Amid all the hullabaloo leading up to Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, critics couldn’t help comparing it to the 1974 version starring Robert Redford as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous character. To readers’ despair, neither of the massively hyped films turned out to be an adequate adaptation of one of the 20th century’s most serious Great American Novel contenders. But the failure of the Gatsby movies tends to obscure the fact that Fitzgerald — who was born on this day in 1896 — had far more than just Jay and Daisy to offer cinema.
Most of his fans know that Fitzgerald moved to, and eventually died, chasing the big money as a Hollywood screenwriter; what most people don’t talk about, is how many of his works — both written directly for the screen or adapted from books or stories — actually made it into movie theaters or to television screens.
The Great Gatsby, 1926 and 1949
Before we dive into all the filmed works of Fitzgerald’s that don’t take place on West Egg, we should pay tribute to these two earlier adaptations of his most well-known books. Although they’re tough to find (the 1949 one was available on YouTube, but has been taken down), both are proof that Gatsby’s story has long been an obsession for Hollywood. Decades before your high school English teacher was making you read the book, directors Herbert Brenon (’26) and Elliott Nugent (’49) both tried their hand at bringing it to the screen.