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"He knew what a good photoplay should be and yet his talent was for the paragraph, for those words that come between the actor's lines....."

the curious hollywood conspiracy against f. scott fitzgerald and how it came nearly to an end
essay by julio peralta-paulino


Nearing the end of the line, he went to work for Hollywood. It is easy to argue that it is one of those things that shouldn't happen to a natural writer, to a poet.

I didn't ever like the old sport, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It seemed to me that he occupied this great chunk of space which obscured other scribes.

Then, one day, I had to read The Great Gatsby. It became one of my favorite novels. Years later, I learned more about the man and the way his life ended.

I really felt for him, especially when I read the last novel, the epic and powerful prose that he was unable to complete.

I was thinking of how clearly he understood Hollywood and yet he couldn't translate it into a screenplay, although he could and did explain it perfectly through the protagonist of the “western” partly titled The Last Tycoon.

Of course, screenwriting and to some extent the composition of plays is nearly the opposite of writing.

It sounds simple, but it isn't and it wasn't for one of the great American novelists of the past century.

Instead of filling the screen with poetry, he poured his knowledge into that book and in turn, it seems, they pushed through a conspiracy that even Robert Redford couldn't entirely break.

Rather possibly, the producers -which were notably few then- didn't take kindly to his creative liberties when it came to their inner circle which he used broadly in the book that would remain unfinished.

It seems a trifle in contrast to the uproar of Rushdie's Satanic Verses or Saviano's Gomorra, but in Fitzgerald's case it really was a death sentence.

There's a section dealing with writers and perhaps his own encounter with the person he would refer to as the last tycoon and it is insightful. Makes me think, he knew it. And yet, you know when you know something - say - you know how to kiss, but sometimes when then you meet new lips there is really nothing to do but re-learn the whole process of kissing. I think he knew what a good photoplay should be and yet his talent was for the paragraph, for those words that come between the actor's lines. He could pucker up and peck yet kissing as it were was out of his range.

There hasn't ever been a good adaptation of one of his novels.

At least not a popular one.

Jeremy Irons played the man in a not too well known bio-pic that carried at least two English titles.

Great film. Great because it captured part of the weakness and sorrow that overcame him at the end.

Perhaps, that was the starting point of undoing the conspiracy, of freeing the treasure that is his writing.

A few years ago I read the short story entitled The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. I read it because it was his and because there were reports that it would be in production.

Probably one of those he scribbled in a hurry to pay some overdue bill.

A lot of people have this idea about him and some lavish lifestyle in the Jazz Age, in the Roaring Twenties, but the fact is he didn't make a ton of money and whatever he did take home was spent on travel and on his family.

To read the letter he wrote some magazine with imploring words for an advance is to know how truly heartbreaking the literary world was and arguably still is.

If memory serves, he passed away in the forties and his work didn't gain a foothold in the literary establishment until a decade or two later.

It should be noted that he did have some credits in Tinseltown & his Pat Hobby stories were about a screenwriter. Also, there were several awards, but not for writing.

It makes me smile today to know that one of his stories has found some acceptance in cinema.

There were even several Oscar nominations and a couple of wins, imagine that, old sport!

The conspiracy might well be at an end and the end will be put to the test when Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby once again come to a theater near you in the latest production which is scheduled for release as the curtains descend on 2012.

(illustration: john richen)


Julio Peralta-Paulino is a writer currently at work on several projects. Some of his recent work is featured at City Writers Review and Jack Magazine. He is thrilled to be once again included in the eclectic and hip publication known as Smokebox. More stories from Julio Peralta-Paulino can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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