The Pat Hobby Stories Additional Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish

“Pat Hobby’s Christmas Wish” begins the afternoon of Christmas Eve at the Hollywood movie studio where Hobby works as a screenwriter. An eighteen-year veteran at the studio, Hobby had once worked under contract as a high-paid writer, but he now ekes out a living by accepting whatever meager writing assignments come his way. In addition to Pat Hobby, the story’s characters include his new secretary, Helen Kagle, and studio executive Harry Gooddorf. Another studio employee, Joe Hopper, appears briefly, commiserating with Hobby about the “old days” on the lot.

As the story gets underway, Pat Hobby waits in his office for his new secretary to arrive. (Pat had fired his former secretary two days earlier so that he would not have to buy her a Christmas present.) He resents having to work on Christmas Eve, but he worries that Harry Gooddorf will not renew his four-week writing assignment if he complains. His salary is nothing compared to what he once earned at the studio, but Hobby needs the work; he does not know that Gooddorf will not be keeping him on, in any event. Hobby produces little and what he writes is subsequently rewritten by others. Clearly, his best days are behind him, but Hobby hangs on, looking for any opportunity to salvage his career.

Helen Kagle, the new secretary, arrives in Pat’s office and immediately bursts into tears. Harry Gooddorf, her boss and former lover, had recently let her go after eighteen years. Helen is angry and bitter; Pat tries to cheer her up. She tells Pat she has damaging information about Gooddorf and should have used it when she had the chance. She offers nothing else, and Pat does not ask.

As they settle in to work, Hobby’s dictation of dialog for a western movie scene makes it clear why his work is being rewritten. As they continue, Helen realizes Pat is working for Harry Gooddorf; remembering her comments about Gooddorf, she is alarmed. Pat reassures her; then he asks what information she has about her former boss. “You know where the body is buried?” he asks facetiously. Helen responds, “That’s too true to be funny.” Pat asks if Gooddorf had murdered someone, but Helen will say no more. Sensing an opportunity at hand, Pat immediately invites her to dinner.

The next day, Pat and Helen are back in the office, working on the script. He is still trying to pry the secret from her. He believes Helen’s damaging information about Gooddorf is a valuable asset that could turn his career around. At that moment, Gooddorf walks into the office. He has come to prod Pat to finish the script; he is surprised and uncomfortable to find Helen there as well. When a messenger enters to deliver an envelope to Helen, Gooddorf hurries away. Helen opens the envelope to discover that Gooddorf has given her $10 for Christmas. She is infuriated by his stinginess and lack of regard for her.

Pat seizes his opportunity. He tells Helen that together they can use her information about Gooddorf to secure great jobs for themselves at the studio. Using all his powers of...

(The entire section is 1253 words.)

A Man in the Way

“A Man in the Way,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second story in his Pat Hobby series, was first published in the February 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine. The story takes place at the movie studio Pat Hobby thinks of as home; in addition to Hobby, the characters include Jack Berners, a producer; Pricilla Smith, a talented young writer; and two minor characters, Bill Costello and Mr. Bach, both studio executives.

The story begins with some brief exposition that establishes Pat Hobby’s fading career as a forty-nine-year-old screenwriter. Hobby has worked at the same movie studio “on and off” for fifteen years, but for the last five years, he has worked very little because he lacks creative imagination and expertise with the written word. During the era of silent movies, Pat had flourished as a “structure man,” giving shape to other people’s plots, but “the talkies,” require a writer to produce fresh, original ideas and actual dialog, challenges he cannot meet. Even when he is unemployed by the studio, however, Pat Hobby can always bypass security and get onto the lot. His bookie Lou, a studio employee, lets him in.

As the narrative gets underway, Pat Hobby has intercepted Jack Berners at the studio to lobby for a writing assignment. The producer, on his way to lunch, tells Pat to bring him an idea. When Hobby says he has an idea they could discuss at lunch, which is not true, Berners dismisses him, saying he should put it in writing and send it to him. Berners feels cruel because he knows Hobby cannot put anything in writing, but the producer has problems of his own. World War II has broken out in Europe, and Berners is trying to beat the competition to produce a movie in which the hero goes off to war. However, as Hobby stands before him, a portrait of failure, Berners relents; he tells Pat to find a writer interested in his idea and come to see him.

Leaving Berners, Pat walks over to the “cell block,” the studio writers’ offices. With everyone at lunch, the place is deserted. Wandering into the office of a writer he knows, Pat is surprised to find instead a pretty girl sitting on the couch, reading a book. She is a new writer, she says, and the office is now hers. After suggesting she try for a screen test instead, Pat turns his attention to the book she is reading. He gives her a valuable writing tip. Instead of actually reading the book, he explains, all she has to do is talk to several friends who have read it. “I’m Pat Hobby,” he tells her, “and I know.”

As their conversation continues, Hobby notices a page she has marked in a magazine, a picture of paintings being removed to safety from an art gallery in wartime London. She shares her idea with Pat, the story of an old man who cannot get work rescuing the paintings but who turns out to be the one who had painted them many years before. “It’s good,” Pat replies, “but I don’t get it.” He then asks her for more movie ideas, implying he could market them for her. When she protests that she is under contract, Pat has a solution: “Use another name.” The telephone rings. She excuses herself and answers, “Yes, this is Pricilla Smith.” She invites Hobby to leave. He wanders into a nearby empty office and takes a nap.

Later that afternoon, Pat goes to Jack...

(The entire section is 1361 words.)

Boil Some Water--Lots of It

“Boil Some Water—Lots of It,” the third story in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s series of seventeen Pat Hobby short stories, first appeared in the March 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine. The narrative begins in Hobby’s office at the movie studio, but it moves almost immediately to the first aid station on the studio lot and then to the studio commissary, which is very busy at lunchtime. Characters in the story include Pat Hobby, Fitzgerald’s protagonist; Helen Earle, a pretty nurse; Max Leam, the producer who has given Pat a minor writing assignment on a film in production; and Walter Herrick, the very successful and influential head writer of the film. Minor characters include Ned Harman, production manager, and Big Jack Wilson, a director.

As the story opens, Pat is struggling to complete a “polishing job” on a plot sequence in a film currently in production at the studio. Max Leam, the producer, has hired Pat for three weeks’ work at $350 per week. Considering the salary he had once earned, Pat considers the assignment a “bone” that Leam has thrown to him. The job would surely be a simple one for a good writer, but after an entire morning’s effort, Pat has produced only one line of script dialog: ‘Boil some water—lots of it.” Nothing else comes to mind; he has no idea what comes next in the scene. Thinking about boiling water reminds him of the studio commissary. He decides to break for lunch.

Leaving the office, Hobby meets Max Leam in the hallway. He assures Leam that he is making great progress on the script, writing some excellent material with “the old guts,” but Pat does not want to read it to him yet. Leam is doubtful, but he does not press the point. Instead, he tells Hobby to consult the studio doctor if the writer has any problems with the medical content of the script. Pat agrees with enthusiasm. He then walks with the producer toward the commissary, planning to sit with Leam at the “Big Table” where all the important studio people, except for the most powerful executives, sit together at lunch. Leam senses Pat’s intention and avoids lunching with him by stopping at the barber shop.

Fitzgerald interrupts the action of the narrative at this point with exposition that establishes the steep decline in Pat Hobby’s success and professional stature at the studio. At one time, Hobby had dined at the Big Table regularly and had been welcomed into the private dining rooms of studio executives. Hobby understood “the older Hollywood,” but now “there were too many new faces the Big Table,” all regarding him suspiciously. Pat avoided the young writers, who actually took their work seriously, and he chose to have lunch alone away from the studio rather than sit with secretaries or movie extras.

As the story continues, Pat takes Max Leam’s suggestion and stops at the Red Cross Station to talk to a doctor. There he meets Helen Earle, a young nurse who is quite pretty. Remembering that he is no longer married and both his wives had “given up asking for alimony,” Pat invites her to lunch so that he can ask her “some medical questions.” Helen hesitates, but Pat assures her that the studio is a very friendly and quite democratic place.

In the commissary, Pat and Helen are seated close to the Big Table occupied by Leam and his associates. Since this is her first day at the studio, Helen is star struck with the setting. Hobby plays the role of the studio insider, explaining that he usually sits at the Big Table, but “they don’t want ladies.” Pat asks Helen the particular “medical question” he has in mind, wondering what people would do after a doctor said to boil some water. Helen is confused, replying that they would probably boil it. Pat continues, his questions indicating that he is asking Helen not for medical information but for story...

(The entire section is 1576 words.)

Teamed With Genius

Published in Esquire Magazine in April 1940, “Teamed With Genius” continues the misadventures of Pat Hobby as he ekes out a living as a failed Hollywood screenwriter. Once a highly paid “structure man” during the era of silent movies, Hobby has been reduced to working sporadically for minimal fees, accepting whatever assignments come his way. In “Teamed With Genius,” Pat is back at the studio he considers home, having been hired once again by producer Jack Berners. Other characters in the story include René Wilcox, a successful English playwright, and Katherine Hodge, a secretary. Louie, Pat’s studio bookie, makes a brief appearance.

As the story begins, Jack Berners offers Pat Hobby a new job at...

(The entire section is 1387 words.)

Pat Hobby and Orson Welles

By 1938, Orson Welles was well established in the American theatre as a gifted stage actor and successful producer. On October 30, 1938, Welles’ Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, setting off an immediate panic when radio listeners believed space aliens were invading New Jersey. Overnight, Orson Welles became famous throughout the country. In 1939, riding a wave of critical acclaim and national publicity, Welles arrived in Hollywood. He signed a contract with RKO, generally considered the best studio contract ever extended to an inexperienced director, and began filming Citizen Kane. He was twenty-three years old.

This episode in Hollywood...

(The entire section is 1638 words.)

Pat Hobby's Secret

“Pat Hobby’s Secret” was published in the June 1940 issue of Esquire Magazine, the sixth in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s series of Pat Hobby stories. Set in Hollywood in 1940, the story includes numerous characters: Pat Hobby; Louie, the studio bookie; Mr. Banizon, a movie producer; R. Parke Woll, a playwright; Mr. Smith, a doorman/bouncer at Conk’s Old Fashioned Bar; Smith’s wife; and Hobby’s unnamed agent. Woll’s cronies and two cigarette girls are mentioned briefly in the story.

The short story begins in the office of Pat Hobby’s friend Louie, the studio bookie. Pat and Louie listen to movie producer Banizon as he obsesses about a script problem that is driving him to distraction. In his...

(The entire section is 1098 words.)

Pat Hobby, Putative Father

When “Pat Hobby, Putative Father” appeared in Esquire Magazine in July 1940, Europe was engulfed in World War II. Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, had forced England to abandon any hope of political compromise, and on September 3, 1939, England had joined France in declaring war against Nazi Germany. Because these historical events play a role in Fitzgerald’s story, the setting of “Pat Hobby, Putative Father” is specific: September 2 and September 3, 1939, in Hollywood, California. In addition to Hobby, the main characters include Sir Singrim Dak Raj and Prince John Indore, born John Brown Hobby—Pat’s son from a short-lived marriage in 1926. Minor characters in brief appearances are Pat’s...

(The entire section is 1271 words.)

The Homes of the Stars

Published in Esquire Magazine in August 1940, “The Homes of the Stars” offers readers another Pat Hobby misadventure as he continues his ill-fated attempts to survive in Hollywood long after his successful career as a screenwriter has ended. Down to his last fourteen cents, Hobby finds himself conducting two out-of-state visitors, and their little dog Boojie, on a bogus tour of the homes of several top Hollywood film stars. Characters in the story include Gus Venske, the legitimate tour director, and Mr. and Mrs. Deering R. Robinson, tourists from Kansas City. Actor Ronald Colman makes a brief appearance, as does Mr. Marcus, an influential Hollywood producer, who arrives in his car at the story’s conclusion.


(The entire section is 1339 words.)

Pat Hobby Does His Bit

In "Pat Hobby Does His Bit," published in Esquire in 1940, Fitzgerald's hapless protagonist finds himself in a new situation: working in Hollywood as an actor instead of not working as a writer, his usual status. Most of the story takes place at the movie studio Pat Hobby still calls home, even though his writing career is over except for an occasional short-term assignment. Besides Hobby, the characters include movie directo r George Hilliard and producer Jack Berners, Pat's long-suffering studio employer. Minor characters are movie bit player Gyp McCarthy, English actress Lily Keatts, a debt collector from Hobby's finance company, and two studio guards.

As the story opens, Pat Hobby finds himself on a movie...

(The entire section is 758 words.)

Pat Hobby's Preview

Like all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories, “Pat Hobby’s Preview” was first published in Esquire, appearing originally in the October 1940 issue of the magazine. Major characters, in addition to Hobby, include Hollywood producer Jack Berners, screenwriter Ward Wainwright, and Eleanor Carter, a pretty young tourist from Boise, Idaho, who catches Pat’s eye. Berners’ secretary and a movie theater doorman appear briefly.

The story begins with a conversation between Pat Hobby and Jack Berners in the producer’s office at the movie studio where Hobby has worked—and mostly not worked—for the past twenty years. Pat's career as a screenwriter essentially ended with the demise of silent movies....

(The entire section is 1148 words.)

No Harm Trying

Published in Esquire (November 1940), “No Harm Trying” is the eleventh story in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby series of seventeen Hobby tales. For readers unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s protagonist, the opening paragraphs of the story quickly establish Pat Hobby’s character and Hollywood history. A well-paid screenwriter in the “old days,” when actors did not have to talk because movies were silent, Hobby now ekes out a dismal existence with occasional studio writing assignments. (Pat did not make the transition to “the talkies,” since he is a screenwriter who has no way with words.)

Living in a shabby apartment over his landlord’s delicatessen, Pat scours the morning paper each day, looking...

(The entire section is 1633 words.)

A Patriotic Short

"A Patriotic Short," the twelfth in F. Scott Fitzgerald's series of Pat Hobby stories, appeared in Esquire in December 1940, the same month Fitzgerald died in Hollywood at the age of forty-four. The remaining five Hobby stories were published in successive monthly issues of the magazine.

Although "A Patriotic Short" differs in narrative structure, like the earlier stories it is set at Pat Hobby's favorite movie studio, the place he still considers home even though his screenwriting career had effectively ended ten years earlier with the demise of silent movies. Hobby clings to memories of his successful "old days" in Hollywood, while living a hand-to-mouth existence, accepting any studio work thrown his way. In...

(The entire section is 1348 words.)

On the Trail of Pat Hobby

Readers who follow F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories as they were published monthly in Esquire, beginning in January 1940, may have noticed their developing darker tone. Fitzgerald’s down-and-out screenwriter endures the same difficult circumstances and demonstrates the same personal failings in each story, but Pat Hobby’s fictional life toward the end of 1940 becomes more desperate than difficult, and harebrained schemes will not assuage his despair. The final story published in 1940, "A Patriotic Short," ends in Pat‘s weeping for another life, another time.

“On the Trail of Pat Hobby,” however, appearing in Esquire's January 1941 issue, reflects in some aspects Fitzgerald’s...

(The entire section is 1458 words.)

Fun in an Artist's Studio

Unlike the previous Pat Hobby stories published in Esquire, "Fun in an Artist's Studio" does not take place at the movie studio where Hobby still finds occasional work, long after his screenwriting career has ended. In this story, published in the February 1941 issue of the magazine, Fitzgerald's ageing, alcoholic protagonist finds himself in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, posing for a beautiful female artist who paints his portrait. This unlikely and unexpected experience, one which he decidedly does not enjoy, reveals Pat Hobby's nature—both prudish and predatory—while also exposing his cynical view of women. More significantly perhaps, the story underscores Pat's empty life. Besides Pat Hobby, the story’s...

(The entire section is 1593 words.)

Two Old-Timers

"Two Old Timers" first appeared in print in the March 1941 issue of Esquire. Because fourteen Pat Hobby stories had been published previously in Esquire, Fitzgerald's protagonist was well known to readers. In "Two Old Timers," Pat Hobby's disastrous slide from a successful screenwriting career into poverty and alcoholism is established briefly, but it is not reviewed or examined in any detail; it becomes instead the premise in developing the contrast between Pat Hobby and a former star of silent movies.

When Hobby finds himself behind bars after his car collides with that of Phil Macedon, formerly "the Star of Stars," Pat continues the argument that had ensued between them after the auto accident. In...

(The entire section is 1452 words.)

Mightier Than the Sword

The sixteenth of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seventeen Pat Hobby stories, “Mightier Than the Sword” first appeared in Esquire in April 1941. An interesting and unusual feature of the story is that Pat Hobby occasionally leaves center stage in the narrative, acting as a third-party observer and occasional instigator in the conflict between director Dick Dale and writer E. Brunswick Hudson. A published novelist, Hudson comes to Hollywood to write the screenplay for a movie about Reginald de Koven, the renowned composer of “O Promise Me.”

Being a screenwriter turns out to be a frustrating literary affair for Hudson, who is fired by the director. Never one to miss an opportunity to inflate his writing credits...

(The entire section is 1783 words.)

Pat Hobby's College Days

The last of F. Scott Fitzgerald's seventeen Pat Hobby stories, "Pat Hobby's College Days" was first published in the May 1941 issue of Esquire. As in the previous stories in the series, Hobby's life remains a grim daily endeavor as he figures the angles and plays the odds (usually at the Santa Anita racetrack) to survive one more day on the fringe of the Hollywood film industry. Once a well paid screenwriter, a “structure man,” in the days of silent films, Pat Hobby now finds little work at the movie studio he still thinks of as his home; his time is generally spent drinking, staying one step ahead of his finance company, and hanging around the movie lot. When he is not thinking about his far more pleasant past, Hobby...

(The entire section is 2154 words.)