Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Hollywood. Section of the city of Los Angeles that is traditionally regarded as the center of the American film industry. “Hollywood” is not so much a place as it is an idea, and Fitzgerald’s novel is an attempt to understand that idea and give it flesh and form. While the novel provides details of things that characterize Southern California—for example, the primacy of automobiles and the lassitude Stahr notices in those who have lived too long in the climate—there are also social observations peculiar to the film industry. In a subculture obsessed with celebrity and success, nothing is so chilling as the specter of failure, and the ghostly figures of has-beens stalk these pages: Manny Schwartz, a former studio boss who commits suicide; a cameraman mysteriously blacklisted after someone starts a rumor that he is going blind; a faded actress, and Johnny Swanson, a has-been cowboy star. The rarefied few who are successful live in a small, closed world, huddled together against threatening forces from outside.
Stahr’s studio. The film studio is Stahr’s true home, much more so than the house he is having built in Santa Monica or the lonely Bel Air home in which he currently is living. The studio is the place he knows better than any other, where he works and often where he sleeps, as well as the place where he meets Kathleen. Chapter 3 sketches out his typical working day at the...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Given that this novel was left unfinished at Fitzgerald's death, being concluded by the notable author and critic (and friend of the writer) Edmund Wilson, based on Fitzgerald's notes, discussion might center on the "shape" of the plot. Fitzgerald had the reputation of being a careful and thorough editor and reviser of his work; thus, current readers cannot be certain that the book ends as the author would finally have wished. The plot of the work surely was intended to close with Stahr's death; but, it is not certain that the demise was to be achieved in the way provided by the published text. Therefore, readers could well develop theories as to the most plausible and realistic closing of the story.
Since Wilson's effort represents about half of the finished text, a great deal of the characterization develops in that portion. Does this editor do justice to the early representations of the personalities of such personages as Pat Brady (especially in view of the important role that he plays later in the plot), Kathleen Moore (whose affair with Stahr is surely a key element of the book), and Cecilia Brady (who narrates the story)?
1. Given the reputation of Hollywood current in the minds of many people today, does Fitzgerald's image of Irving Thalberg as Monro Stahr seem credible? Is the character too idealized?
2. Does the narrative point of view succeed in this novel? Would any other approach be more effective (such as a first...
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Elia Kazan directed the 1976 film interpretation of the novel. It starred Robert DeNiro as Stahr, and featured numerous Hollywood leading men, such as Robert Mitchum and Tony Curtis. The screenplay was by Harold Pinter and is judged by many critics as the best rendering for the screen of any of Fitzgerald's works. American viewers tended to like the film, while British critics often found it tedious and long-winded. Almost everyone agreed, though, that DeNiro did a splendid job of portraying Fitzgerald's troubled hero.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. A well-indexed collection of contemporary criticism on Fitzgerald. Includes an article that focuses on social statement and technique in The Last Tycoon. The novel is also discussed in considerable detail in other articles.
Ebel, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1968. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A good introductory reference, which includes biographical information; readings of novels, stories, and articles; and critical responses. The Last Tycoon is referred to throughout. Includes bibliography, chronology, and index.
Hook, Andrew. F. Scott Fitzgerald. London: Edward Arnold, 1992. An accessible reading of Fitzgerald and his work that refers to criticism and to scholarship. The chapter on The Last Tycoon draws from Fitzgerald’s letters, in which he discusses his intentions and plans for the novel. Includes a chronology, bibliography, and index.
Hook, Andrew. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. Part of the Literary Lives series. Concise rather than thorough, but with some interesting details.
Lee, A. Robert, ed. Scott Fitzgerald: The Promises of Life. London: Vision, 1989. The article on The Last Tycoon argues that the novel is...
(The entire section is 261 words.)