Saturday, February 16, 2013

1949 - THE GREAT GATSBY, interesting 40's adaptation of the famous novel

The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel of the Jazz age that a person can actually read and enjoy for a change.  The films based on the novel have been a compete mess.  The 1974 film was faithful to the novel but really boring.  The current adaptation that is being prepared by ADD director Baz Luhrmann was scheduled for release in 2012 but has been pushed out to 2013, not a good sign.  Let's take a look at the 1949 version.

Faced with translating Fitzgerald's prose about  the lives of the rich and wanna be rich, Paramount proceeded to spell out just about every plot point that Fitzgerald had cleverly and subtly written into the story.  At the same time this adaptation kept just enough of the essence of the book to make it kind of an interesting film.

Everything about this production is a little strange.  One of the screenwriters was Richard Maibaum (also the producer)  who was associated with the James Bond series.  The director Elliott Nugent was more of a comedy director who had been worked with James Thurber and Bob Hope.

Odd casting choices run throughout the film.  Alan Ladd was a Paramount star who was known for playing tough guy gangsters and private eyes.  Paramount proceeded to play up this aspect of the Gatsby character by really emphasizing Gatsby's past as a bootlegger complete with Ladd wearing a trench coat.  Ladd even punches a guy out at one point, something Fitzgerald could not have been to happy about.   Actually Alan Ladd is pretty good as Jay Gatsby.  As Gatsby's lover and object of desire, Betty Field was cast.  Field was a fine intelligent actor but hardly the ethereal, beautiful and  shallow Daisy Buchanan of the book the woman was just no looker.

You can see the heavy hand of the censors running throughout this film.  They want everything spelled out and nice tidy conclusions at the climax.  They even ordered up a happy ending for Nick Carraway and his girlfriend Jordan Baker, showing them married at the end of the film which completely contradicts the melancholic ending of the book.

91 minutes.

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