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Last Tycoon (Anglais) Relié – 1 janvier 1969
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The covers are just gorgeous. The art is metallic and beautiful and the covers have a soft feel to them. The inside flap of the cover is perforated and is designed to be removed and used as a matching bookmark.
The cover art for this set of F. Scott Fitzgerald books was designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith - the genius behind the similarly beautiful Penguin cloth-bound classics series. Not only is the literature itself classic, but the books look like a classic collector's item as well! Friends compliment me on them all the time when they see them on my bookcase!
The subject here, the partially told saga of the last of the self-made maverick movie producers, is hardly definitive, or as compellingly told about the corporatization of that profit-filled medium. Moreover the pieces here add nothing to Fitzgerald’s reputation which will always hinge on the novel, The Great Gatsby, maybe Tender Is The Night, and a slew of his prolifically produced short stories.
That said, that off my chest I will say that Fitzgerald who did do work as a screenwriter, although it is not clear how successfully, has a pretty good idea of what was going on in Hollywood once the “talkies” came in and forced the story line and dialogue of a film to ratchet up several notches. And then there is the question of putting what looks like a good idea on the screen with many times temperamental actors and inadequate financial backing. In any case the movie producer here, Monroe Stahr, is foredoomed to be the last of the independent filmmakers not only by the new system coming in place but by the fact that despite his “boy wonder” status for producing mostly hits and getting the most out of his employees come hell or high water he is headed for an early grave due to rough living and a weak heart.
The story, his story as far as it goes, is told by the daughter of one of his associates who is young enough, a college student at Bennington, to be seriously in love with him although he is only, at best, tepid toward her. The reason, or rather the big reason Monroe was still in thrall to the memory of his late actress wife, and, was smitten by a woman he met randomly on his studio lot who preternaturally looked like his late wife. That short tremulous love affair which ended in sorrow and departure is the human interest center of the story. Additionally there are scenes like how screenwriters write individually and collectively (or don’t write under either category), the importance of skilled cameramen in getting just the right effect that the director or producer whoever is hanging over him or her, how stars are made (or unmade), which gives an insight into the collective nature of the film industry no matter who produces, who directs, and who stars. That theme was done very well cinematically in the 1950s film, The Bad and the Beautiful about a post-World War II Monroe Stahr –like figure and the director, the rags to riches actress and the screenwriter he put the screws to in order to produce what he thought were great films.
There are also some interesting scenes, and some references sprinkled throughout The Last Tycoon, about the coming unionization of the industry, the fears that thought produced in the movie moguls, including Stahr, and a decidedly more morbid fear about the “reds” bringing revolution to their Hollywood front door which, perhaps, foreshadowed the post-war red scare Hollywood Ten blacklist night. Nice pieces, nice insights but as a whole the thing does not hang together since the driven Fitzgerald have not worked out all the kinks. Enough said.