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Arts & Entertainment

Life after 'Gatsby': F. Scott Fitzgerald takes on Hollywood

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937.
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937.
Library of Congress
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937.
USC Professor Leo Braudy and Patt Morrison at the bar at the Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood.
Dave Coelho/KPCC
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937.
Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood
Dave Coelho/KPCC
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937.
Napkin at Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood.
Dave Coelho/KPCC

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After the critical and commercial success of his third novel,  "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald had made it in the writing world. However, his career took a turn in 1937 when he moved to Hollywood to write scripts for MGM.  

While he is said to have found the work degrading, he pocketed almost $30,000 a year for his services, which was quite a bit of money back then. You won't find too many blockbusters on his IMDB page, but it's notable that "Gatsby" is being released as a major motion picture for the fourth time.

USC professor and film historian Leo Braudy spoke to Patt Morrison at an old haunt of Fitzgerald's, Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood.

Interview Highlights: 


On why F. Scott Fitzgerald came to Hollywood:
"He came early on and he worked on various things and hardly anything was ever made. The main result of really being in Hollywood were really his pet hobby stories about a screenwriter who failed in the same way that F. Scott Fitzgerald failed, and sold out much in the same way that Scott Fitzgerald tried to sell out. And of course, the last unfinished novel, 'The Last Tycoon.'"

On the frustration that East Coast literature writers felt toward screenwriting:
"They couldn't actually do it and, in fact, a lot of the people that they had disdain for, the producers particularly, who they thought of as ignorant, actually had a better sense of what the public wanted than they did."

How did Hollywood regard these writers? They paid them tremendous sums. At one point Fitzgerald was getting $1,000 a week, which is really good money now days.
"They were living high, they were being paid very well, but they had this very corrosive disdain for what they were doing. Unless you could really get into it, unless you could feel it, you weren't going to do very well."

Should Hollywood have any regard for Fitzgerald as a Hollywood figure or is it all about his novels and short stories?
"I think he's part of that whole world, the people who came out from the east coast with their very different attitudes, people who came out and who made something resembling a life out here, but had these feelings of disdain towards the place."