberg, and "The Hours," an elegy by John Bishop. Wilson edited and supplied the title for The Last Tycoon, and compiled Fitzgerald's uncollected essays, notebooks and letters (more than half of them to Wilson) in The Crack-Up (1945).
Writing to Perkins in February 1941, Wilson ignored the portrayal of psychiatry in Tender Is the Night and rather grudgingly conceded that The Last Tycoon was "the only one of Scott's books that shows any knowledge of any field of human activity outside of dissipation." His two-page Foreword called it "Fitzgerald's most mature piece of work" and "the best novel we have had about Hollywood." For Wilson, the unfinished work had almost the look of a classic. He thought Fitzgerald would "stand out as one of the first-rate figures in the American writing of the period." In a letter to Christian Gauss, who had known Scott as an undergraduate, Wilson praised the seriousness and technical skill of his last novel: "I think it would have been in some ways his best book-certainly his most mature. He had made some sort of new adjustment to life, and was working very hard at the time of his death. He had written the last pages the day before he died of a heart attack. In going through his MSS and notes, I was very much impressed to see what a conscientious artist he had become."25 Wilson's reconstruction of Fitzgerald's notes, which suggested how the fragmentary novel would develop and conclude, was absolutely brilliant.
Wilson's editorial work on The Crack-Up was also extensive and important. He told Perkins that he had hated Fitzgerald's confessional essays (as he had originally disliked The Beautiful and Damned) when they first appeared in Esquire in 1936. They must have reminded him, in a menacing way, of his own alcoholism and nervous breakdown in 1929. But he admitted, after Fitzgerald's death, that "there was more truth and sincerity in it, I suppose, than we realized at the time." Perkins did not agree with this assessment, and the valuable and influential book was eventually brought out by New Directions. This volume included, in addition to Fitzgerald's work, admiring letters to him from Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Wolfe and John Dos Passos; essays by Dos Passos, Paul Rosenfeld and Glenway Wescott; and elegiac poems by Bishop and Wilson.
In his play The Crime in the Whistler Room (produced in 1924), Wilson had portrayed Fitzgerald as the brilliant but brash and unstable writer, Simon Delacy, who likes to speed in roadsters, impregnates a young lady and elopes with her. Wilson's elegy is a very different sort of work. Written in heroic couplets in Wellfleet on Cape Cod in February 1942, it was influenced by the description of the Atlantic gale in Yeats' "A Prayer for My Daughter." At the start of the poem Wilson mentions that he had edited his friend's work from the very beginning until the very end of Fitzgerald's literary career. His life's work, it seemed, was to correct that errant genius. Even in this memorial poem, however, Wilson portrays him in a narcissistic and degrading moment. At Princeton Wilson had once found him with
Pale skin, hard green eyes, and yellow hair-
Intently pinching out before a glass
Some pimples left by parties at the Nass;
Nor did [he] stop abashed, thus pocked and blotched,
But kept on peering while I stood and watched.
The poem concludes more sympathetically by returning to the once-emerald and now-dead eyes of his lost friend:
Those eyes struck dark, dissolving in a wrecked
And darkened world, that gleam of intellect
That spilled into the spectrum of tune, taste,
Scent, color, living speech, is gone, is lost.
While preparing The Crack-Up Wilson, referring to Fitzgerald and Bishop, honestly told Christian Gauss: "I was more fortunate than either of them, not in gifts, but in the opportunity to survive."26 But Wilson, who outlived Fitzgerald by thirty-two years, survived as a critic. Fitzgerald, with Wilson's ambivalent help, survived as an artist.
Fitzgerald would have taken melancholy pleasure in seeing his final-though posthumous-triumph as readers belatedly recognized the delicacy and depth in his work. Reviewing Wilson's edition of The Last Tycoon in 1941, Stephen Vincent Benet (a Yale friend of Gerald Murphy) had prophetically announced: "You can take your hats off now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you had better. This is not a legend, this is a reputation-and, seen in perspective, it may well be one of the most secure reputations of our time." This judgment was fortified in John O'Hara's Introduction to The Portable Fitzgerald, edited by Dorothy Parker and published, a month after The Crack-Up, in September 1945.
In 1950 Budd Schulberg published The Disenchanted, his fictionalized version of the drunken Fitzgerald at Dartmouth. The novel became a Broadway play and aroused considerable interest in Scott's chaotic life. A crucial but little-noticed factor in the Fitzgerald revival was the accidental death of Zelda in 1948, which allowed Arthur Mizener to discuss her insanity in his biography, The Far Side of Paradise (1951). Edmund Wilson (like Hemingway) carried on an extensive correspondence with Mizener, correcting errors and putting forth his own view of Fitzgerald. Though Wilson himself liked to draw attention to the discreditable aspects of Scott's life, he too was shocked by Mizener's truthful revelations and delivered an unduly harsh judgment to Gauss: "[Mizener] has assembled in a spirit absolutely ghoulish everything discreditable or humiliating that ever happened to Scott."
Two other books appeared in 1951 to strengthen Fitzgerald's reputation: Malcolm Cowley's edition of twenty-eight of Scott's best stories and Alfred Kazin's collection, F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work, which included thirty appreciative reviews and essays by the leading critics of the time. In 1958 Sheilah Graham brought out Beloved Infidel, the first of her gossipy autobiographies, to satisfy the intense curiosity that had been aroused by Schulberg and Mizener. The following year her book was made into a tear-jerking film with Gregory Peck as the too-classy Scott and Deborah Kerr as the far-too-refined Sheilah. Between Afternoon of an Author in 1957 and Poems in 1981, nineteen other posthumous collections were published by industrious if undiscriminating editors to meet the increasing demand for Fitzgerald's books.
We have noted the significant impact of "The Crack-Up" on Robert Lowell and the American confessional poets. Fitzgerald's ability to create and exploit a negative public image influenced writers like Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac. His influence has also been felt in the more genteel novelistic tradition of manners and morals represented in the novels of John O'Hara, John Marquand, John Cheever and John Updike, who praised the "brilliant ease in [Fitzgerald's] prose, the poignant grace glimmering off every page."27 Fitzgerald's "The Swimmers," for example, had a clear impact on one of Cheever's best stories, "The Swimmer" (1964). Cole Porter, who met Fitzgerald on the French Riviera, lifted a phrase from the first sentence of "Absolution"-"in the still of the night"-and in 1937 turned it into one of his best songs. The persistent snow that fell in "The Dead" and drifted through "Babylon Revisited" finally settled in J. F. Powers' superb story "Lions, Harts, Leaping Does" (1943). And Fitzgerald's negative portrayal of a Germanic priest from the Upper Midwest in "Absolution," and of Judy Jones' wild golf ball that strikes another player in "Winter Dreams," reappear in Powers' novel Morte d'Urban, which won the National Book Award in 1963. In 1989 the German playwright Peter Handke echoed Scott's title and dedicated The Afternoon of a Writer "To F. Scott Fitzgerald."
Fitzgerald inspired not only the rather limp elegies by Wilson and Bishop, but also (beginning early in his career) many sympathetic portraits in novels, plays and poems.28 After his death five films (in addition to Beloved Infidel) were made from his works: The Great Gatsby with Alan Ladd and Betty Field in 1949; The Last Time I Saw Paris, loosely adapted from "Babylon Revisited," in 1954; Tender Is the Night with Jason Robards and Jennifer Jones in 1962; The Great Gatsby, directed by Jack Clayton, with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Bruce Dern, in 1974; and-most disappointing-The Last Tycoon, directed by Elia Kazan from a leaden script by Harold Pinter, with Robert De Niro and Ingrid Boulting, in 1976. Scottie sold rights to the second Great Gatsby to Paramount for $350,000 and a percentage of the profits; and the Bantam paperback brought out in conjunction with the film was published in an edition of 1,450,000 copies. By 1980 The Great Gatsby (which had been dropped from the Modern Library for lack of interest during the 1930s) was selling at the rate of 300,000 copies a year and total sales of Fitzgerald's books had reached eight million. At the San Francisco Book Fair in February 1993, Fitzgerald's letters to his Baltimore secretary Isabel Owens, with detailed instructions about how to bring up Scottie, were being offered for $25,000-two and a half times his annual salary when he employed her.
Zelda received very little benefit from Scott's astonishing posthumous success. From the mid-1930s she was possessed by religious mania. She carried a Bible around with her and would suddenly kneel in public places to repeat her prayers. The once-dazzling beauty, who had conquered New York in 1920, returned to Montgomery in a broken and pitiful state, and would wander the streets (as Scott's mother had once done) in a long black dress and a tattered floppy hat. In 1947 she sadly told her sister: "I have tried so hard and prayed so earnestly and faithfully asking God to help me, I cannot understand why He leaves me in suffering."
Zelda continued to wander in the borderlands between hysteria and insanity. When she felt the onset of madness-in August 1943, early 1946 and again in November 1947-she retreated to Highland for half a year at a time and endured yet another series of insulin shock treatments. She had always been obsessed by fire. After predicting the damnation of many of her sinful friends during her phases of religious mania, she herself met an apocalyptic ending.
On March 10, 1948, two years after Dr. Carroll had retired as director of Highland, a fire flared up at midnight in the kitchen of the Central Building. It quickly spread through the dumbwaiter shaft and down the corridors of the top floor, where Zelda was sleeping. The hospital had no fire alarm or sprinkler system, and the external wooden fire escapes soon burned up.
Dr. Irving Pine, who had been treating her, stated that "had she not been asleep, Zelda ought to have been well enough to have escaped and walked away from the top floor where she was trapped in the fatal fire." But the New York Herald Tribune of March 12, 1948, reported that she could not escape because she was locked in: "six patients were trapped on the fourth floor. Chains and padlocks prevented the windows from being opened far enough for patients to escape."29 Zelda died with eight other women (out of twenty-nine patients in the hospital) and was identified only by a charred slipper lying beneath her equally charred body. Her mother, who lived until the age of ninety-eight, died ten years later. The house at 819 Felder Avenue in Montgomery, where Scott and Zelda lived in 1931-32, is now the Fitzgerald Museum.
Despite her unstable childhood and the tragic deaths of her parents, Scottie turned out to be surprisingly well adjusted. In February 1943 she married a handsome young naval officer, Samuel Jackson Lanahan, who came from a wealthy Baltimore family. Zelda (though not in Highland) did not attend the wedding, which was organized by Anne Ober, and Harold gave away the bride. Scottie had her first story, "A Wonderful Time," accepted by the New Yorker when she was only eighteen and published on October 19, 1940. After graduating from Vassar, she worked for the New Yorker from 1944 to 1948, and made her career as a professional journalist. She was a researcher for Time, a publicist for the Radio City Music Hall, a journalist in New York and Washington for the Reporter, the Democratic Digest and the Northern Virginia Sun, and in the 1960s wrote for the society page of the Washington Post and New York Times.
Brendan Gill, who knew her when she was a reporter for the New Yorker, suggested that Fitzgerald had done a fine job in bringing up Scottie. She had none of her parents' faults and a great deal of their charm: "She was a small, fine-boned, good-looking young woman, exceptional in energy and in her sunny good nature-none of the series of misfortunes that dogged her parents appeared to have cast the least shadow over her."
The biographer Meryle Secrest knew Scottie twenty years later when they both worked for the Washington Post. She described Scottie as a petite woman with a trim figure and small, regular features. An entirely conventional woman, she was not interested in journalists or artists. She wanted to be part of Georgetown culture, was passionately involved with fund-raising for the Democratic party and was acquainted with leading political figures like Adlai Stevenson and the Kennedys. Lanahan, Secrest said, was a large, square-jawed man with heavy, rough-cut features. He and Scottie seemed friendly, relaxed and happy with each other at their fashionable parties.
The Lanahans had four children in rapid succession. Their eldest son, Timothy, born in 1946, went to Princeton and died, apparently a suicide, in Hawaii. Eleanor, born in 1948, is divorced and lives in Vermont. Cecilia is married and lives in Pennsylvania. And Jack junior has a computer firm in Oregon. Scottie later divorced Lanahan, was disappointed by a man she loved and had another affair with a well-known cartoonist. She then married Grove Smith, "a sweet, supportive man, also very interested in politics."30 But she left Grove Smith and moved from Washington to Montgomery in 1973-mainly to care for her aunt (and Fitzgerald's great enemy) Rosalind Sayre Smith-and divorced her second husband in 1980. Six years later the generous and much-loved Scottie died in Montgomery of cancer of the esophagus and was buried next to her parents.
Sheilah had the most extraordinary career of all. In 1941 she married a rather dull Englishman, Trevor Westbrook, who was head of aviation production in Churchill's wartime government. She had a daughter, Wendy, a teacher at Brooklyn College, and a son, Robert, a writer. After divorcing Westbrook, Sheilah had an equally unsuccessful third marriage in the 1950s to W. S. Wojkiewicz, a much younger man who was a boys' football coach. She exploited her affair with Fitzgerald to the fullest possible extent, and eventually had a syndicated gossip column, a radio program and a television show. She outlived Scottie by two years, and died rich and famous in Florida in 1988. Four years later her daughter published a soppy autobiography, One of the Family, which corrected some of the mythologizing of Beloved Infidel and revealed that Wendy was the illegitimate daughter of the Oxford philosopher A. J. Ayer, with whom Sheilah had an unlikely affair a few months after Scott's death.
Fitzgerald's short life was in many ways a tragic one. He was a legend in his own time, famous for his youth and talent. His early novels, with their sad young men and beautiful young women eager to risk ruin in order to live intensely, were enormously popular. He and Zelda epitomized and publicized a particular era, and were the first literary couple to be glamorous in an egoistic way.
His greatest work shows what happens to people who pursue illusory American dreams, and how society (which they have rejected) fails to sustain them in their desperate hour. The Great Gatsby embodies the failure of romantic idealism, while Tender Is the Night intimately reveals how this apparently perfect American couple plunged into estrangement, mental illness and alcoholism. In both these novels the hero achieves a great deal. But he also loses the individual qualities that defined him at the beginning of the book and ends, as he lived, essentially alone. In "Babylon Revisited," "Crazy Sunday" and "The Crack-Up" Fitzgerald courageously explored and revealed his own character. He has left us, not a glamorous legend, but a vivid record of self-examination.
He deserved greater recognition than he received in his last years, but he did not become bitter about his fate. He remained loyal to Zelda, writing her weekly letters until his death. He did everything he could to care for his wife and daughter, while he led a modest existence, and died doing what he knew how to do best-writing a novel. The Last Tycoon, even in its unfinished state, examines the essential problem of his life: the struggle to achieve artistic integrity.
Fitzgerald had, as Raymond Chandler observed, "one of the rarest qualities in all literature … charm as Keats would have used it… It's a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite." The magic of his prose surely derived from the magic of his personality, which so many of his friends described and admired. This image of Fitzgerald's charm-and of his heroic struggle against adversity-outlasts the catalogue of ills and frustrations that marked the last decade of his life. His old friend Alice Toklas, summarizing his life in two perceptive sentences, called him "the most sensitive … the most distinguished-the most gifted and intelligent of all his contemporaries. And the most lovable-he is one of those great tragic American figures."31
Fitzgerald was influenced not only by Poe’s literary works, but also by a keen awareness of the parallels between Poe’s life and his own. Both men were the same height and weight: five feet eight inches and 140 pounds. Both had eminent ancestors: Poe’s grandfather was a quartermaster in the Revolutionary Army, Fitzgerald was descended from Francis Scott Key. But since Poe’s father was an alcoholic actor and Fitzgerald’s father a pathetic failure, the writers, uneasy about their dubious social status, were attracted to old families and envied solid wealth. Both emphasized the dark side of their character by falsely claiming to be descended from the Revolutionary War traitor, Benedict Arnold. Though Poe was born in Boston and Fitzgerald in St. Paul, they associated themselves with the Southern gentility and courtly manners of Virginia (where Poe grew up) and of Maryland (where Fitzgerald’s father was raised). Poe left the University of Virginia, as Fitzgerald left Princeton, without graduating. After serving as an enlisted man, Poe was expelled from West Point; Fitzgerald had an undistinguished career in American military camps and never crossed the ocean to fight in the European war.
Fitzgerald strongly identified with the histrionic personality of Poe, whose tragic life initiated the pattern of the self-destructive American writer that Fitzgerald was to follow. In This Side of Paradise, Amory Blaine reads “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “used to go for far walks by himself—and wander along reciting ‘Ulalume’ to the cornfields, and congratulating Poe for drinking himself to death in that atmosphere of smiling complacency.” Both men were alcoholics who became drunk after only one or two glasses, often lost control of themselves, and acted in an abject and humiliating manner. Like Poe, Fitzgerald sometimes drank for a week at a time, was jailed for drunkenness and sobered up in towns like Brussels without any idea of how he had got there. Francis Melarky, the hero of Our Type, an early version of Tender Is the Night, suggests a modern counterpart of the myth of Edgar Poe. A Southerner who had been dismissed from West Point, Melarky later gets into a drunken brawl and falls into habits of waste and dissipation.
Though the pattern of Poe’s life was tragic, Fitzgerald was proud of their similarities. When he visited Baltimore in September 1935, he found the decadent city warm and pleasant, and nostalgically wrote: “I love it more than I thought—it is so rich with memories—it is nice to look up the street and see the statue of my great uncle and to know Poe is buried here and that many ancestors of mine have walked in the old town by the bay. I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite.”
Both men proposed to their beloved in a cemetery and had tragic marriages. Virginia Poe died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four; Zelda Fitzgerald became insane when she was twenty-nine. Fitzgerald tutored his mistress Sheilah Graham just as Poe had tutored Virginia. Both men wasted their artistic talent as hack writers for popular magazines, yet were desperately short of money and frequently had to borrow from their friends. Poe ruined his chances by offending influential literary editors just as Fitzgerald did with powerful film producers. Both attempted suicide, and pleaded with women to save them from their self-destructive impulses. Both authors suffered from hypoglycemia, which made it difficult to metabolize alcohol, died from the effects of drink and were buried in the state of Maryland. Their reckless personal life damaged their literary reputations, and their work was not revived until many years after their deaths.
Fitzgerald’s identification with Poe was strengthened during his own decline in the 1930s by his friendship with the lawyer Edgar Allan Poe, Jr., who was a collateral descendant of the writer and had been at Princeton with Fitzgerald. Early in 1937 Fitzgerald mentioned the lawyer’s name to a friend and then exclaimed: “Conceive of that—Edgar Allan Poe and Francis Scott Key, the two Baltimore poets a hundred years after!”
April 23–May 2, 1930 (ten days). Malmaison Hospital, west of Paris. Treated by Professor Claude. Discharged herself against the doctor’s wishes.
May 22–June 4, 1930 (two weeks). Valmont Clinic, Glion, above Montreux, in Switzerland. Dr. H. A. Trutman. Transferred from a hospital that treated physical disease to a psychiatric clinic.
June 4, 1930–September 15, 1931 (15 1/2 months). Les Rives des Prangins Clinic, Nyon, fourteen miles north of Geneva, in Switzerland. Dr. Oscar Forel. Apparently well enough to be discharged by the hospital.
February 12–June 26, 1932 (4 1/2 months). Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore. Dr. Adolf Meyer, Dr. Mildred Squires and Dr. Thomas Rennie. Apparently recovered and discharged.
February 12–March 8, 1934 (one month). Phipps Clinic. Dr. Thomas Rennie. Made no progress and transferred to a rural clinic (like Prangins) on the recommendation of Dr. Forel.
March 8–May 19, 1934 (2 1/2 months). Craig House Hospital, Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River above West Point. Dr. Clarence Slocum. Became catatonic and transferred to another clinic for a different kind of treatment.
May 19, 1934–April 7, 1936 (two years). Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Towson, Maryland, outside Baltimore. Dr. William Elgin. Transferred to Highland after making no progress, when Fitzgerald moved to Asheville.
April 8, 1936–April 13, 1940 (four years). Highland Hospital, Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. Robert Carroll. Apparently recovered and discharged to live with her mother in Montgomery.
August 1943–February 1944 (six months). Apparently recovered and discharged to mother.
Early 1946–late summer 1946 (eight months). Apparently recovered and discharged to mother.
November 2, 1947–March 10, 1948 (four months). Died, while locked in her room, in a hospital fire.
In 1975 an eccentric old lady who lived near Brighton with a Pekinese gave a taped interview about her affair in 1930 with Scott Fitzgerald. Recent Fitzgerald biographers have mentioned the evocatively named Bijou O’Conor and quoted bits from her tape, but no one had discovered anything significant about her background, appearance or character. The husky, upperclass voice intrigued me, and I wondered what had brought them together and how Fitzgerald fitted into Bijou’s life. Happening to be in London during the summer of 1992, I tried to find out more about her. As I have often discovered, someone who seems utterly obscure, dead and forgotten can be brought to life once you tap into the institutions that survive her: in this case, her family, an Oxford college, the Foreign Office.
I began with the Who’s Who entry of Bijou’s father, Sir Francis Elliot (1851–1940). A grandson of the second Earl of Minto, he rowed for Balliol College, entered the diplomatic service, and served as consul general in Sofia from 1895 to 1903 and as Minister in Athens from 1903 to 1917. I thought I would try telephoning the present Earl of Minto, whom I imagined pacing the armor-lined corridors of his crumbling castle in the Highlands. Instead of the servant I had expected, the Earl himself answered the telephone. Though he had not heard of Bijou, his curiosity was aroused by my questions about his family. He spoke to me for a leisurely twenty minutes and shrewdly suggested various lines of inquiry.
Following the Earl’s advice, I wrote to the records department of the British Foreign Office, which sent me the address of Bijou’s niece in Exeter. Debrett’s Peerage provided the address of the Honourable Mary Alington Marten, O.B.E., the daughter of Bijou’s friend Napier Alington. But Mary Alington was only eleven years old when her father died and knew nothing about Bijou. William Furlong, who conducted the taped interview with Bijou, had heard about her by chance through a mutual friend in Hove, near Brighton. He characterized her as a mysterious and rather ruthless woman, who responded to male attention and seemed genuinely concerned about the welfare of Scottie Fitzgerald. Furlong promised to look through the original transcripts and to send me any new material he could find.
My first breakthrough came from Claire Eaglestone of Balliol College, who was intrigued by my query about Sir Francis and, putting my letter on the top of her correspondence, rang me up at once. Though Sir Francis had no sons, his grandson had (as I suspected) gone to his old college. Captain William Elliot-Young (1910–42) had been killed in the war, but his son, the tenth baronet, Sir William Neil Young, now lived in London. When he did not answer my letter (which had been forwarded to his new home in Edinburgh), I rang him up at the Saudi International Bank. They told me he had moved to Coutts Bank, which put me right through to him.
Sir William was in the midst of his work but, like the Earl of Minto, was fascinated by his great-aunt and disposed to chat about her. He described her extravagance, her alcoholism, her mythomania—and her wooden leg. Most importantly, he put me in touch with Gillian Plazzota, the former wife of Bijou’s son. Mrs. Plazzota told me more about Bijou’s striking appearance and bohemian character, and about Bijou’s son, Michael O’Conor. She gave me his phone number, but suggested I “be gentle with him, and ask about photographs and letters before requesting information about Bijou.”
Though slightly suspicious at first, Michael O’Conor—curious about why I was so interested in Bijou, amused by the circuitous trail I had followed to find him, and eager to hear what I knew about Bijou and Fitzgerald—agreed to see me the following morning in Surrey. He had been educated at Radley and Oxford, become a petroleum engineer and worked for the Kuwait Oil Company and for Shell in Venezuela. Many of the oil wells he had built and supervised had recently been destroyed in the Gulf War. He showed me a photograph of Bijou’s Pekinese, a pet he had inherited on her death, but, significantly enough, he did not have one of his mother. Michael said that the most serious of Bijou’s numerous lovers was a Russian photographer, Vladimir Molokhovets (the spelling is uncertain), who had a studio on Wilton Street in Belgravia. Hoping his family might have letters from or a photograph of Bijou, I searched for him in reference books and rang up the photographic department of the National Portrait Gallery, but was unable to find any trace of him.
When I rang Sir William the following day to thank him for his help and ask whether he had a photo of Bijou, he promised to send me one and also suggested I see her first cousin, the elderly Edwardian gentleman Sir Brinsley Ford, a distinguished art historian and trustee of the National Gallery. Sir Brinsley told me family stories and personal memories of Bijou. At one point in our interview his attractive granddaughter made a dramatic appearance and kissed his bald dome in greeting. She was delighted to learn that her distant cousin had been Fitzgerald’s mistress and that her highly respectable family included an eccentric rebel.
The conversations with Michael O’Conor, Sir Brinsley Ford and Sir William Young enabled me to reconstruct Bijou’s life before she met Fitzgerald as well as to follow her strange career after their affair had ended. Sir Francis Elliot, Napier Alington and Fitzgerald all died in 1940. Most of Bijou’s possessions—including her Picasso drawings and the letters Fitzgerald wrote to her in the early 1930s—had been stored in Druce’s furniture warehouse when her father returned from France in 1936 and were destroyed during the London Blitz in 1940. After transport routes had suddenly been changed during the Blitz, Bijou was knocked down one dark night by a bus. Her leg had to be amputated and she was fitted with a wooden one. When she sued London Transport for reckless driving, their lawyer enraged the judge (who later became Lord Denning) by claiming she had suffered “a trifling injury,” and she was awarded substantial damages, which supported her for many years. One of her louche friends once persuaded her to smuggle contraceptives into Ireland in the hollow of her artificial leg.
During the war Bijou—a notoriously indiscreet but highly gifted linguist in French, Russian, Polish, Greek and Chinese—worked for the Russian Department of military intelligence at the War Office in Northumberland Street, off Trafalgar Square. She became a great friend of Major-General Sir Guy Glover and of Major-General Edward Spears (whose wife, the novelist Mary Borden, had been Wyndham Lewis’ mistress before her marriage).
Bijou resumed her luxurious but parasitic life in Monaco in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the end of that decade she spent several uneasy months with Michael, who had scarcely known his mother, at his home in Nottinghamshire. She planned but never wrote her autobiography, to be called Interlude in Attica. After living alone at 88 Eccleston Square near Victoria Station, she finally settled into a near-penniless existence with a circle of old-age pensioners in Hove, where she died, shortly after the taped interview was made, in the fall of 1975.
Christopher Clairmonte, who painted two portraits of the elderly Bijou, recalled the squalid end of her adventurous life in the Sunday Times Magazine of July 3, 1983: “She was nearly blind, and had an artificial leg as a result of an accident, so there was not a lot she could do for herself. We turned back a rug, and found it was a heaving mass of insects, so we took it straight out and dumped it in a skip. The place was a mass of dog messes because her Peke—she always had Pekes and adored them—hadn’t been able to get out regularly.”
Despite her brief appearance in Fitzgerald’s life, Bijou was more important to Scott than he was to her. Though he reacted against her arrogant attitude and reckless way of life, and satirized her in his fiction, he desperately needed her companionship and enjoyed her wit and charm. Fitzgerald was one of Bijou’s more interesting lovers. She recognized herself in his works, made him the subject of her own amusing stories and survived to have the last word about their affair.
Bruccoli, Matthew. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: A Life of Scott Fitzgerald. New York, 1981.
Buttitta, Tony. The Lost Summer: A Personal Memoir of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1974; New York, 1987.
Donaldson, Scott. Fool for Love: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1983; New York, 1989.
Donnelly, Honoria Murphy with Richard Billings. Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After. New York, 1982.
Graham, Sheilah and Gerold Frank. Beloved Infidel. 1958; New York, 1959.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. New York, 1964.
-------------. Selected Letters, 1917–1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York, 1981.
LeVot, Andre. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. Trans. William Byron. 1979; London, 1984.
Mayfield, Sara. Exiles from Paradise: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. 1971; New York, 1974.
Mellow, James. Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Boston, 1984.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Married to Genius. London, 1977.
-------------. “Poe and Fitzgerald,” London Magazine, 31 (August–September 1991), 67–73.
-------------. “Scott Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson: A Troubled Friendship,” American Scholar, 61 (Summer 1992), 375–388.
-------------. “Scott Fitzgerald and the English,” London Magazine, 32 (October–November 1992), 31–44.
-------------. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Jews,” Forward, February 12, 1993, pp. 9–10; reprinted in Midstream, 39 (January 1993), 31–35.
-------------, ed. The Great Gatsby. London: Dent-Everyman, 1993.
-------------, ed. Tender Is the Night. London: Dent-Everyman, 1993.
Milford, Nancy. Zelda. 1970; New York, 1971.
Mizener, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1951). Revised edition. Boston, 1965.
Piper, Henry Dan. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Critical Portrait. New York, 1965.
Ring, Frances Kroll. Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald. Berkeley, 1985.
Turnbull, Andrew. Scott Fitzgerald. 1962; London, 1970.
Wilson, Edmund. Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912–1972. Ed. Elena Wilson. New York, 1977.
“The Literary Spotlight: F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Bookman (New York), 55 (March 1922), 21–22; reprinted in The Shores of Light. New York, 1952. Pp. 27–35.
“Two Young Men and an Old One,” Vanity Fair, 19 (November 1922), 24.
“A Selection of Bric-a-Brac,” Vanity Fair, 20 (June 1923), 18.
“Imaginary Conversations, II. Mr. Van Wyck Brooks and Mr. Scott Fitzgerald,” New Republic, 38 (April 30, 1924), 249–254; reprinted in Discordant Encounters. New York, 1926. Pp. 37–60, and as “The Delegate from Great Neck.” The Shores of Light. New York, 1952. Pp. 141–155.
“Murger and Wilde on Screen,” New Republic, 46 (March 24, 1926), 144–145 (positive review of the stage version of The Great Gatsby).
“The All-Star Literary Vaudeville” (1926). The Shores of Light. New York, 1952. Pp. 232–233.
Foreword to The Last Tycoon. [Ed. Edmund Wilson.] New York, 1941. Pp. ix–xi.
The Boys in the Back Room. San Francisco, 1941. Pp. 71–72; reprinted in Classics and Commercials. New York, 1950. Pp. 51–52, 56.
“On Editing Scott Fitzgerald’s Papers” [poem], New Yorker, 18 (May 16, 1942), 17; reprinted as “Dedication” to The Crack-Up. New York, 1945. Pp. 7–9, and in Night Thoughts. 1953; New York, 1961. Pp. 119–122.
“Thoughts on Being Bibliographed,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, 5 (February 1944), 51–54; reprinted in Classics and Commercials. New York, 1950. Pp. 105–120.
Introduction to John Peale Bishop’s Collected Essays. New York, 1948. Pp. vii–xiii; reprinted in The Bit Between My Teeth. New York, 1965. Pp. 6–15.
“A Weekend at Ellerslie.” The Shores of Light. New York, 1952. Pp. 373–383.
“Christian Gauss as a Teacher of Literature.” The Shores of Light. New York, 1952. Pp. 3–26.
“Sheilah Graham and Scott Fitzgerald,” New Yorker, 34 (January 24, 1959), 115–124; reprinted in The Bit Between My Teeth. New York, 1965. Pp. 16–27.
“That Summer in Paris,” New Yorker, 39 (February 23, 1963), 139–142, 145–148; reprinted in The Bit Between My Teeth. New York, 1965. Pp. 515–525.
A Prelude. New York, 1967. Pp. 47, 68–69, 93, 106, 116–117, 148, 180.
The Twenties. Ed. Leon Edel. New York, 1975.
Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912–1972. Ed. Elena Wilson. New York, 1977.
The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940–1971. Ed. Simon Karlinsky. New York, 1979. Pp. 17, 114–115, 157n, 200n.
The Thirties. Ed. Leon Edel. New York, 1980.
The Forties. Ed. Leon Edel. New York, 1983.
The Fifties. Ed. Leon Edel. New York, 1986.
Fitzgerald, Frances Scott. “A Short Retort,” Mademoiselle, July 1939, p. 41.
-------------. “Princeton and F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Nassau Literary Magazine, 100 (1942), 45; reprinted as: “Princeton & My Father,” Princeton Alumni Weekly, 56 (March 9, 1956), 8–9.
Lanahan, Frances Scott. “Fitzgerald as He Really Was,” Washington Post & Times-Herald, April 27, 1958, p. E7.
Lanahan, Frances Fitzgerald. Introduction to Scott Fitzgerald’s Six Tales of the Jazz Age. New York, 1960. Pp. 5–11.
-------------. “My Father’s Letters: Advice Without Consent,” Esquire, 64 (October 1965), 95–97; reprinted as: Introduction to Scott Fitzgerald’s Letters to His Daughter. New York, 1965. Pp. ix–xvi.
-------------. “Scott, Ernest, Arnold and Whoever,” Esquire, 67 (March 1967), 159 (letter).
Lanahan, Frances Scott Fitzgerald. When I Was 16. Ed. Mary Brannum. New York, 1967. Pp. 200–216; reprinted as: “When I Was Sixteen,” Good Housekeeping, 167 (October 1968), 100–101.
Smith, Scottie Fitzgerald. Foreword to As Ever, Scott Fitz. Philadelphia, 1972. Pp. xi–xvi.
Smith, Frances Fitzgerald. “Ou sont Les Soleils d’Antan? Francoise ‘Fijeralde’?” F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest M. Hemingway in Paris. Ed. Matthew Bruccoli and C. E. Frazer Clark. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1972. N.p.
Smith, Scottie Fitzgerald. “Christmas as Big as the Ritz,” Washington Post, December 23, 1973, Potomac Magazine, pp. 7–8.
-------------. Introduction to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s The Romantic Egoists. New York, 1974. Pp. ix–x.
Smith, Frances Scott Fitzgerald. “Mia is the Daisy Father Had in Mind,” People, 1 (March 4, 1974), 34.
Smith, Scottie Fitzgerald. Foreword to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s Bits of Paradise. 1974; New York, 1976. Pp. xi–xvii.
Smith, Frances Scott Fitzgerald, “Notes About My Now-Famous Father,” Family Circle, 84 (May 1974), 118, 120.
Smith, Scottie Fitzgerald. [Foreword to] Zelda, exhibition catalogue. Montgomery: Museum of Fine Arts, 1974, N.p; reprinted as [Foreword] to The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald. New York, 1991. Pp. ix–x.
-------------. “The Colonial Ancestors of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.” In Matthew Bruccoli’s Some Sort of Epic Grandeur. New York, 1981. Pp. 496–509.
See also In Memoriam: Frances Scott Fitzgerald Smith, 1921–1986. Privately printed, n.p., n.d.
1. David Thomson, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick (New York, 1992), p. 288; Schulberg, Four Seasons of Success, p. 102; Interview with Budd Schulberg.
2. Graham, The Rest of the Story, p. 211; Quoted in Mizener, Far Side of Paradise, p. 315; Budd Schulberg, "In Hollywood," New Republic, 104 (March 3, 1941), 311-312.
3. Mizener's notes on his conversation with Schulberg, Princeton; Meyers, Interview with Schulberg.
Wanger had a notoriously fierce temper. In 1951 he served three months in jail for shooting the agent of his actress-wife Joan Bennett.
4. Quoted in Turnbull, Scott Fitzgerald, p. 324; Letter from Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan to Mizener, October 22, 1950, Princeton.
5. As Ever, Scott Fitz, p. 403; David Niven, Bring on the Empty Horses (New York, 1975), pp. 100-101; Quoted in Latham, Crazy Sundays, p. 253; Dear Scott/Dear Max, p. 261.
6. Fitzgerald, In His Own Time, p. 155; Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 385; Fitzgerald, In His Own Time, p. 160.
7. Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 126; As Ever, Scott Fitz, p. 415; Frances Scott Fitzgerald, "A Short Retort," Mademoiselle, July 1939, p. 41.
8. Letter from Scottie Fitzgerald to Mizener, February 2, 1948, Princeton; Quoted in Marie Jemison's unpublished memoir of Scottie, "Everybody Wants My Parents, Nobody Wants Me," pp. 34, 48-49, courtesy of Marie Jemison; Frances Kroll Ring, Against the Current: As I Remember Scott Fitzgerald (Berkeley, 1985), p. 81.
9. Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 523; Quoted in Milford, Zelda, p. 401; Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 128; Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 554.
10. Letter from Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan to Mizener, March 10, 1950, Princeton; Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Romantic Egoists, p. 225.
11. As Ever, Scott Fitz, pp. 346, 394, 400.
12. Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 607; As Ever, Scott Fitz, p. 408; Dear Scott/Dear Max, pp. 258, 261.
13. Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 332; Fitzgerald, Notebooks, p. 335; Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (New York, 1940), p. 160; Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon, p. 81; Graham, College of One, p. 159; Fitzgerald, Letters, pp. 146-147. For an evaluation of Hemingway's achievement, see Jeffrey Meyers, "For Whom the Bell Tolls as Contemporary History," The Spanish Civil War in History, ed. Janet Perez and Wendell Aycock (Lubbock, Texas, 1990), pp. 85-107.
14. Hemingway, Selected Letters, p. 657; Quoted in Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast": The Making of a Myth (Boston, 1991), p. 12; Gregory Hemingway, Papa (Boston, 1976), p. 103.
In 1941, when Hemingway was competing with the recently dead Fitzgerald, he judged The Last Tycoon more severely and disliked Kathleen as much as Fitzgerald had disliked Maria. As Hemingway told Perkins: "Most of it has a deadness that is unbelievable for Scott… The women were pretty preposterous. Scott had gotten so far away from any knowledge of people that they are very strange. He still had the technique and the romance of doing anything, but all the dust was off the butterfly's wing" (Selected Letters, p. 527).
15. Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 557; Fitzgerald, Letters, pp. 187, 619; Quoted in Mizener, Far Side of Paradise, p. 324.
16. Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon, p. 125; Fitzgerald, Correspondence, pp. 451-452. For Thalberg's life, see Bob Thomas, Thalberg: Life and Legend (Garden City, New York, 1970) and Samuel Marx, Mayer and Thalberg: The Make-Believe Saints (New York, 1975).
17. Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 549; Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon, pp. 118, 91, 42.
His friendships with Jews, who were invariably kind to Fitzgerald, altered his preconceived hostility and enabled him to see them as individuals. George Jean Nathan published his first stories in the Smart Set, Carmel Myers introduced him to the Hollywood elite, Gilbert Seldes wrote the most perceptive review of The Great Gatsby, Gertrude Stein generously praised his work, Dorothy Parker was another consistent supporter, Bert Barr (Bertha Weinberg Goldstein) befriended him on the voyage home to his father's funeral, S. J. Perelman was a witty and stimulating friend in Hollywood, Nathanael West was also an admiring colleague, Budd Schulberg tried to take care of him after his binge in Hanover and Frances Kroll was his devoted secretary.
18. As Ever, Scott Fitz, p. 351; Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 561; Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 112.
19. J. F. Powers, "Dealer in Diamonds and Rhinestones," Commonweal, 42 (August 10, 1945), 408.
20. Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 594; The Time is Ripe: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets, Introduction by William Gibson (New York, 1988), p. 293; Fitzgerald, Correspondence, p. 614.
21. Fitzgerald, Letters, p. 144. Sheilah characteristically gives two quite different versions of Scott's death. In Beloved Infidel (1958), p. 251, which I have followed, she said he was still breathing after he fell down. In The Real Scott Fitzgerald, p. 15, she said he died instantly. Both Edmund Wilson (Letters, p. 328) and Mizener (Far Side of Paradise, p. 335) follow the later, less reliable version.
22. Frank Scully, "F. Scott Fitzgerald," Rogue's Gallery (Hollywood, 1943), pp. 268-269. Fitzgerald may have been echoing the teenage Tennyson, who in 1824 "had run weeping into the woods at Somersby and despairingly carved 'Byron is dead' into the sandstone" (Robert Bernard Martin, Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart, Oxford, 1980, p. 231).
23. Interview with Fanny Myers Brennan; Letters from the Lost Generation, p. 259; Lee Reese, The Horse on Rodney Square (Wilmington, Delaware, 1977), p. 177; Letter from John Biggs III to Jeffrey Meyers, November 27, 1991.
24. As Ever, Scott Fitz, p. 424; Letters from the Lost Generation, p. 261.
25. Fitzgerald, In His Own Time, p. 472; Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, pp. 327, 337; Wilson, Foreword to Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, n.p.; Edmund Wilson, Foreword to Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, The Great Gatsby and Selected Stories (New York, 1945), p. xi; Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, p. 343.
26. Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, p. 337; Wilson, "Dedication" to The Crack-Up, pp. 8-9; Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, p. 335. See Jeffrey Meyers, "Scott Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson: A Troubled Friendship," American Scholar, 61 (Summer 1992), 375-388.
27. Stephen Vincent Benet, "Fitzgerald's Unfinished Symphony," Saturday Review of Literature, 24 (December 6, 1941), 10; Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, p. 475; John Updike, Hugging the Shore (New York, 1983), p. 380.
28. See Wilson's The Crime in the Whistler Room (1924), Lardner's What Of It? (1925), Hemingway's The Torrents of Spring (1926), Van Vechten's Parties (1930), Zelda's Save Me the Waltz (1932), Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again (1941), Schulberg's The Disenchanted (1950), George Zuckerman's The Last Flapper (1969), James Aldridge's One Last Glimpse (1977), Ron Carlson's Betrayed by Scott Fitzgerald (1977), Kaye McDonough's Zelda (1978), Tennessee Williams' Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980), Donald Davie's poem "The Garden Party" and Theodore Roethke's "Song for the Squeeze-Box."
29. Quoted in Turnbull, Scott Fitzgerald, p. 327; Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 185; "Fire in Carolina Mental Hospital Kills 9 Women," New York Herald Tribune, March 12, 1948.
The catastrophic fire almost ruined Highland. The medical director resigned and was replaced by Dr. Carroll's adopted daughter Charmian, a nurse who had become a psychiatrist and who served as director until 1963.
30. Brendan Gill, A New York Life (New York, 1990), p. 315; Interview with Meryle Secrest, November 22, 1992; Interview with Eleanor Lanahan, Hempstead, New York, September 26, 1992.
31. Chandler, Selected Letters, p. 239; Toklas, Staying on Alone, p. 171.
Published as Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (NY. Harper-Collins, 1994).