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Fitzgerald’s first short story sales were made on his own. In October 1919, after the acceptance but before the publication of This Side of Paradise, he began sending his material to the Paul Revere Reynolds literary agency. He soon became the client of Harold Ober , and followed when Ober formed his own agency in September 1929. Fitzgerald dealt directly with Scribners for his novels and story collections, but Ober handled the marketing of Fitzgerald’s stories to the magazines (receiving a ten-percent commission on sales). Ober aided Fitzgerald’s understanding of the expectations of the magazine marketplace, occasionally giving him feedback from editors. Like Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins, Ober also advanced loans to Fitzgerald. Their business relationship lasted until 1939, when Ober could no longer send advances, and Fitzgerald dealt with magazine editors (such as Arnold Gingrich of Esquire) on his own again. Although the break between Fitzgerald and Ober strained their personal relationship, Ober and his wife, Anne, continued to look after Scottie Fitzgerald and were almost like parents to her. Fitzgerald’s association with Ober is chronicled in As Ever, Scott Fitz—, a collection of their extensive correspondence.
Submitted by Tracy Simmons Bitonti / [Index]
Attempted Medieval Romance Series
In an unsuccessful effort to write a magazine series that could be combined later into a novel, Fitzgerald began a Medieval adventure serial featuring Philippe, Count of Darkness. A lifelong history enthusiast, Fitzgerald attempted to narrate the birth of the European feudal system. He partially modeled his young hero on Ernest Hemingway who had a reputation for adventurous exploits. Although Fitzgerald wrote these stories during his decline as a magazine writer, the surviving typescripts illustrate that the author revised his text with the same level of attention to detail and style as he had always exerted. The Philippe series was bought by Redbook, and the first installment, “In the Darkest Hour,” appeared in October 1934 with the story’s title and Fitzgerald’s name on the cover. The head note for the second installment, “Count of Darkness,” deliberately invokes Fitzgerald's literary reputation. It also inadvertently reveals the absurdity of the series by connecting Fitzgerald's prestige as a social realist with a story of medieval adventure: “The brilliant thought quality and style of the creator of ‘The Great Gatsby’ are very much in evidence in this majestic story of 819 A.D.” Redbook abandoned the series after three installments. The magazine published the fourth story, “Gods of Darkness,” posthumously in November 1941.
The Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald at the University of South Carolina holds revised transcripts for two Philippe stories: “The Count of Darkness” and “The Kingdom in the Dark.”
Submitted by Park Bucker / [Index]
Although Fitzgerald never achieved success as a screenwriter, he did write convincingly about the motion pictures industry in his fiction. In 1927 Fitzgerald worked on “Lipstick” [unproduced] for United Artists. During his visit he met actress Lois Moran who was the inspiration for the short story “Jacob’s Ladder” (The Saturday Evening Post, 20 August 1927). In the story an older man helps a beautiful young girl become a movie star. Although the heroine is grateful to her patron, she does not love him. “Jacob’s Ladder” ends with the hero reliving his passion for the actress by watching her on a movie screen. Moran also provided the model for Rosemary Hoyt in Tender Is the Night. In 1931 Fitzgerald traveled to Hollywood to work on Red-Headed Woman for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The author drunkenly embarrassed himself at a party hosted by producer Irving Thalberg and his wife, actress Norma Shearer. The experience provided the basis for his short story “Crazy Sunday” (American Mercury, October 1932). The story takes place over a series of Sundays in which a Hollywood screenwriter is attracted to a producer’s wife. Fitzgerald also used Thalberg as a source for Monroe Stahr, the protagonist of The Love of the Last Tycoon. Although the author died before his novel was finished, it is regarded as one of the best Hollywood novels.
Submitted by Park Bucker / [Index]
Fitzgerald in Tryon, North Carolina
Fitzgerald first came to Tryon with his daughter, Scottie, for two weeks in February 1935. The mountain area of western North Carolina was known at that time for the treatment of tuberculosis, and Fitzgerald was worried about his lungs. Tryon, a small resort town, was the home of Fitzgerald’s acquaintances Nora and Maurice “Lefty” Flynn. Nora was the youngest of the celebrated Langhorne sisters, one of whom became Lady Astor and another of whom married Charles Dana Gibson and became the model for his “Gibson Girl.” Lefty had been a football star at Yale and a movie actor. While Scottie stayed with the Flynns, Fitzgerald took a room at the Oak Hall Hotel .
During this brief stay in Tryon, Fitzgerald wrote a playlet called “Love's Melody,” which he and Lefty performed one evening at the Flynns’ home. He also wrote some poetry, including an untitled commendatory verse to Misseldine’s, the local drugstore: He also wrote a story, “The Intimate Strangers,” based on the Flynns and their marital histories. The story was bought by McCall's for $3,000 and appeared in the June 1935 issue. The Flynns recognized the story as a portrait of themselves, but it seems not to have upset them.
On 8 April 1936, Fitzgerald transferred Zelda Fitzgerald, who was undergoing psychiatric treatment, from Sheppard-Pratt Hospital in Baltimore to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The following January he was again in Tryon where Margaret Culkin Banning, a local writer to whom the Flynns had introduced Fitzgerald, remembered that “he lived rather gloomily at the Oak Hall Hotel, drank sodas at the drug store and wrote short stories almost furiously” (Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 1973, p. 152). But his stories were largely unsalable by January 1937, and by mid-July he abandoned them and Tryon for Hollywood.
Submitted by Michael Cody / [Index]
F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Held, and the Flapper
One of the most common misconceptions about Fitzgerald was that he chronicled the adventures of “flappers”—rebellious young women who smoked and swore, drank gin and danced the Charleston, and engaged in other frivolous behavior. Two of Fitzgerald’s books—Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) and The Vegetable (1923)—helped further the confusion by having dust jackets that were illustrated by cartoonist John Held, Jr. Held’s satirical drawings of young women in short skirts and galoshes were widely popular in the 1920s and became representative of the flapper image. In 1961, novelist John O’Hara commented on the damage done by the association between Fitzgerald and Held:
For years I’ve been hearing and reading people talking about John Held’s girls and Fitzgerald’s, as though they were one in the same thing. They just simply weren’t. From a literary point of view, one of the worst things that ever happened to Fitzgerald was the simultaneous popularity of John Held’s drawings. Those damn editorial writers were largely to blame. Who would ever want to take Fitzgerald seriously if all they ever knew about him was that he wrote about those John Held girls? Held was a very good satirist, and he didn’t want his girls to be taken seriously. Of course Fitzgerald was partly to blame. He called one book Flappers and Philosophers, and in the public mind the flapper was the John Held girl. Actually, of course, Fitzgerald and Held and the editorial writers were all misusing the word flapper. A flapper was English slang, and it meant a society girl who had made her debut and hadn’t found a husband. On the shelf, they used to say. It wasn’t an eighteen-year-old girl with flapping galoshes. (from “Mrs. Stratton of Oak Knoll,” Assembly [New York: Random House, 1961]).
The female characters in Fitzgerald’s short stories are neither frivolous nor insubstantial. They are tough-minded and independent, defying convention and engaging in determined efforts to make strong marriages. They are not flappers.
Submitted by Robert F. Moss / [Index]
Fitzgerald in the British Marketplace
When F. Scott Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920, many reviewers in the United States applauded the American quality of the young writer’s work. That trait, while helping to propel Fitzgerald’s success in this country, presented a challenge for British publishers, who struggled to find ways to make his American characters and situations appeal to British readers.
On 15 June 1925, William Collins, Fitzgerald’s English publisher for This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, turned down The Great Gatsby, declaring that “to publish ‘The Great Gatsby’ would be to reduce the number of his readers rather than to increase them” (L. E. Pollinger to Curtis Brown, Scribners Archives). The work was placed the next month with Chatto & Windus, who remained Fitzgerald's English publisher for Tender Is the Night. The August 1925 publication consisted of only 3,000 copies. The circular red label "2/-" on the spine of the dust jacket illustrated here reveals that part of this printing was remaindered and the price reduced to two shilling from seven shillings six pence.
Submitted by Mary Sidney Watson / [Index]
This page updated 28 April 2005.
Copyright 1996, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.