F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz-age-set novel The Great Gatbsy has long been considered pretty unfilmable, despite it’s having been filmed again and again. The story of a war vet peeking into the lavish life of the title rich man and finding parties, costumes, and lunacy, just might be better on the written page. At least that’s how it’s seemed so far.
According to Leonard Maltin‘s Movie Guide, which I love, there was a 1926 version, but even I don’t remember that one!
Then came the 1949 adaptation starring Alan Ladd as the mysterious Gatsby and Betty Field as Daisy Buchanan. On seeing it on TV many years after it was made (I swear), I found it an interesting try, while Maltin calls it “too talky and much too literal minded. Ladd is pretty good, but Field gives a strangely petulant performance.”
The 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow doesn’t quite click either, though I loved the sumptuous look of it and much of the casting (including Karen Black and Lois Chiles in supporting roles). Maltin calls it “bland…faithful to the book and visually opulent but lacks substance and power.” Most observers felt that while it didn’t rate an F, it wasn’t worthy of F. Scott either.
There was also a 2000 TV version with Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino, but if that one was any kind of classic, I think we’d know about it.
And now, on May 10, we have Baz Luhrmann‘s version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. It’s wafting in on a mountain of hype, obviously angling to break the Gatsby losing streak and put the roar back into the roaring 20s. One could jump the gun and try to pick apart some of the casting choices, but let’s wait and see–while greatly admiring the courage. Agreed?