Nick Carraway, a young Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifetyle of his landlord, the nouveau riche Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby's circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy. Written by
This version of Scott Fitzgerald's short novel is remarkably faithful to the original and infinitely more successful as a film than the big budget version which appeared two decades later, starring Robert Redford. Alan Ladd puts in an excellent performance in the title role simply by playing the usual Ladd persona. The character of Gatsby in the novel is not fully fleshed out, nor did the author intend him to be more than an illusive figure fired by an obsession. Ladd, who was not an actor of any great talent, seems to be particularly suited to the part. Redford, a much greater actor, added a dimension, the aura of the 'glamorous' leading male star, which the reader does not associate with the Gatsby of the novel and as a consequence, is not convincing. The 1949 version, in monochrome, captures much of the atmosphere of the 'jazz age' which strangely does not come over in the lavish period detail of the later version. The gallery of supporting players contributes significantly to the success of the film. There are a few minor faults, such as the montage shots in the opening sequences which border on cliché. Nick Carraway is less prominent than the author might have intended. But the essence of the novel is there.
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