Luhrmann v. Fitzgerald, or There Oughta Be a Law

F Scott FitzgeraldWe interrupt this theater-oriented column to talk about a book and a movie.  At first, you’d think they’re the same: The Great Gatsby.  They’re not.  They’re F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, and Baz Luhrmann’s anti-masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, wherein he treats the April 10, 1925, novel as if it were the blueprint for a bungalow that someone like Donald Trump has used as the basis for an Atlantic City casino—which, when completed, impresses as not only tacky but vulgar and wrong-headed.

Fitzgerald’s defining work about the Jazz Age has been filmed four times for theatrical release, the first in 1926.  Scott and Zelda didn’t catch up with it—the only filmed version of the book released during his life—until 1927.  They walked out.  Anne Margaret Daniel, in The Huffington Post, quotes an undated letter from Zelda to their daughter, Scottie. Zelda wrote, “We saw The Great Gatsby in the movies.  It’s ROTTEN [sic] and awful and terrible and we left.”

But if they were alive to depart this new version before the final credits rolled, a woefully dismayed viewer at Luhrmann’s celluloid equivalent of the medical condition elephantiasis wonders how the demonstrative Fitzgeralds would behave.  Might Fitzgerald have exited quietly and then contacted one of his lawyers to ascertain whether eviscerating a literary icon can be considered a criminal act?

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Twice monthly, ArtsNash is delighted to feature articles from our partner The Clyde Fitch Report. The contributors to CFR cast their journalistic eyes on the worlds of arts and politics. Follow The Clyde Fitch Report on Facebook and TwitterDavid Finkle is the author of the preceding article, one of a series inThe Aisle Seat for CFR.

David Finkle writes frequently about the arts.

*Photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald courtesy The Clyde Fitch Report.

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