Facts About Fitzgerald

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Fitzgerald and the Stage

During his apprenticeship in the prep schools and at Princeton, and during his early professional career, F. Scott Fitzgerald had an interest in writing for the stage. He wrote four plays between 1911 and 1914, all of which were performed by a local Minneapolis amateur drama troupe.

As a freshman at Princeton, Fitzgerald won the 1914-15 competition for the Triangle Club show with his book and lyrics for Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!. Although a poor academic showing made him ineligible to perform in the show, his witty lyrics won high praise. The following year he collaborated with Edmund "Bunny" Wilson on another Triangle Club show, The Evil Eye, again winning the competition, again being barred from performing because of his grades. Fitzgerald wrote the lyrics for a third Triangle show, 1916-17's Safety First (written by John Biggs, Jr. and J. F. Bohmfalk), and for the third time academics excluded him from the performances. In addition to these three musicals, he also published at least three plays in Princeton's Nassau Literary Magazine, including "Shadow Laurels" and "The Debutante."

Fitzgerald's interest in dramatic form continued through the early part of his professional career. Entire sections of his first two novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, take the form of a play, and in 1923, a full length play entitled The Vegetable was published by Scribners but failed its tryout in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!, Fitzgerald's first major success at Princeton, will be performed by the University of South Carolina's Theater Department during the F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary taking place in Columbia on September 24, 25, and 26, 1996.

submitted by: Michael Cody / [Index]

"Outside the Cabinet-Maker's"

In 1928, Fitzgerald was approaching the peak of his success as a Saturday Evening Post author. Of the eight stories he published that year, seven appeared in the Post and brought him $3500 apiece. The eighth was something of an oddball-- "Outside the Cabinet-Maker's" appeared in the December 1928 issue of The Century Magazine (after being rejected by other magazines) and brought only $150. Like many of the pieces Fitzgerald would later write for Esquire, "Outside the Cabinet-Maker's" is more a sketch than a story. It is written sparingly-- yet effectively.

It presents a brief interlude between a father and daughter as they wait in the car for the mother, who is ordering a doll house for the little girl. To amuse his child, the man invents a fairy tale, complete with princess and ogre, based on the people they see along the street. It is a touching depiction of his attempt to share his daughter's world (though ultimately he cannot) and to express his love. The story is a reflection of Fitzgerald's love for his own little girl, Scottie Fitzgerald. Other stories that feature the father-daughter relationship include "Babylon Revisited" (Post, 21 February 1931) and "On Schedule" (Post, 18 March 1933); but "Outside the Cabinet-Maker's" most economically captures the emotion.

submitted by: Tracy Simmons Bitonti / [Index]

Playwright at 14

As a teenager in St. Paul, Minnesota Fitzgerald wrote and acted in four plays. Written when he was nearly 15 years old, his first play, The Girl from Lazy J, was produced by the Elizabethan Dramatic Club, a local theatrical organization. The club produced three other plays by (and featuring) Fitzgerald over the next three years: The Captured Shadow, The Coward and Assorted Spirits. As expected from an adolescent author, the plays were heavily plotted and highly sensational, yet they feature a Fitzgerald trademark: clever and witty dialogue. As recorded by Fitzgerald in his scrapbook, the production of The Coward, a melodrama, sold out so that the company presented a second performance "upon urgent demand." Besides starring in the productions, Fitzgerald often served as the company's stage manager.

In the late 1920s Fitzgerald wrote a series of autobiographical short stories for The Saturday Evening Post based on his adolescent experiences in St. Paul commonly called the 'Basil stories.' Serialized short stories were a very popular and lucrative magazine feature. Fitzgerald recreated his early dramatic experience in "The Captured Shadow" (29 December 1928).

submitted by: Park Bucker / [Index]

Armed Services Edition-- The Great Gatsby

During World War II there was a Council on Books in Wartime which established a non-profit publishing organization, Editions for Armed Services. This organization distributed special editions of "the best books of the present and the past ... to members of our Armed Forces in small, convenient, and economical form." Among the 1200 or so titles were two of F. Scott Fitzgerald's works: The Great Gatsby and the story "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." The books were printed in runs of 50,000 each and were reproduced in their entirety and were palm-size, so as to make them convenient for servicemen to carry. With this wide distribution, Fitzgerald's works were introduced to a much more diverse and wider audience than ever before.

submitted by: Catherine Lewis / [Index]

Fitzgerald's Only Screen Credit

The movie, Three Comrades (1938), is Fitzgerald's only screen credit. The assignment came early in Fitzgerald's eighteen months with MGM (from July 1937 to January 1939). It was an important film for one of the studio's top producers, Joseph Mankiewicz. Fitzgerald chaffed almost immediately under the studio's policy of having multiple writers working on most projects. Fitzgerald began the project under the mistaken impression that he would work solo, and was, therefore, annoyed when E. E. Paramore was assigned as his collaborator. Fitzgerald wrote offended, angry letters to Mankiewicz and Paramore, asserting his professional stature and superior talent. The truth of the matter is that Fitzgerald's skill lay in novel writing, and he tried to write screenplays the same way. He needed a competent screenwriter like Paramore. One of Fitzgerald's most absurd scenes, one that would probably seem out of place even in a novel, involves a satyr, an angel, and Saint Peter working a system of telephone switchboards. No attempt was ever made to film this scene, and it was edited out of later screenplays.

Three Comrades was the closest Fitzgerald came to being a successful screenwriter. After its completion, various assignments came to nothing, often through no fault of his own. MGM renewed Fitzgerald's original six-month contract for one year in December of 1937, but declined to renew it when it expired a year later.

submitted by: Cy League / [Index]

The Beautiful and Damned
serialized in Metropolitan Magazine

Fitzgerald's second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, was serialized in Metropolitan Magazine before its publication in book form by Scribners. The integrity of this serial version has been questioned, as it may have been severely cut by the magazine's editors. In a letter to James Branch Cabell, Fitzgerald's editor at Scribners, Maxwell Perkins, complains that the novel's reception may have been harmed by Metropolitan's "sensational method of abridgement."

A habitual rewriter, Fitzgerald reworked the book between serial and book publications. One result of Fitzgerald's tinkering was a revised ending: the concluding two paragraphs of the Metropolitan serial do not appear in the book. In a telegram to Perkins on December 23, 1921, Fitzgerald attributes the decision to delete the final passage to Zelda Fitzgerald's urging, as she dismissed the authorial intrusion in the ending of the serial as "a piece of moralizing." In the book version Fitzgerald deletes this final authorial assessment of Anthony and Gloria Patch so that the reader must draw his or her own conclusions based on the ironic tone of the final scene.

submitted by: Mary Sidney Watson / [Index]

"The Author's Apology" for This Side of Paradise

Fitzgerald composed this one-page note to be tipped into copies of the third printing of This Side of Paradise and distributed at the May 1920 convention of the American Bookseller's Association. It offers evidence of the public pose Fitzgerald was adopting at the beginning of his career. that of a young author/genius.

Fitzgerald is jokingly connecting his writing of the novel with the beginning of Prohibition, which went into effect 1 July 1919. His statement, nevertheless, portrays the composition of This Side of Paradise as being very rapid. In fact, he started the novel in November 1917 and-- after having it rejected by Scribners-- began rewriting it in July 1919. The novel was accepted for publication in September. Statements such as "The Author's Apology" contributed to the false image of Fitzgerald as a "natural " but careless writer who dashed off stories and novels between benders.

submitted by: Robert F. Moss / [Index]

Fitzgerald Centenary Comments

This page updated 7 January 1998.
Copyright 1996, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/facts/facts1.html