This movie chronicles the last months in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, as detailed in the book by Sheila Graham – Hollywood reporter and one time girlfriend of Fitzgerald. The author of such incredible novels as The Great Gatsby (which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend) and Tender Is The Night, is now writing pulp fiction movies for a movie studio – accepting what work he can in order to pay for the care of his wife Zelda who is in an asylum, and the schooling for his daughter. He meets Sheila Graham, and there is an instant attraction between them. They fall deeply in love, but Fitzgerald’s alcoholism threatens to destroy their unhappiness.
First let me preface my thoughts on the movie by saying that I am aware that this account of real life events has been highly fictionalised and romanticised. I decided to view it almost as a fictional film about fictional characters, which helped my enjoyment of it. This is not a very popular film (Peck himself was not overly happy with it), and there were parts it which didn’t so well, but overall I did enjoy watching it.
I thought Peck played his part well, and really showed the difference between the witty, erudite and thoughtful sober Fitzgerald, and the drunken, overbearing and rude Fitzgerald (again, this may be misrepresenting the real man, so I am talking as if the character was entirely fictional). Like many drunks, Fitzgerald could be funny and entertaining, but he couldn’t handle the alcohol, and it made him unpredictable to be around. In fact, the scenes of a drunken Fitzgerald were some of Peck’s best scenes in this film.
Gregory Peck looks gorgeous – absolutely so – in this film. One of the best looking Hollywood actors ever (to me anyway), here he is handsome and charismatic. Deborah Kerr however, while looking lovely, didn’t seem quite so convincing in her role. I thought she was terrific in An Affair To Remember, but here she seems overly theatrical in the part, and it was hard to really warm to her character.
The score is somewhat overblown, although there is some lovely music in it, but the movie does look beautiful. If you’ve not seen this lesser appreciated movie, I think it’s worth giving it a go. Much of the criticism levelled at it is entirely justified, but if you can take that on board, there’s still a lot of reasons to see this film.
Year of release: 1959
Director: Henry King
Writers: Sheila Graham (book), Gerold Frank (book), Sy Bartlett
Main cast: Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert