Billie Silvey
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in
1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He
attended a Catholic prep school and Princeton.  There,
he neglected his studies to write scripts, lyrics for
musicals, and articles for humor and literary magazines.

Afraid he wouldn’t graduate, Fitzgerald joined the
army as a second lieutenant during World War I.  He
expected to die in the war that was killing so many, and
he quickly wrote
The Romantic Egoist.  Charles
Scribner’s Sons asked for a rewrite.

Assigned to a camp in Alabama, Fitzgerald met and fell
in love with a Southern belle, Zelda Sayre.  When he
was discharged, he went to New York City where he
worked in advertising and wrote short stories for the
Saturday Evening Post. His second novel, This Side
of Paradise,
was an overnight success, and he married
Zelda a week later.  Their only child, Scottie, was born
in 1921.

Scott and Zelda were the epitome of the Roaring 20s--
young, attractive and extravagant.  His second novel,
The Beautiful and the Damned, chronicled the fall of a
couple much like themselves.  After a series of failed
dramas, Fitzgerald started drinking, and he and Zelda

According to
“A Brief Life of Fitzgerald,� written
at the University of South Carolina for the Scott
Fitzgerald Centenary, “The chief theme of Fitzgeraldâ
€™s work is aspiration--the idealism he regarded as
defining American character.� Criticized for his
emphasis on love and success, Fitzgerald said, “But,
my God! it was my material, and it was all I had to deal

He wrote
The Great Gatsby on a trip to France.  The
critically praised book failed to sell well, though it has
since been considered his masterpiece, the great
American novel.
In 1930, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown.  She
relapsed in 1932, and spent the rest of her life in mental

Irving Thalberg was born in
1899 with a heart defect and
was not expected to live past
his thirtieth birthday.  The
prolonged bed-rest required
by his physical limitations
led him to become a voracious

Thalberg was employed by
Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal, where he became
production head in his early twenties.  In 1924, Louis
B. Mayer, head of MGM, made him vice president,
second only to himself.  Mayer controlled the budgets,
while Thalberg produced the movies, initiating pre-
production guidelines and post-production reviews
before test audiences.  Thalberg oversaw every movie
made at MGM between 1924 and 1932, including
Flesh and the Devil, Red Dust and Grand Hotel.

He married leading lady Norma Shearer.

Gradually Mayer came to resent his protege, while
Thalberg felt Mayer was shirking his responsibilities and
putting too much of the load on him.

On Christmas Day, 1932, Thalberg suffered a heart
attack.  While the Thalbergs were in Europe to help him
recover, Mayer brought in his son-in-law, David O.
Selznick, as an independent producer and telegraphed
Thalberg that his position had been eliminated.

Still, Thalberg continued producing classics like
on the Bounty
and A Night at the Opera.  He
Gone with the Wind with Clark Gable in the
starring role, but refused to produce it.  â€œNo more
epics for me now,� he said, “Just give me a little
drawing-room drama.  I’m tired  I’m just too

Thalberg died at the age of 37.  As his funeral began, all
Hollywood paused for five minutes.  Thalberg was one
of the founders of The Academy of Motion Pictures
Arts and Sciences, and the Irving G. Thalberg
Memorial Award is given annually to “a creative
producer who has been responsible for a consistently
high quality of motion picture production.�

George Cukor called him “the most brilliant, the
most creative producer that I ever worked with.  That
includes everyone!â€�  The dedication of his final film,
The Good Earth, “to the Memory of Irving Grant
Thalberg,� was the first time his name had appeared
on a film.  â€œCredit you give yourself is not worth
having,� he said.
Fitzgerald, Thalberg and
The Last Tycoon
November 2005
While the house I live in was
being built for the wardrobe
mistress and she was living
here and working down the
street at MGM, two men
were working there as
well--men who did as much
or more than anybody else
to give us our impression of
the 1920s.
The Last Tycoon
In 1940, Scott Fitzgerald died of
a heart attack.  He was 43.  When
he died, he was working on
The Love of the Last Tycoon, a
book based on Thalberg’s life.
The novel gives an insider’s view
of a great film studio.  It also
reflects the shift of focus from
the East to the West Coast.

Fitzgerald was both fascinated
and repelled by motion pictures.  â€œThis is no art,â
€� he said.  â€œThis is an industry.â€�  He worked
with Thalberg in 1931 and was impressed with the

When Fitzgerald died, few attended his funeral.  The
press sensationalized the legend of a wasted life.  But in
a review of
The Last Tycoon, short story writer
Stephen Vincent Benét wrote of the body of
Fitzgerald’s work, "The evidence is in.  This is not
a legend, this is a reputation--and seen in perspective, it
may well be one of the most secure reputations of our

And J. Donald Adams in his
New York Times review
One would be blind indeed not to see that it would have been
Fitzgerald's best novel and a very fine one. Even in this truncated
form it not only makes absorbing reading; it is the best piece of
creative writing that we have about one phase of American life--
Hollywood and the movies. Both in the unfinished draft and in the
sheaf of Fitzgerald's notes which Mr. Wilson has appended to the
story it is plainly to be seen how firm was his grasp of his material,
how much he had deepened and grown as an observer of life. His
sudden death, we see now, was as tragic as that of Thomas Wolfe.

Of all our novelists, Fitzgerald was by reason of his temperament and
his gifts the best fitted to explore and reveal the inner world of the
movies and of the men who make them.  The subject needs a romantic
realist, which Fitzgerald was; it requires a lively sense of the
fantastic, which he had; it demands the kind of intuitive perceptions
which were his in abundance.  He had lived and worked in Hollywood
long enough before he died to write from the inside out; the material
was clay in his hands to be shaped at will. One comes to the end of
what he had written--something less than half the projected work--
with profound regret that he did not live to complete the job.

Fitzgerald and Thalberg were two men with very
different lives--paradoxically both successful and
tragic--that intersected at a studio just down the street
from my house, and influenced literary history as well as
our concept of life in the Roaring 1920's.
The Roaring 20's
This Old House
The Roaring 20's
This Old House