“The Last of the Novelists”: F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Last Tycoon
by Matthew J. Bruccoli

5 / The Unwritten Episodes

It is possible to make informed guesses at the material to be covered in the rest of Fitzgerald’s outline-plan by extrapolating from his working notes. However, the notes are undated and cover a period of some two years—with early and late material intermixed. The discussion that follows is based on the last version of Fitzgerald’s outline-plan.

On 14 December 1940—a week before his death—Fitzgerald prepared a schedule for writing episodes 17-30 in a month, dividing the work into four 7,000-word units. His projection that the novel could be completed in 28,000 words seems low in view of the amount of action remaining.

New Schedule from Dec. 14-Jan. 15th inc.
(Have done 36,000 words)
Conception One day
Plan  “   “
Write four days at 1750 a day
Notes, letters + rest one day.
This should finish me up at 7000 words a week. (The assumption is that the episodes average 1750—they must be made to do so. In the planning try to divide the work into seven thousand word units, roughly.
The Storm breaks to the Meeting of Four
Wylie White to Lieing low
Last Fling to the Airport
The Plane to the Funeral (short one)

18. The  Cummerbund—market—(The  theatre  with  Bench-ley)  August 10th

The only clue to the content of this episode is Sheilah Graham’s recollection that Fitzgerald was intrigued by her story that she had once rejected a suitor because he was wearing a red cummerbund. The application of this anecdote to the novel remains a mystery. Benchley, is, of course, humorist Robert Benchley, who was one of Fitzgerald’s Hollywood friends.

19. The four meet, like Hop and Lefty. Renewal. Palomar

The content of episode 19 is another mystery. Hop and Lefty have not been identified, but Fitzgerald knew Lefty Flynn, a former college football star and cowboy actor. “Renewal” probably refers to a resumption of the affair between Kathleen and Stahr. Palomar is almost certainly a reference to the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, but what was to occur there is unknown. A possible clue to the Palomar scene is provided by this note: “Director. Well, he was walking along with his early marriage—trying to walk a little in front of her. Curious loneliness in the Palomar. The old hurt came back, heavy and delightful. Benny Goodman and Scottie’s drummer, so handsome, chewing gum in time to the music. Moorish, boorish, garish lights overhead.”

20. Wylie White in Office  August 28th-Sept. 14th.

Episode 20 was to deal with the encounter in which White rebukes Stahr for blocking the Guild—probably a revision of a similar scene cut from Chapter 2. Things are starting to go wrong at the studio, and Stahr’s unity is being broken up because the writers no longer trust him. As the novel progressed, Stahr would have become increasingly isolated from both his partners and from his employees. The action of Chapter 6 (episodes 17-20) was to cover eighteen days.

G21. Sick in Washington. To quit?

[In his outline-plan Fitzgerald used G, H, and I to indicate chapter 7-9. See episodes 25 and 28 below.]

Fitzgerald’s notes show that Stahr was to make a trip to Washington where he becomes sick. It was probably to have been a business trip—Stahr is scarcely a tourist—but the purpose of the trip remains unknown. Stahr wants to get the sense of Washington, but is too sick to see anything. (The Washington material connects with the presidential theme in the novel.) At this time Stahr considers quitting the studio.

22. Brady and Stahr—double blackmail.  Quarrel with Wylie.

In episode 22 Brady was to attempt to blackmail Stahr into leaving the studio. The only information that Brady can use against Stahr is his knowledge of Stahr’s affair with Kathleen, although it is not clear how Brady has learned about it. Stahr was possibly to retaliate by threatening Brady with information he has that Brady arranged for the murder of the husband of his mistress. Some notes on a case involving a 1917 roadhouse raid outside of Boston in which Fatty Arbuckle and some movie executives were charged with indecent behavior indicate that Fitzgerald may have considered adapting this material as the basis for Stahr’s counter-blackmail against Brady. At one time Manny Schwartze was to have been Stahr’s source for this information. The quarrel with Wylie White is related in some way to episode 20, and it may be that here is where Fitzgerald intended to use the scene in Stahr’s office cut from Chapter 2.

23. Throws over Cecelia who tells her father. Stops making pictures. Story conference—rushes and sets. Lies low after Cut.

Apparently Stahr was to be seeing both Kathleen and Cecelia (assuming that “Renewal” in episode 19 means a renewal of Stahr’s affair with Kathleen). When he breaks off with Cecelia here, she “tells her father”; but it is not clear what she tells him. Since there isn’t much point for Cecelia to just tell Brady that Stahr has stopped seeing her, Fitzgerald must have planned to have Cecelia tell her father something about Stahr that Brady uses against him—probably information about Stahr and Kathleen.

Then Stahr stops making pictures, probably because of his power struggle with the Brady faction. Here Fitzgerald was going to provide a view of Stahr’s day in contrast to episodes 7-11, showing the difference in Stahr when he isn’t making movies. This episode was to include the crisis over the studio salary cut. Fitzgerald’s notes indicate that Brady was going to persuade the writers and other high-salaried people to accept a cut by promising that the salaries of the secretaries would be maintained—and then Brady would cut all salaries. Stahr, who was opposed to any cuts, is outraged by Brady’s treachery.

24.  Last Fling with Kathleen. Old stars in heat wave at Encino.

In episode 24 Stahr was to have his final sexual encounter with Kathleen. Sheilah Graham thinks that “old stars in heat wave at Encino” was to be based on a heat wave that she and Fitzgerald experienced when they were living on the Edward Everett Horton estate at Encino. Fitzgerald had projected Chapter 7 (episodes 21-24) at 6,500 words.

H25.  Brady gets to Smith.  Fleishacker and Cecelia.  (S.  G.  & K)  Sept. 15-30th

Chapter 8 was to begin with episode 25, in which Brady reveals to Smith, Kathleen’s husband, that she is having an affair with Stahr. Brady was to persuade Smith to agree to some action against Stahr—possibly an alienation of affection suit. At the same time Cecilia has a rebound affair with Mort Fleishacker, the company lawyer, who differs from Stahr in every possible way. “S. G.” refers to Sheilah Graham, and “K” probably stands for Kathleen—meaning that Fitzgerald planned to develop certain parallels between Miss Graham and Kathleen. This time span of Chapter 8 was 15-30 September.

26.  Stahr hears plan. Camera man O.K. Stops it—very sick.

In episode 26 Stahr was to learn about the action Brady and Smith are planning to take against him, probably from cameramanGarcia (Zavras) who feels a great sense of gratitude to Stahr. Although Stahr manages to block Brady’s plot, his health is failing.

The outline-plan suggests that Fitzgerald may have simplified his story line. His notes indicate that at one time he considered a double-murder plot: upon learning that Brady has arranged to have him killed, Stahr would retaliate. After setting up the murder of Brady, Stahr flies east to establish an alibi, but experiences a sense of revulsion at the realization that he has in effect become corrupted by Brady. Stahr decides to send a telegram from the first airport calling off Brady’s murder; however, the plane crashes before Stahr can act. In the planning stages Fitzgerald considered giving Robinson an important role in the murder plot, perhaps having him act as Brady’s agent. There is an indication that Fitzgerald’s original plan involved Stahr arranging for Robinson’s murder. In an early stage of the story Robinson was to have been in love with Kathleen, but this idea was obviously dropped. When Robinson is introduced in Chapter 2 the reader has the feeling that Robinson is being planted for a purpose that will be developed later, but he does not reappear in the episodes Fitzgerald wrote. Sheilah Graham believes that Fitzgerald had decided to cut Robinson out of the novel in the final rewrite.

If Fitzgerald had in fact dropped the murder material, it was a sound decision. Stahr would inevitably be debased by participation in a murder—even allowing for the fact that he changes his mind. For Stahr to arrange Brady’s murder goes counter to the characterization Fitzgerald built up. Nevertheless, it is by no means clear that Fitzgerald had really rejected the murder material, for the outline-plan includes “(The Murderers)” in Chapter 8.

27.  Resolve problem. Thalia at airport. Cecelia to college; Thalia at airport. S. G.

Episode 27 completes Chapter 8. Here Stahr (or Fitzgerald) was to “resolve problem,” but it is not clear which problem—the problem of Kathleen’s husband, the problem at the studio, or both. Since Chapter 8 is labeled “DEFEAT” in the outline-plan, it is apparent that Fitzgerald saw Stahr as losing the struggle for control of the studio. Stahr is flying east, probably to consolidate his position with the stockholders in New York (or to establish an alibi), andKathleen sees him off. They meet Cecelia, who is returning to college on another plane. Fitzgerald projected chapter 8 at 7,000 words, making it the longest chapter in the novel.

I28. The plane falls. Foretaste of the future in Flieshacker  Sept 3oth-Oct.

Episode 28, which opens the ninth and final chapter, was to describe the death of Stahr in a plane crash and the taking over of the studio by Fleishacker, who represents the financial interests. The outline entry for this episode does not mention Fitzgerald’s original idea of having the plane wreckage discovered by children whose attitudes toward life are determined by the possessions they find; and Fitzgerald seems to have been undecided about the plan. If this material had been retained, it probably would have ended the novel. This is Fitzgerald’s note for the looting of the plane:

It is important that I began this chapter with a delicate transition because I am not going to describe the Fall of the Plane but simply give a last picture of Stahr as the plane takes off and describe very briefly in the airport the people who are on board. The plane, therefore, has left for New York and when the reader turns to Chapter X [The reference to the tenth chapter indicates that this is an early note, written before Fitzgerald decided on a nine-chapter structure], I must be sure that he isn’t confused by the sudden change of scene and situation. Here I can make the best transition by an opening paragraph in which I tell the reader that Cecelia’s story ends here and that what is now told was a situation discovered by the writer himself and pieced together from what he learned in a small town in Oklahoma, from a municipal judge. That the incidents occurred one month after the plane fell and plunged Stahr and all its occupants into a white darkness. Tell how the snow hid the wreck and that inspite of searching parties that the plane was considered lost and that will resume the narrative—that a curtain first went up during an early thaw the following March. (I have to go over all the chapters and get the time element to shape up so that Stahr’s second trip to New York, the one on which he is killed, takes place when the first snow has fallen on the Rockies. I want this plane to be like that plane that was lost for fully two months before they found the plane and thesurvivors.) Consider carefully whether if possible by some technical trick, it might not be advisable to conceal from the reader that the plane fell until the moment when the children find it. The problem is that the reader must not turn to Chapter X and be confused, but on the other hand, the dramatic effect, even if the reader felt lost for a few minutes, might be more effective if he did not find at the beginning of the chapter that the plane fell. In fact, almost certainly that is the way to handle it and I must find a method of handling it in that fashion. There must be an intervening paragraph to begin Chapter X which will reassure the reader that he is following the same story, but it can be evasive and confine itself to leading the reader astray thinking that the paragraph is merely to explain that Cecelia is not telling this next part of the story without telling the reader that the plane ran into a mountain top and disappeared from human knowledge for several months.

When I have given the reader some sense of the transition and prepared him for a change in scene and situation, break the narrative with a space or so and begin the following story. That a group of children are starting off on a hike. That there is an early spring thaw in this mountain state. Pick out of the group of children three who we will call Jim, Frances and Dan. That atmosphere is that particular atmosphere of Oklahoma when the long winter breaks. The atmosphere must be an all cold climate where the winter breaks very suddenly with almost a violence—the snow seems to part as if very unwillingly in great convulsive movements like the break-up of an ice flow. There’s a bright sun. The three children get separated from the teacher or scoutmaster or whoever is in charge of the expedition and the girl, Frances, comes upon a part of the engine and fly-wheel of a broken airplane. She has no idea what it is. She is rather puzzled by it and at the moment is engaged rather in a flirtation with both Jim and Dan. However, she is an intelligent child of 13 or 14 and while she doesn’t identify it as part of an airplane she knows it is an odd piece of machinery to be found in the mountains. First she thinks it is the remains of some particular mining machinery. She calls Dan and then Jim and they forget whatever small juvenile intrigue they were embarking on in their discovery of other debris from the fall of the plane. Their first general instinct is to call the other members of the party because Jim who is the smartest of the children (both the boysages about 15) recognizes that it is a fallen plane—though he doesn’t connect it with the plane that disappeared the previous November) when Frances comes upon a purse and an open traveling case which belonged to the Lola Lane actress. It contains the things that to her represent undreamt of luxuries. In it there’s a jewel box. It has been unharmed—it has fallen through the branches of a tree. There are flasks of perfume that would never appear in the town where she lives, perhaps a negligee or anything I can think of that an actress might be carrying which was absolutely the last word in film elegance. She is utterly fascinated.

Simultaneously Jim has found Stahr’s briefcase. A briefcase is what he has always wanted and Stahr’s briefcase is an excellent piece of leather and some other traveling appurtenances of Stahr’s. Things that are notably possessions of wealthy men. I have no special ideas at present, but think what a very wealthy, well-equipped man might be liable to have with him on such an expedition and then Dan makes the suggestion of “Why do we have to tell about this? We can all come up here later and there is probably a lot more of this stuff here and there’s probably money and everything.” These people are dead—they will never need it again, then we can say about the plane or let other people find it. Nobody will know we have been up here.”

Dan bears, in some form of speech, a faint resemblance to Bradogue. This must be subtly done and not look too much like a parable or moral lesson, still the impression must be conveyed, but be careful to convey it once and rub it in. If the reader misses it, let it go—don’t repeat. Show Frances as malleable and amoral in the situation, but show a definite doubt on Jim’s part, even from the first, as to whether this is fair dealing even towards the dead. Close this episode with the children rejoining the party.

Several weeks later the children have now made several trips to the mountain and have rifled the place of everything that is of any value. Dan is especially proud of his find, which includes some rather disreputable possessions of Ronciman. Frances is worried and definitely afraid and tending to side with Jim, who is now in an absolutely wretched mood about the whole affair. He knows that searching parties have been on a neighboring mountain—that the plane has been traced and that with the full flowering of spring the secret will come out and that each trip up, he feels that the danger is more andmore. However, let that be Frances’ feeling, because Jim has, by this time, read the contents of Stahr’s briefcase and late at night, taking it from the woodshed where he has concealed it has gotten an admiration for the man. Naturally, by the time of this episode all three children are aware of what plane it was and who was in it and whose possessions they have.

One day also they have found the bodies, though I do not want to go into this scene in any gruesome manner, of the six or seven victims still half concealed by the snow. In any case, something in one of Stahr’s letters that Jim reads late at night decides him to go to Judge------and tell the whole story which he does against the threats of Dan, who is bigger than he is and could lick him physically. We leave the children there with the idea that they are in good hands, that they are not going to be punished, that having made full restoration, and the fact that, after all they could plead in court that they did not know anything more about the situation than “finder’s keeper’s.” There will be no punishment of any kind for any of the three children. Give the impression that Jim is all right—that Frances is faintly corrupted and may possibly go off in a year or so in search of adventure and may turn into anything from a gold digger to a prostitute, and that Dan has been completely corrupted and will spend the rest of his life looking for a chance to get something for nothing.

I cannot be too careful not to rub this in or give it the substance or feeling of a moral tale. I should very pointedly that that Jim is all right and end perhaps with Frances and let the readers hope that Frances is going to be all right and then take that hope away by showing the last glimpse of Frances with that lingering conviction that luxury is over the next valley, therefore giving a bitter and acrid finish to the incident to take away any possible sentimental and moral stuff that may have crept into it. Certainly end the incident with Frances.

29.  Outside the studio. S.G.

Episode 29 was to leave the reader with a final view of Kathleen outside the studio after Stahr’s death. Fitzgerald was attracted by the irony of the fact that, except for the night of the flood, she has never been inside the studio. Again this view of Kathleen was to be based on Sheilah Graham.

The epilogue can model itself quite fairly on the last part of Gatsby. We go back to Cecelia as a narrator and have her tell it with the emphasis on herself so that what she reveals about what happened to her father, to the company, to Thalia seems to be revealed as if she was now a little weary of the story, and told all she knew about it and was returning to her own affairs. In it she might discuss whom she married and try to find an equivalent of that nice point in Gatsby where the narrator erases the dirty word that the boy has scrawled in chalk against the doorstep. I think it might be touching if she met Thalia in this episode and was going to take her through the studio and found that she couldn’t do it because she was called East so that the reader knows that Thalia won’t ever see the studios and I think that I’ll leave Thalia’s life in the air, her character unimpaired, deepened without quite the pettiness in the end of Gatsby—Thalia all in all being a fuller and richer person than she had been six months before—released from her particular material bondage to Kiki and perhaps with a little hope embarked on some enterprise that seems to promise a future for her or with the idea that she might marry Robinson, the cutter or even a paragraph which implied that now Thalia was more attractive than she had ever been and that there was no doubt that she was going to be all right. To that extent to reassure the reader and not leave a bitter taste in the reader’s mouth about Thalia.

And I think I’ll do my own method of ending probably on a high note about Stahr but that will solve itself in the writing. And as toward the end I’ll tend to go into a certain cadence prose.

30. Johnny Swanson at funeral

An alternate conclusion for the novel was an account of Stahr’s funeral, in which Fitzgerald wanted to present one last large Hollywood irony: Johnny Swanson, the has-been cowboy actor noticed by Cecelia in Chapter 2, is mistakenly asked to be a pallbearer; thereafter his career has a miraculous recovery. Even in death Monroe Stahr is a star-maker.

Fitzgerald based the funeral episode on an anecdote about Irving Thalberg’s funeral. Harry Carey, a former cowboy star, was one of the pallbearers—a surprising choice since he was not one of Thalberg’s close friends. The story went around Hollywood that Harry Carey received the letter intended for writer Carey Wilson,who was one of Thalberg’s closest associates. Bob Thomas refutes this story in Thalberg (New York: Doubleday, 1969). At any rate, both Harry Carey and Carey Wilson were pallbearers for Thalberg, and Harry Carey’s career did subsequently prosper.

Next: Chapter 6 The Book