Ah, F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s been on a lot of peoples’ minds lately, thanks to the recent release of Baz Luhrmann’s movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby. The books, the booze, the jazz; the fast times, the crazy wife, the tragic end. By now these images are part of the public consciousness of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life.
But here are four things that you might be surprised to learn about this iconic American author.
Oh, Say Can You See?
You may have heard that the F in F. Scott Fitzgerald stands for Francis, but did you know that his full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald? Turns out, he was distantly related to the Francis Scott Key who wrote “The Star Spangl’d Banner.” (To be specific, they were second cousins three times removed, but if you can draw that connection out on paper, you’ve got it more figured out than I do.) I guess being an “iconic American” ran in the family.
Zelda Was Crazy… Maybe
Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, is remembered for her descent into madness and her death when a fire broke out in the asylum where she was confined. But new insights into Zelda’s personality and the relationship between F. Scott and Zelda reveal that perhaps the situation was not as we think. A recent article by Heather Laine Talley explores the somewhat sinister role that F. Scott might have played in suppressing his wife. He seems to have perpetuated the “crazy Zelda” idea and blatantly plagiarized her writing by including whole passages in his own work. A somewhat different picture than what is normally shown!
Hollywood, Here I Come
Today F. Scott is known for his novels and short stories. However, he spent the last years of his life living in Hollywood and working on screenplays. He worked hard, but he considered the work degrading and wasn’t successful at it. Interestingly, he did do some work on Gone With the Wind, although those scenes didn’t end up being filmed.
Despite having written The Great Gatsby, which is now a classic of American literature and a staple in high school English classrooms all across the country, Fitzgerald wasn’t considered a success at the time of his death. In fact, his obituary in the New York Times bordered on derisive, saying, “The promise of his brilliant career was never fulfilled.” That’s harsh. Fortunately, we now recognize his genius and are grateful for the legacy he left behind.