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H. L. Mencken and The Smart Set
Fitzgerald’s first professional story sale was “Babes in the Woods,” published in the September 1919 issue of The Smart Set . Though its circulation at the time was relatively small at 22,000, The Smart Set was a highly-regarded magazine with a sophisticated literary reputation. Its editors were George Jean Nathan, a respected drama critic, and H. L. Mencken, one of the most distinguished social critics in America. Fitzgerald admired Mencken; in a 28 December 1920 letter to his aunt and uncle, Fitzgerald refers to Mencken as “my current idol.” Mencken became an important supporter of Fitzgerald’s work, publishing him not only in The Smart Set but also in The American Mercury, the Smart Set successor Mencken edited from 1924-1933. As a proponent of realism and naturalism, Mencken encouraged Fitzgerald to write in this vein, which he did in the story “May Day” and in the novel The Beautiful and Damned. The Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald includes a copy of Mencken’s Prejudices: Second Series (New York: Knopf, 1920) inscribed to Fitzgerald and bearing Fitzgerald’s annotations in the section on “The National Letters.” Fitzgerald reviewed the volume for the March 1921 Bookman. As evidenced by a letter the Collection has acquired, in which Mencken orders a copy of The Crack-Up from an unidentified bookseller, Mencken’s interest in Fitzgerald’s work continued even after Fitzgerald’s death.
submitted by: Tracy Simmons Bitonti / [Index]
As a boy Fitzgerald dreamed of becoming a football hero. He contributed “Football,” a poem, to his prep school magazine, the Newman News:
. . . Look! their end acts like an ass.
See, he’s beckoning for assistance,
Maybe it’s a forward pass.
Yes, the ball is shot to fullback,
He, as calmly as you please,
Gets it, throws it to the end; he
Pulls the pigskin down with ease. . . .
(F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time, pp. 3-4)
Football also provided one of Fitzgerald’s earliest attractions to Princeton University. He preserved his ticket stub for the 1911 Yale-Princeton game in his scrapbook with the caption “Sam White decides me for Princeton.” White, an end, starred in Princeton’s 8-6 win with a 95-yard touchdown run after a blocked kick. Fitzgerald tried out for the Princeton freshman team in 1913 but was cut within the first week. Much later Fitzgerald translated his love of the game into two Saturday Evening Post stories: “The Bowl” (21 January 1928) and “Basil and Cleopatra” (27 April 1929). Both stories describe a young man’s success on a football field and its ensuing romantic effects on women.
submitted by: Park Bucker / [Index]
Fitzgerald in Asheville, North Carolina
F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned Asheville, North Carolina, in an early story for The Saturday Evening Post, “The Ice Palace” (22 May 1920), and in his third novel for Scribners, The Great Gatsby (1925). In both works, Asheville is referred to as a resort town, a mountain getaway for Southerners. He later became more familiar with the city through fellow Scribners writer Thomas Wolfe, whose Look Homeward, Angel was about growing up in Asheville (which Wolfe renamed Altamont).
In the summer of 1935, Fitzgerald left Baltimore for an extended visit in Asheville. He was concerned about his lungs, and the mountain area of western North Carolina was known for the treatment of tuberculosis. He moved into the Grove Park Inn, a plush resort hotel, where he intended to rest and write stories. There he met Laura Guthrie, a woman separated from her husband and working as a palmist for the hotel. She became his typist and companion for the summer. There was no romance between them, but they spent long evenings together, during which Fitzgerald drank beer and talked about himself. Mrs. Guthrie had literary ambitions, and from June to September she kept a journal of her time spent with Fitzgerald. The journal includes an account of Fitzgerald’s summer affair with Beatrice Dance, a wealthy Texan staying at the Grove Park Inn, as well as literary advice on such topics as revision, always a major step in Fitzgerald’s composition process. In “A Summer With F. Scott Fitzgerald” (Esquire, December 1964), Mrs. Guthrie, now Laura Guthrie Hearne, remembers asking Fitzgerald about his method of revising. He replied, “Three revisions are absolutely necessary. First, the first draft, the inspirational points. Second, the cold going over. Third, putting both in their proper balance” (p. 164). It was also during that summer of 1935 that Fitzgerald met Tony Buttitta, an aspiring writer and the owner of an Asheville bookstore. Like Mrs. Guthrie, Buttita kept a record of his conversations with Fitzgerald, which he published almost forty years later in After the Good Gay Times (New York: Viking, 1974).
On 8 April 1936 Fitzgerald transferred his wife Zelda to Highland Hospital at Asheville. He moved into Suite 441-443 of the Grove Park Inn for another summer. There he was close to Zelda, but he saw very little of her after he broke his shoulder in a July diving accident. It was a dark time for Fitzgerald. Besides his health problems and his worries over Zelda’s condition, he was concerned with rising debts and a falling income. During this second summer at the Grove Park, he fired a revolver in a suicide threat, after which the hotel refused to let him stay without a nurse. He was attended thereafter by Dorothy Richardson, whose chief duties were to provide him company and to try to keep him from drinking too much. In typical Fitzgerald fashion, he developed a friendship with Miss Richardson and attempted to educate her by providing her with a reading list. In July of 1937, Fitzgerald left Asheville for Hollywood, where he remained until his death on 21 December 1940.
The Grove Park Inn has changed its attitude toward Fitzgerald since his days there as a troublesome guest. Today F. Scott Fitzgerald’s picture hangs in a gallery of photographs of the great and celebrated who have stayed at the hotel, and his name is mentioned prominently in the hotel’s publicity, often before such other famous names as Thomas Edison, Bela Bartok, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In addition, the inn’s Vanderbilt Wing features meeting rooms known as the Fitzgerald Suite.
submitted by: Michael Cody / [Index]
Script for the 1949 Gatsby Movie
This production, or “white,” script for the movie starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field, MacDonald Carey, and Shelley Winters begins as Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker place flowers on Jay Gatsby’s grave, a scene that acts as a framing device for the main story. An accompanying press book that was distributed to theaters and radio stations, suggests ways of promoting the movie, such as look-alike or trivia contests. It lists posters and other advertising materials available to theaters for lobby displays and includes articles about the stars of the film, commentary on and schedules for their promotional appearances, and brief articles on F. Scott Fitzgerald.
submitted by: Catherine Lewis / [Index]
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Ideal House”
In April 1924 Country Life magazine published “Ten Houses for Ten Authors,” an article in which writer Thomas L. Masson and architect Andrew Avinoff “set out to design a house for each [author] as they knew him from his books.” The authors selected included Edith Wharton, Booth Tarkington, Kathleen Norris, Zane Grey, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The caption for the drawing of Fitzgerald’s house reads, “The artist confided to us that he enjoyed making this sketch of a house for the author of ‘The Beautiful and Damned,’ more than any other. We asked him where the stairways led to. ‘Like Scott Fitzgerald’s stories,’ came the reply ‘nowhere in particular.’ Note the decorative touch of cocktail glasses, maraschino cherries, bottles, and dollar signs, not to mention camels, on the rococo pillars.”
The article not only is indicative of Fitzgerald’s status as a celebrity author but also shows that his public image during the early years of his career was one of a frivolous, grandiose party-boy—an image he worked to dispel but could never fully erase.
In July 1936 Fitzgerald published “An Author’s House” in Esquire magazine. The essay seems in part a response to the Country Life article. The house that Fitzgerald depicts is hardly rococo or extravagant. It is, instead, allegorical of the life of a writer and includes a basement where he buried “my first childish love of myself.” At the end of the essay, Fitzgerald concludes, “It’s just like other houses after all.”
submitted by: Robert F. Moss / [Index]
This page updated 12 May 2005
Copyright 1997, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.