The Great Gatsby (1949) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
20 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Ladd Understood....
Charles Reichenthal2 April 2004
ALAN LADD was the perfect actor for THE GREAT GATSBY, and his performance in this film captures F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero with every nuance, every movement, every hidden torment. Ladd wanted to do this role, although he had his anxieties (as was noted by my friend Geraldine Fitzgerald). Nonetheless, he succeeds splendidly as Gatsby - a definitive characterization that should be seen. Redford had the right stuff, to a large extent, but the Redford-Farrow version is far too overblown with far too many missing, and important, elements in the plot. As for the Ladd version, it is true that Betty Field, a superb actress, was not right for Daisy -- there is far too much intelligence in her interpretation. Nor are Barry Sullivan, Ruth Hussey, and Macdonald Carey altogether satisfactory either. BUT the adaptation is closest to Fitzgerald, and the Ladd, of the later scenes in particular, is a tragic figure - truly reaching the heights of one of America's finest novels. And one that is ageless...
58 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Very Good Gatsby in a So-so Production
skmaven15 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Everything about this movie is a little bit off-kilter...except the lead role. Alan Ladd knew all about Gatsby, on a gut level and from the inside out - because he'd been there. He himself had been raised dirt-poor, struggled for years, and then suddenly and unexpectedly found himself showered with riches and fame that he didn't feel he deserved.

Ladd was a much better actor than he's generally given credit for, and where Redford made heavy going of showing two levels of the character (wealthy, mysterious Jay Gatsby and hardscrabble Jimmy Gatz), Ladd shifted effortlessly through *four* levels. There's Gatsby, the elegant man of mystery; Gatz, the tough-as-nails racketeer (a screenplay development based on mere hints in the book); Jay, the young man bedazzled by his apparently-limitless wealth; and Jimmy, the little poor boy who never dreamed he could have or deserve so much. And you can always tell which of them is looking through the character's eyes at any given moment.

He didn't get the support he deserved - not from the studio, not from the casting department, and not from the director. Paramount "knew" that any Ladd film was a surefire moneymaker, so they cut every corner they could find. (The film did indeed make money...but not as much as they expected.) The director didn't particularly want to make this film, and his too-casual approach really hurts it. Several key roles are significantly "off" (Betty Field as Daisy, Barry Sullivan as Tom - who is far too suave for the character as written by Fitzgerald, even Macdonald Carey as Nick Carraway, though he tries hard). Several supporting roles were reshaped to align them with the studio's attempt to cash in on a new cycle of gangster films - Lupus (i.e., Wolfsheim) and Klipspringer become Jimmy Gatz's henchmen instead of independent operators. (Klipspringer is played by Elisha Cook, Jr., and allowed to know Gatsby better than anyone else and to comment on him both verbally and musically. He steals every scene that he is in that he doesn't share with Ladd.)

One cameo role from the book was extensively built-up for this version (and completely excised from the 1974 remake): Dan Cody, played by Henry Hull, who is given a Mephistophelean makeup and archly pointed lines like "Old Dan is a devil - but old Dan is always right". He does, in fact, act as a kind of Mephistopheles to Jimmy Gatz's Faust, giving him a warped sense of values that ultimately leads to catastrophe.

Shelley Winters absolutely nailed Myrtle (it already verged on typecasting), and Howard Da Silva could hardly be bettered as her squelched husband George, the proverbial "worm that turns".

In one respect, though, the stingy budget allowed for greater authenticity. Daisy and Jordan really do arrive at Nick's place in a pouring rain, as in the book, and Gatsby really does step out under a rain-spout to create the impression that he too had just arrived (instead of waiting inside for hours, as he had been). In 1974 nobody wanted to damage the actors' elaborate confections, so the weather was pushed aside.

This version is overall less faithful to the book than the 1974 version...but captures its spirit much more accurately.
21 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very good film version of the original novel.
lionel-215 July 2005
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.
39 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jay and Daisy
bkoganbing25 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Although changed quite a bit from the plot of the famed F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the Roaring Twenties, this version of The Great Gatsby maintained the spirit of the novel as much as the Code would allow. At least it didn't opt for a happy ending for Gatsby.

Because the Robert Redford version was out and available, this version of The Great Gatsby was deep sixed for quite a while. That's a pity because Alan Ladd gave one of his best screen performances in the title role and assessing Ladd as actor isn't fair to him without seeing this film. It would be like it was with John Wayne for decades when Island In The Sky and The High And The Mighty were not available.

Fitzgerald injects himself prominently in the story in the person of Nick Carraway played by MacDonald Carey. Carraway is fascinated by the mysterious Gatsby who has bought one of those rambling mansions on Long Island and now is seeking to break into society. All this because Ladd is still looking for his lost love who is Betty Field, Carey's cousin and also very married now to Barry Sullivan.

Sullivan's maybe rich and old monied, but he's a two timing rat who is out stepping with Shelley Winters, wife of Howard DaSilva who owns a garage. Winters is looking to step up in class herself and sees a meal ticket in Sullivan. But Barry ain't about to ditch Betty for a floozy.

Gatsby is a poor kid who had in drummed into him on a few occasions that money talks. He became a bootlegger because in the economy of the Roaring Twenties that was the way to a fortune. Now he's looking to gain the class that supposedly goes with money. What he doesn't realize is that usually money is laundered through a generation or two before it becomes respectable.

One major change is that Carraway narrates the story from the present 1949 with his wife Ruth Hussey at the gravesite of Jay Gatsby. In the story Hussey's character never marries Carey's character. In fact she herself is no prize as Carey is quite disillusioned with whole lot of the Long Island crowd.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had he lived might not have recognized his work, but I think he would have approved of the way his characters were interpreted by the cast. He tried his own hand at Hollywood screen writing and knew the drill there so to speak.

And next year The Great Gatsby is coming again to the big screen with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. I think he might just be the best Gatsby yet. But this one will do.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Best version to date
Steven Patterson30 April 2013
This is the second film version of the novel. I have not viewed the 1926 version, but since it is a silent film, and the novel is so chatty, I can hardly think it captures Fitzgerald's vision. The 1974 (3rd) version suffers from two or three problems that overwhelm the lovely props and costumes - an abysmal score, the debatable effect of Redford's grin, and casting mousy Mia Farrow as money-voiced Daisy - a role she cannot fill. Sam Waterson and Bruce Dern are well cast but then mostly have to stand around rather than play off their contrasting physical types. Karen Black perfectly embodies the excess vitality that motivates Tom's adultery. The 2000 A&E/Granada (4th) version comes closer with a more believable Daisy (Mira Sorvino) and an equally everyman Nick (Paul Rudd), but not a better Jay, and then focuses too much on the furniture of Gatsby's criminal activities. It boasts a real Owl Eyes, too. The 1949 version is not perfect either; we can only hope the 2012-oops!-2013 version finally nails it. The '49 version casts Nick as a bit of a dull boy, and fails most by insisting on "squaring" everything, losing in the process the essential melancholy, unfulfilled longing, and insulted morality of the novel. Perhaps it's an artifact of the period, America embracing a sanitized Freudian relativism, putting the Second WW behind it like the First, but this time too sober to try anything like the Roaring 20s. Betty Field is a convincing Daisy, though she falls pretty far from a Louisville débutante. Jordan is not nearly arch enough, Tom not nearly imposing enough. And Dr. TJ Eckleburg...well Gatsby's henchman can't resist explicating a symbol the audience should be allowed to figure out for itself. After an unsteady start, the pace of the film proceeds very well through most of the scenes of the novel, sadly failing to give Shelley Winters the screen time to better develop her Myrtle Wilson. And here's Howard da Silva suitably muted as Wilson, Ed Begley too muted as "Lupus"(Wolfsheim), and Elisha Cook, Jr in an expanded Klipspringer role. In fact, it's almost as if the film makers wanted to write Nick out and replace him with Klipsringer, but didn't dare. They should have, because Cook brings more to the screen than Macdonald Carey. All in all, a very workmanlike adaptation, making use of much of the novel's narration by transforming it into passable dialog, and though the shot composition is a bit straight-on, the camera-work is strong and the editing spot on.
12 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Rich dude woos woman from across lake
helpless_dancer17 August 2001
Sad film about the sad lives of the ultra rich and the even sadder lives of the ultra poor. Ladd made a good go of it as the strange Gatsby with his hidden desires and odd ways. Barry Sullivan played the part of the vain and 'old money' snob to perfection. Shelly Winters was possibly the best yet at portraying the worthless, yet pitiful, Myrtle. Thumbs up to a very good drama.
21 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good Stuff
buster9 October 1998
This is a pretty good movie that seems to be lost. It contains possible Alan Ladd's fine performance, and is far better than the vapid 1974 remake with Redford.
27 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It once was lost, but now it's found....
MartinHafer14 April 2014
The public's response to the recent remake of The Great Gatsby was unexpectedly strong—and for several weeks it led at the box office. Now this does not mean that it was a huge financial success—but it was a success. Although it made well over $140,000,000 in the US, it cost $100,000,000 to make—but it was well-attended and the critical reviews were mostly positive. However, I did some research and found that there are at least three prior theatrical versions—and they all met different levels of success. There was a 1922 version that is considered lost— and no one has seen this film in decades. There also is the famous 1974 Robert Redford and Mia Farrow film that earned four times its cost to make (wow!). However, there is one other version—one that was thought to be lost up until 2012 and I have had this near the top of my must-see list for years. In 1949, Alan Ladd made the first talking version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel—and I had the fortune to see this film over the weekend at the TCM Film Festival. And, I assume that it will soon be available on DVD or will be shown on TCM (so far, it has not). So keep an eye out for it.

This 1949 film does have one strike against it from the outset. The Production Code was still strictly being enforced by the Hays Office. Because of that, some elements of the novel needed to be altered slightly to get it past censors. However, I was thrilled that for the most part the story does follow the book rather closely. It's not perfect in this regard, but is much closer than I'd ever expected.

The story is about a man who suddenly bursts onto the social scene on Long Island during the 1920s. Who he is exactly is unknown to most of his new 'friends', but they know that he sure throws great parties at his enormous mansion. But the viewer is left wondering why…why would Gatsby go to so much trouble and expense to buy this old mansion and redecorate it from top to bottom and then use it to throw lavish parties? Who was he trying to impress and how, exactly, did he come by so much money? Through the course of the film you learn the answers to all these things. And, what I appreciated it that although the man is very flawed and in some ways a villain, he is also a tragic character— one you cannot help but like and feel sorry for by the end of the picture.

The direction was quite competent as was the acting. However, the star was clearly the Fitzgerald novel—and it's hard imagining ANY version of the story being anything other than excellent. It really is a nice story and offers a lot of great twists. Plus, most importantly, it is so unique. I was also surprised at what a nice job Ladd did in the film —especially since he generally showed limited range in his films. He tended to be very stoic and non-emotional and generally played the same sort of tough guys in nearly all his films. Here, however, he shows more range and vulnerability than a typical Ladd film. So why did Alan Ladd make such a film? Was he forced to do it by the studio? Well, the truth is quite different. According to Ladd's son, David (who talked about the film before this special screening on Sunday night), it was a project Ladd forced his studio, Paramount, to make. They LOVED having him play gangsters, cowboys and the like but Ladd himself was impressed by the story and insisted he get a chance to do it. Sadly, the film did NOT do very well at the box office and was soon lost—and Ladd returned to making the sorts of films he'd been making--- enjoyable, yes, but also limited in style. It makes you wonder what might have happened to his career had the film been a success.

Overall, this film was a real treat. It's an intelligent film for folks who are looking for something with great depth of feeling and human frailty.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
in regard to fedor8 ( 's comment
jessxjordan9 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry, but I disagree with the comment you displayed. Unfortunately you need to understand the novel in depth to fully appreciate the concept of the film adaptation. The car-crashes are not used as a subordinate climax, in the novel the theme of carelessness is heavily embarked upon and careless driving is one example of this, also closely linked to alcoholism despite the 1919 National Prohibition Act. Fitzgerald used careless driving to represent the priorities people of the hedonistic era had; they cared little for their own safety and the safety of others whilst driving yet they cared immensely for the label of their clothes and who's parties they attended. It's unfortunate that you saw the film first, as I'm studying it for AS Level I have found that the film creates a vague outlook on something that is now noted as one of the greatest pieces of American Literature, standing against other novels such as Of Mice And Men. I really recommend you read the novel to understand the film further, as it only gives more of an outlook of the novel, yet the novel explores the depths of the class system, the "Great American Dream", carelessness, aspirations, lost love, how the past affects the future, class systems and many many more themes. It's a fantastic read and it sounds as if you would benefit from such an endeavour.
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
East Egg
jotix10026 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
F. Scott Fitzgerald had no luck with most of the adaptations to his novels on the screen. He was a man involved in the movies as a writer, and yet, the treatment of this, probably his most important work, didn't quite make it in this version, or the one in 1974, that we have seen. This Paramount feature was directed by Elliot Nugent and the script was by Owen Davis.

The main problem, in our humble opinion, is the flatness of the finished product. The rise of Jay Gatsby into the world of money and power, doesn't quite come across as being real. Then, there is no electricity between himself and Daisy Buchanan, a woman he desired with all his might. The whole atmosphere of wealth is not too evident, maybe because of budget problems, or who knows what. We have seen more splendid mansions than the ones we are taken to visit in this picture.

Although we know Tom Buchanan loves to stray from his wife, his involvement with the slutty Myrtle is not made too clear, as there is only one scene where he picks her on a highway. Buchanan wanted to keep Daisy as a trophy wife to show to the society circles in which he moved.

Alan Ladd does what he can with the material he is asked to play. There is no charisma on his part. The chemistry between Mr. Ladd and Betty Field is not there at all. Miss Field's Daisy doesn't give the viewer any indication of the love she felt for Jay. The best thing in the film are McDonald Carey as Nick Carraway, the narrator, and Ruth Hussey, a great actress that unfortunately doesn't have much to do. Shirley Winters is only seen briefly as Howard DaSilva's cheating wife.

This is a great American novel that deserves a better screen treatment.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
nailed the story, completely missed the point
joel-2807 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This typical Hollywoodization of Fitzgerald's famous novel inserts lots of material to make sure the viewer understands the "facts" of the background and motivation of Gatsby. But it completely loses the points of the novel, e.g. "the rich are different from us" and their egoistic carelessness and its costs. The failure of Gatsby to succeed in his version of the American Dream is ruined by his conversion just before he's shot. Daisy, Tom, and Jordan Baker are cardboard cut-outs and not even representative of what the characters in the novel represent. Daisy isn't weak, alcoholic, or selfish enough, Tom isn't loutish or selfish enough, and Jordan isn't amoral and nonchalant enough. Nick and Jordan CAN'T get together at the end, his whole purpose in the story is to highlight, by contrast and by his rejection of all of them, the worthlessness of these careless rich. It's a good movie of its type, and Ladd is wonderful, but there are no "boats against the current, carried back into the past" or whatever the exact final words of the novel were. As the credits acknowledge, this movie is not the novel.

imho the made-for-TV version is the best of the three film versions. Tom especially is perfect, and tells you everything Fitzgerald wanted you to know about the rich. Daisy is good and Nick is excellent. The ambiance is perfect. And it's pretty true to the book. In the big budget big screen version, Redford completely misses the complexity of Gatsby and therefore, even if everything else in the movie had been perfect, (and it wasn't bad!) his lack of tension, conflict, hardness, etc. completely scuttles it.
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Best Gatsby
writers_reign20 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Although the journeymen scriptwriters have played fast and loose with arguably the finest novella of the twentieth century let me begin by saying that Alan Ladd is far and away the best Gatsby of the three that I've seen (Redford, DeCaprio) AND I've no reason for supposing that Toby Stephens equals let alone eclipses Ladd. Of the other two Redford can certainly do charm and DeCaprio can probably do Something though I've yet to ascertain what but Ladd is able to express an essential facet of Gatsby's character, what Fitzgerald described as a 'capacity to hope'. Now for the caveats; the novella was published in 1925 and from the first Nick Carraway, who is narrating the story from his home in the mid-West, makes it clear that he is recalling events that happened two years previously in New York (college professors delight in'teaching' the book as a conflict between East (Wilson and his wife Myrtle) and West (all the other major characters, Gatsby, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, i.e. in 1923. For reasons best known to themselves and have no logical basis the screenwriters begin in the present day (presumably 1949 when the film was produced) with a middle-aged Nick Carraway (MacDonald Carey) and an equally middle-aged Ruth Hussy are standing by the headstone of Jay Gatsby who, according to the stonemason, died in 1928. Why they felt the need to advance the action by a mere three years is anyone's guess and they err more seriously by including a montage in which Ladd is seen firing a machine gun at police during a rum-running trip in the Prohibition era. The point about Gatsby was the mystique surrounding him not having it spelled out how he acquired his vast wealth. Second caveat; Betty Field is a terrible choice for Daisy, she is far too brash and hard, of the actresses active in 1949 Dorothy McGuire would have been ideal. All the actors - with the exception of the wooden Carey - are the owners of fine CVs but again Howard da Sylva is miscast as the milquetoast Wilson and the final insult is saved for the end when the shallow Jordan Baker (that was the whole point of her in the book) is revealed to be made of sterner stuff and goes off with Nick - it is, of course, Jordan Baker, now Mrs. Carraway, who featured in the prologue. Black and White and 91 minutes do no harm to what is, after all, a novella, but if you love Fitzgerald prepare for disappointment.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It just sort of misses
dbborroughs9 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Alan Ladd is Jay Gatsby in the first sound Hollywood adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald tale of mysterious bootlegger who buys his way in to East Egg in an effort to reconnect with his lost love Daisy only to find that life has other plans. Its been ages since I've looked at the book, which never really clicked with me, I'm more a fan of the film version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow which seemed somehow to capture the mood and flavor of the real Eggs of Great Neck Long Island and the surroundings. The Ladd version is okay, but it feels compressed and artificial. Running a breezy 90 minutes the film tries to get every detail into the film including long flashbacks that set up the pasts of Gatsby and Daisy, its nice having the back story, but for me its almost too much information and as a result the "present" story (which is in itself a flashback since the film starts off with two people talking about what happened to land Gatsby in the cemetery) feels like its getting the short shrift. As for it being artificial, its clearly all sets and efforts to use Ladd and others, as the youthful counterparts of their characters falls flat since they are clearly too old. (I also don't like Betty Field as Daisy since she seems out of sorts in the role.) As I said its an okay version of the story, but it kind of just misses. Worth a look if you run across it but not something to search out.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Weak movie, horrible adaptation
ofumalow12 April 2013
It's important to remember that this 2nd adaptation (after a lost silent version) was made after Fitzgerald died but before he--and in particular this novel--entered the American literary canon. Ergo it plays havoc with the book, immediately de-mystifying Gatsby's roots and otherwise inserting lots of crude "explanatory" flashbacks. In the fashion of the era it was made in, there's practically no attempt at period-correct fashions and decor, as it was thought then that any evocation at a just-prior period's style would be taken by audiences as "old-fashioned."

The most obvious problem is Betty Field's charisma-free Daisy. Daisy should indeed be shallow, but also so enchanting that we understand why Gatsby tracked her down. (Mia Farrow might have been miscast in the 1974 remake, but at least she understood/tried to evoke exactly those qualities.) Field just doesn't have the stuff--she's generic and vacuous in a Hollywood ingénue way. (It's no surprise that she immediately went into TV work after this role--presumably no one was shouting for her to take another big-screen lead.)

Alan Ladd is an interesting choice for Gatsby, though the film just isn't intelligent enough to effectively push him outside his usual acting comfort zone. Still, he gives a respectable performance in this flawed context. Future TV star Macdonald Carey brings zilch to Nick Carraway, unlike the excellent later Sam Waterston or Paul Rudd.

A fair amount of dialogue and the basic narrative arc remain from the novel, but there are also numerous instances where the movie vulgarizes Fitzgerald by needing to "explain" every last story/character nuance rather than letting us intuit them. It might appear a fairly interesting if misfired vehicle for Ladd if it weren't such a huge betrayal of a novel we've since come to hold sacrosanct. Of course, at the time, Hollywood was only looking for cheap sources of storytelling melodrama--and "The Great Gatsby" must have come very cheap.
7 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I cared about Ladd's Gatsby as much as I did about Fitzgerald's
joanna-10511 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I've loved this book for many years. First, I've read it in High School (required reading) in a foreign language translation. Then, when I learned English, I read it few times in the original. I agree with all those who believe that this novel is not "adaptable" for the screen: it is written as a single point of view narrative and it cannot be followed closely in a movie version or it would be a mega "snooze fest". In addition it has so many themes that any adaptation would need to necessarily drop some of them or the movie would be an overblown, 4 hour opus. Having said that, I feel I need to write a "few words" in defense of the 1949 adaptation. Even though this version was plagued by many challenges (low budget; censorship crippled script, that seems to assume no intelligence on the part of the viewer, therefore providing endless and superfluous back story explanations; Paramount's reluctance to produce/promote it; last minute appointed director, who was more experienced with light comedy; rather plain actress in the role of Daisy; some liberties with the character of Jordan Baker, etc.), I feel that it hit all the main themes of the book spot on and it kept the viewer engaged for the duration (something, which cannot be said of the much more lavish 1974 version). But most of all: I loved Alan Ladd as Gatsby. There are many gems in his version, such as: Gatsby, awkwardly, trying to bribe Nick; Gatsby giddy with pride and joy, showing Daisy his lavish closets; his confusion when he discovers that Daisy has a daughter; his shock when he finds out Daisy's "true colors"; and, finally, when he sits alone, so small, in the great big house, with all his dreams crumbling around him. I cared about Ladd's Gatsby as much as I did about Fitzgerald's. And in the end that's what movies are supposed to do: make us care. I will skip over the Luhrmann/DiCaprio version (least said, soonest mended) but only to say, that it is the ONLY version of Great Gatsby (I saw 4: 1949, 1974, 2000 – TV movie and 2012) in which I was longing for Wilson to finally show up and put DiCaprio's Gatsby out of his misery.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Two Gatsby movies, both flawed!
JohnHowardReid19 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the fact that it starred box-office giant, Alan Ladd, this version was lucky to break even - unlike the 1974 version which actually lost money (although it was lensed on a far more extravagant scale). Both films suffer from almost identical flaws. Both tend to be dull, tedious and uninteresting. Both Ladd and Robert Redford are unconvincing. The Ladd version is further burdened with a stolid performance from Macdonald Carey and hysterical over-acting from Betty Field. True, Barry Sullivan as Tom, Howard Da Sylva as Wilson and Shelley Winters as his wife, do give their roles some bite, but their commendable efforts are somewhat undermined by the movie's odd construction of flashbacks within flashbacks (which often don't return to the flashback they started with).

At least Francis Ford Coppola's wordy screenplay for the 1974 film does eliminate all the flashbacks. However, to do this he has been forced to make Sam Waterston, rather than Gatsby or Daisy, the central character. Waterston does a reasonable job, considering the vapid script. On the other hand, Redford, who makes a surprisingly late entrance, does virtually nothing at all. He plays the character with little charisma and in such a stolidly dead-pan, offhanded way that I assumed his constant use of the expression, "old sport", was deliberately designed to mock or annoy his guests.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Gatsby, an interesting Ladd
tomsview17 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel captures Gatsby's character without the frills of the lavish productions to follow.

It is the story of the mysterious Jay Gatsby whose wealth seems to have been accumulated almost with one end in mind: to win back Daisy, the woman he loved and lost years before.

The famous book had much to say about American society during the 1920's. Some of that feeling comes through in this film, but probably not enough to please people who admire the novel. The film has copped some flack over the years.

I think Alan Ladd made a good Gatsby. He is quietly spoken, which belies the things we learn that he has done in his life, which include bootlegging as well as showing leadership and bravery on the battlefield in WW1. Ladd's unsmiling, serious demeanour gives his Gatsby a sense of hidden depths, but Ladd also gives him vulnerability, especially where Daisy is concerned.

Betty Field was an interesting choice for Daisy. The makers of all the versions of the story realised that Daisy has to project something more than pure glamour. Here is F. Scott's Fitzgerald's description of her: "Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth…a conscientious expression…Slenderly, languidly…an expression of unthoughtful sadness".

There was controversy over the choice of Betty Field. Apparently the original director quit when the beautiful Gene Tierney wasn't cast in the part. Betty Field, not a typical beauty, was a subtler choice. This film treats Daisy more sympathetically than in the book, her act of betrayal at the end comes as a shock although this is where the filmmakers made the most changes, spelling things out where F. Scott Fitzgerald was more oblique.

The production of the film is adequate if somewhat studio bound, although it is the performances that make or break this film. Familiar Hollywood faces filled out the supporting roles, but the role of Gatsby was critical. As far as I'm concerned, I think Alan Ladd was never better cast. It usually isn't considered his best movie, but I feel it probably is.

The story has enough going for it to make all the movie interpretations interesting. When all is said and done, this one holds up pretty well.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not a Bad Film. Especially if you haven't read the novel!
Francesca G15 October 2013

It has been a while since I read the novel, so I was able to detach myself from the source material enough to watch the film from that vantage point. And I have to say, I believe this greatly aided in my enjoyment of the picture. I'm not saying it is a perfect film by far, but as a stand alone film, it is better than the average B melodrama of the period.

However, once I finished the film I began to make comparisons to the novel, which is definitely in my personal all-time top 10 books, and that's where the film went from an 8 to a 7 or 6. Like many of the previous posters mentioned, the film does drastically diminish Gatsby's mystery by laying out his background early on in the story. And this does detract from what most people love about the book. Also, the script does not take enough advantage of it's source material and the wonderful prose of Fitzgerald.

I personally did not find the film extremely miscast and the leads were not a problem for me. Granted they are not what I envisioned Gatsby and Daisy being like when I read Fitzgerald's work, but in my opinion they are able to make the roles work. I thought the secondary leads and the character parts were for the most part well cast and that the actors each made the roles their own.

The problem with the film is that it IS based on the novel. And contrary as to how I was able to watch the film, one should be able to critique this film based on the vantage of comparing it to the novel. If this weren't the case, then the film should never have been titled "The Great Gatsby". So, if one is able to watch the film without constant comparisons to the novel, I think they will better enjoy the viewing experience, but that doesn't excuse the film's shortcomings when it comes to living up to its source material.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A great book? Yes. A great cast? Rather hit-and-miss. Great motion picture? Not really
TheLittleSongbird16 November 2013
It is very difficult to tell which is better between the 1974 and 1949 versions, both have their good merits but both suffer from major problems. The 1974 film has the better production values and better supporting cast, and it is more faithful in detail to the book. The 1949 film though is closer in spirit, has the better Gatsby and there is more depth. The book is a sentimental favourite and is a great book, though maybe not one of the all-time great literary classics. This film is not great really, but it is not bad either. There are things that do work in its favour, Alan Ladd may not be the best of actors but still brings an enigmatic and mysterious presence while not being too restrained, there is even room for him to play to his strengths. The script can over-explain itself sometimes but there is more of a feeling of Fitzgerald's prose especially in the first third, and the story has a much brisker pace(the 1974 film was dull and overlong) and is generally much closer in spirit and depth, if not the details, to the later version, which came across as too dry and too faithful. The music in both films captures the spirit of the music of the 20s beautifully. Shelley Winters nails it as Myrtle, Ruth Hussey is entrancing while never too bland, Howard Da Silva is a touching George(though the character is more tormented in the later version) and MacDonald Carey's Nick is dignified as the character who kind of is the glue of the narrative.

There are some misfires in the casting though, the biggest problem being Betty Field's vacuous and almost too sympathetic Daisy, thankfully she doesn't play her too stridently like Mia Farrow did but it was a bland performance that dilutes the character. Barry Robinson is more ideal physically than Bruce Dern but the oily and brutish attitudes and mannerisms are not there(which Dern nailed), he comes across as too suave. The film doesn't look too bad, it is nicely shot and the costumes and sets are very 20s but there is also too much of a film-noir element, if you aren't familiar with the story and book beforehand you'd be convinced that it was like a mystery thriller instead. Visually there is a sense of period but the attitudes not so much, stripping away at the danger, excitement and fun of the Jazz Age(that would be true actually on reflection of both versions). Most of the story is fine, but the ending is a cop-out and it would have been wiser to keep Gatsby a mysterious figure rather than saying off the bat who and what he is and where he came from, which misses the point really of what makes the story itself so alluring, that the character is essentially an enigma. The final third disappoints, reading too much of run-of-the-mill 40s melodrama. Overall, not really a good film but it is also not a bad one, in a way it's a mixed bag. Now onto seeing the TV and Baz Luhrmann versions, Lurhmann's looks as though it could go either way but the TV version looks really promising. 5/10 Bethany Cox
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A weak adaptation of a Fitzgerald novel.
Fedor Petrovic (fedor8)5 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A typical old b&w film. The dialogues are sometimes good, but too often - especially in the second half - they get naive, sometimes awfully naive, occasionally close to the point where they are unintentionally comical. The first third, with its background information on Ladd's Gatsby shown with a series of interesting flashbacks, is the best part of the movie. But once Gatsby moves into his new villa and makes his moves on Betty Field, the film gets overly melodramatic. The ending is yet another cop-out ending; I don't know whether the novel itself contains this dumb, clichéd ending or whether the movie's producer made some changes to it, but I've always considered car-accidents to be a poor way to add drama to the conclusion of a story. I've seen this plot-device a million times (or if it's not a car, then it's a fall from a horse); the writer doesn't know how to end the story but he knows that he wants it to be dramatic, so he adds in a car-accident. Lame. And to make things worse, the accident is outrageously coincidental and preposterous, both plot-wise and time-wise; plot-wise because Field's husband's mistress (Winters) gets killed by Field, and the fact that Winters sort of rushes out from the gas-station into the street as though she'd never noticed in the years that she had lived in it that there was a dangerous road right across her house - and, of course, at the very moment that she comes out she sees Ladd's car and mistakes it for Field's husband's car and then shouts "Over here! I'm here! Run me over and make the ending tragic that way!"; time-wise because Ladd and Field get involved in an accident at the very day when they are preparing to tell Field's husband about their affair. Basically, there is just too much forced and artificial irony in this accident. It also doesn't exactly help this movie how Winters's husband, Da Silva, goes on a revenge mission to kill the guy who ran over his wife; he basically does this by walking around like a zombie, going from car to car looking for scratches, and acting very badly indeed. Both Da Silva's acting and his character's behaviour throughout the film are awful and confusing, respectively.

Scott Fitzgerald was upset on a couple of occasions how his novels were adapted for the screen by Hollywood's screenwriters, and - although he was dead long before this movie was done - he might have been right to complain, judging by this film's naive script. Or, maybe his novels are even sillier and more naive than this film, and were actually improved upon by the screen adaptations. Or, the films are pretty much like the novels. I could, of course, read this particular novel to find out, but I just can't be bothered. Fitzgerald's name doesn't exactly inspire me to read any of his books (and I don't mean the way his name sounds.) He was certainly no Heller, Clavell, or Twain. More like Hemingway – a lot of noise about nothing.
5 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews