*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 studio; it consists of little of the “glamour” typically depicted in old Hollywood films about Hollywood. Instead, it depicts Stahr attending to his business: discussing filmmaking with a discouraged writer, acting as therapist to an impotent actor, holding a story conference with writers and directors, hosting a visiting Danish prince, defending his desire to make “quality pictures” to the studio’s cautious money men, helping the blacklisted cameraman, and using all his resources to discover the identity of the attractive young woman whom he glimpsed the night before. The studio is a place of business, a company engaged in the manufacture of dreams, and Stahr, for all that he is a dreamer, is also a businessman. At one point he compares himself to a chief clerk who knows where everything is. However, the truest picture of Stahr’s place in his world may be the scene following an earthquake in chapter 2, when Stahr walks through the studio and is hailed by workers on the set who regard him as a hero, “the last of the princes.”
*Hermitage. Former home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, a Greek Revival mansion near Nashville, Tennessee, where Manny Schwartz kills himself at dawn. The pilgrimage that Cecelia, Wylie White, and Schwartz make to the Hermitage begins as a joke, a spur-of-the-moment side trip when their cross-country flight is grounded by a storm. However, Fitzgerald uses the visit to contrast an older frontier America with the dream-America Stahr and the film industry are creating in Hollywood. Cecelia notices the green of the woodland trees and the real cows (her first glimpse of farm animals was a herd of sheep on a movie lot). Andrew Jackson, a self-made man like Stahr, is evoked as a heroic figure from America’s past (like the actor costumed as Abraham Lincoln in the studio commissary), admired if not quite understood by those engaged in creating the present.
*Santa Monica. Seaside community in Southern California where Stahr is having a new home built. He takes Kathleen to the unfinished, roofless house, which has a quality similar to that of a movie set. Stahr even speaks of having grass brought in as a prop. The house’s incomplete state, with some rooms finished, others not yet built, reflects Stahr himself. He has devoted himself only to work for such a long time that the domestic side of his character, symbolized by the house, is underdeveloped. It is here that he forges a tentative relationship with Kathleen, whom he takes to the...
(The entire section is 1,063 words.)