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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - Filming an unfinished novel: The Last Tycoon


When F. Scott Fitzgerald (b. 1896) died of a heart attack at age forty-four, on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, he left behind a novel-in-progress about the motion picture industry. A few weeks later, his companion, the Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham, sent the author's draft materials to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, at Charles Scribner's Sons. After considering several options, including hiring another writer to complete the work following Fitzgerald's outlines and notes, Perkins enlisted the literary critic (and friend of Fitzgerald) Edmund Wilson – whom Graham had also contacted shortly after the author's death – to shape and edit the manuscript for publication. As titles, Fitzgerald had considered “Stahr: A Romance,” after the novel's central character, Monroe Stahr, a Hollywood studio executive, and “The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western,” giving the work a different, perhaps more ironic, genre connotation. Wilson's version was published in October 1941 as The Last Tycoon: An Unfinished Novel, in a volume with The Great Gatsby and five of Fitzgerald's most important short stories.

“Unfinished works by great writers form a category as haunting as it is unsatisfactory,” the novelist Alan Hollinghurst has written. “In gratifying a curiosity about what might have been, they heighten the feeling of loss.” One certainly feels a sense of loss at Fitzgerald's early death, yet in the case of The Last Tycoon what exists in published form seems almost more of a benefaction than a cause for regret.

Works Cited
Ciment, Michel, ed., Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey (London: Bloomsbury, 1988).
Dardis, Tom, “The Myth That Won't Go Away: Selling Out in Hollywood,” Journal of Popular Film and Television 11:4 (Winter 1984), pp. 167–171.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Crack-Up, ed. Wilson, Edmund (New York: New Directions, 1945).
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, Three Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953).
Frye, Northrop, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957).
Hollinghurst, Alan, “On ‘The Ivory Tower,’New York Review of Books 51:4 (March 11, 2004), pp. 26–29.
Kazan, Elia, Letter to Harold Pinter, December 19, 1974, Kazan Papers, Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
Kazan, Elia, Letter to Harold Pinter, n.d., Kazan Papers, Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
Kazan, Elia, Letter to Sam Spiegel, 8 March 1976, Kazan Papers, Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
Perkins, Maxwell, The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western, ed. Matthew, J. Bruccoli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Silver, Charles, and Corliss, Mary, “Hollywood Under Water: Elia Kazan on The Last Tycoon,” Film Comment 13:1 (January–February 1977), pp. 40–44.
Sinclair, Andrew, Spiegel: The Man Behind the Pictures (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987).
Thomas, Bob, Thalberg: Life and Legend (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969).
Winchell, Mark Royden, “Fantasy Seen: Hollywood Fiction since West,” in Fine, David, ed., Los Angeles in Fiction (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), pp. 147–168.
Wookey, Karen Hale, Memo to Richard Marks, Kazan Papers, Wesleyan Cinema Archives, n.d.