Documentaries about Scott Fitzgerald tend to be more entertaining than revealing. We get the usual Roaring Twenties treatment, with Scott and Zelda dancing on taxi-roofs and diving into fountains, and then the depression years, with Zelda in a mental home and Scott sinking into alcoholic oblivion.
This one, directed and written by DeWitt Sage, is a triumph of new insight and creative theming. As Scott always wrote essentially about himself, we are given some important clues about where he came from, both geographically and spiritually. His family were relatively prosperous Irish, living at the end-house of a fashionable street, with less salubrious neighbours hovering nearby. He was brought up on a favourite nursery-story about big animals fighting small ones, and his sympathies were firmly with the small ones. He remained acutely conscious of class distinctions and the feelings of those shut-out from higher circles. Once, nearly twice, he was debarred from marrying a girl from an upper shelf, on class grounds alone. This did not make him a victim (he was on his way to Princeton), and his chronic self-pity seems misplaced. But significantly it was he who claimed "The rich are different from you and me" and the more thick-skinned Hemingway who just answered "Yes, they have more money".
The attempt at recording first-hand memories of spoilt county-belle Zelda from elderly townsfolk in Montgomery, Alabama, does not really come off. And there is far too much from a self-absorbed neighbour of theirs from when Zelda was first institutionalised in Baltimore, apparently wanting to trade on her friendship with their only daughter Scottie.
Better by far are the academics with their distilled views about Scott and his dreams that did indeed turn wintry. One of them thinks he could see a crack of daylight in his final days, living with a supportive young partner (Sheilah Graham) who seemed to be getting him back on the rails. But he was too far gone in drink, and died just one year before Pearl Harbour - the supreme irony. Because it was a low-cost paperback edition of Gatsby that the government published for the troops that suddenly and unexpectedly touched a nerve in thousands of Americans far from home, and brought fame to the author on a scale he had never known in his lifetime, and which has not subsided even now.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this