I am a film buff and particularly enjoy movies that were made of books – after reading the original first, so as to maintain the suspense. When I started looking into movies of The Great Gatsby, I was very excited to learn that there were four versions of the story. The earliest one came out just years after the novel and featured one of my favorite actors, William Powell (if you haven’t seen the Thin Man series, you are missing out). Released in 1926, the movie was adapted by Elizabeth Meehan as a silent film, this being before the advent of those new-fangled “talkies.” Unfortunately, every copy of the film was lost so it is no longer available for viewing. A preview for the film was found, however, so if you are looking to tease yourself you can watch it.
The second incarnation of The Great Gatsby was released by Paramount Pictures in 1949. Starring Alan Ladd, best known for his role as Shane, the film focuses more on the gangster-side of the story, heightening action that is mostly hinted at in the book.
A Great Cast… A Great Novel… A Great Motion Picture
From looking at the poster for the movie, it is quite evident that this Gatsby is playing by a different set of rules. The tagline, however, uses the fame the novel had already generated to lure people into the theater.
The most famous version of The Great Gatsby was released in 1974, also by Paramount Pictures. Robert Redford held the title role, with Mia Farrow as his Daisy. The whole picture was filled with heavy-hitters – Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay!
Gone is the romance that was so divine.
While the tagline hints that their love was divine, behind the scenes of this movie there was a lot of drama. Truman Capote, of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame, was originally hired to pen the screenplay but his version was found to be a little too far from the original. Or was it? There is a lot that can be read into the story; it just depends on your viewpoint.
The most recent version of The Great Gatsby was released in 2001 by A&E Television. Perhaps the most true to the story version, it has also received a mixed welcome. With such iconic people linked to the 1974 film, it took great courage to step into Gatsby’s shoes.
Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino is Daisy and British actor Toby Stephens is Gatsby. I particularly enjoyed the casting of Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway.
He risked it all to give first love a second chance.
A&E is known for its extremely well-made literary adaptations – Pride & Prejudice anyone?- but I personally haven’t had a chance to view this series yet. It’s always checked out!
So which version is your favorite?
Not only is The Great Gatsby known as the Great American Novel- but it’s mysterious cover art is also regarded as a one of the most famous in American literature.
While Fitzgerald was still working on the novel, little-known artist Francis Cugat was commissioned to create the cover art. Not much is known about Cugat, and in fact, the cover art for The Great Gatsby is thought to be the only cover art he ever produced.
Cugat’s painting is was created in the popular Art Deco style, which itself was a decorative style that became synonymous with the roaring 20’s . A pair of eyes and lips float over the lights of a amusement park on a striking blue background. A single green tear falls from the right eye. The irises of the eyes are reclining nudes painted in the ethereal gouache method.
When Fitzgerald saw the finished product, he so admired it that he told his publishers that he had written it “into” the book.
This remark by Fitzgerald have led many to believe that the eyes are similar to the yellow spectacles of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg found in the faded billboard near George Wilson’s auto-repair shop.
From The Great Gatsby: “…Blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.”
Another interpretation is that the floating face is that of Jay Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchanan. In the novel, Daisy is described as the “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.”
Visit Heidelberg’s Patrick Henry Villiage Library, the European Regional Library, or the Deutsch Amerikanisches Institutefor more information on F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Francis Cugat, Art Deco, and the Roaring 20’s
I stayed up all night drinking Mint Julips and finishing The Great Gatsby. What’s next Old Sport? Do you have a schedule of events posted anywhere?
– James Gatz