The Last Tycoon
(Full name Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald) American novelist, short story writer, essayist, screenwriter, and dramatist.
The following entry presents criticism of Fitzgerald's novel The Last Tycoon (1941). For a discussion of Fitzgerald's complete career, see TCLC, Volumes I and 6; for a discussion of his novel The Great Gatsby, see Volume 14; for a discussion of his novel Tender Is the Night, see Volume 28.
An unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon is concerned with the life of Monroe Stahr, a powerful Hollywood mogul. Published posthumously in an edition edited by Edmund Wilson, this work has been praised by critics for its realistic portrayal of Hollywood and its insight into the motion picture industry. Commentary on The Last Tycoon speculates on the ultimate form of the work as suggested by the six completed chapters and Fitzgerald's notes and outlines for the remaining sections of the novel.
Despite his popular success as a novelist, Fitzgerald was plagued by money problems in the last years of his life, including the support of his daughter and his institutionalized wife, Zelda. To fulfill his mounting financial obligations, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood in 1937 and secured a screenwriting contract with MGM studios. While working at the motion picture company he became interested in the life of film producer Irving Thalberg; in 1937 and 1938 Fitzgerald researched Thalberg's life and the history of MGM studios, and his copious notes became the basis for The Last Tycoon. When his contract with MGM expired in 1939, Fitzgerald began writing the novel. He continued work on the manuscript during the last year of his life, supplementing his income with freelance film scripts and short stories. He died of a heart attack in 1940.
and Major Characters
The Last Tycoon is the story of the fall of a powerful Hollywood producer, Monroe Stahr, who rose from the streets of New York to head a major motion picture studio at the age of thirty-five. Following his wife's death, Stahr pursues a love affair with Kathleen Moore, an English actress who bears a strong resemblance to his late wife. His domination of the movie studio is threatened by the machinations of a scheming associate, Pat Brady, and labor disputes that culminate in a physical confrontation with a communist labor organizer. His power and influence waning, Stahr panics and arranges to have Brady murdered. Later, realizing the gravity of this action, Stahr attempts to revoke the murder contract on Brady but is killed in a plane crash before the assassin can be contacted.
Most critics view Monroe Stahr as representative of modern America, using his meteoric rise, fall, and resulting moral confusion as an allegory for the rapid change in American business and society in the early twentieth century. Initial reviews of The Last Tycoon were laudatory; several important critics asserted that the novel was destined to be considered Fitzgerald's best. Later critics have compared The Last Tycoon unfavorably with Fitzgerald's other work, denigrating the plot as melodramatic. Nevertheless, as Stephen Vincent Benet has remarked, The Last Tycoon demonstrates the "wit, observation, sure craftsmanship, the verbal felicity that Fitzgerald could always summon … But with them there is a richness of texture, a maturity of point of view that shows us what we all lost in his early death."
J. Donald Adams (essay date 1941)
[In the following review, Adams offers a positive assessment of The Last Tycoon.]
It is a heavy loss to American literature that Scott Fitzgerald died in his forties. Of that fact this volume which Edmund Wilson has edited is convincing proof. When Tender Is the Night was published a few years ago there was reason to doubt whether the fine talent which had first fully realized itself in The Great Gatsby eight years before would develop sufficiently to arrive at the greater achievements of which it was capable. Tender Is the Night was an ambitious book, but it was also a brilliant...
(The entire section is 44,819 words.)