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‘Gatsby’ On The Big Screen

“The Great Gatsby” is back. On the big screen. We’ll revisit the tale, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Great Gatsby is back.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great novel has never left high school reading lists or the minds of millions.  Now it’s back on the big screen.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.  Baz Luhrman of Moulin Rouge fame as director of a whirling, swirling new production.  Jay-Z’s fingerprints all over the soundtrack.  Think hip hop meets Jazz Age.  But at the heart of it is still the story.

Daisy Buchanan.  Nick Carraway.  And Gatsby.  Up from nothing.  Rich as sin.  Chasing the American dream.

This hour, On Point:  Looking again at Gatsby.

- Tom Ashbrook


A.O. Scott, film critic for The New York Times. (@aoscott)

Anne Margaret Daniel, instructor of English, American and Irish literature at the New School who also served as a historical adviser on the film. (@venetianblonde)

Jay McInerney, novelist. (@JayMcInerney)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Shimmying Out of the Literary Mantle: ‘The Great Gatsby,’ Interpreted by Baz Luhrmann – “The best way to enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s big and noisy new version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ — and despite what you may have heard, it is an eminently enjoyable movie — is to put aside whatever literary agenda you are tempted to bring with you. I grant that this is not so easily done. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s slender, charming third novel has accumulated a heavier burden of cultural significance than it can easily bear. Short and accessible enough to be consumed in a sitting (as in ‘Gatz,’ Elevator Repair Service’s full-text staged reading), the book has become, in the 88 years since its publication, a schoolroom staple and a pop-cultural totem. It shapes our increasingly fuzzy image of the Jazz Age and fuels endless term papers on the American dream and related topics.”

Hot Press: The Great Gatsby – “When F. Scott Fitzgerald began ‘The Great Gatsby’ in 1922, he told his editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Max Perkins, that he wanted to “write something new – something extraordinarily beautiful and simple & intricately patterned.” Living between a Minnesota yacht club, St. Paul, New York hotels, and Great Neck, Long Island in the early 1920s, Fitzgerald was physically scattered but mentally remarkably focused. He worked hard on the first draft of this new novel, despite recent fatherhood and a wild life of celebrity and excess.”

Guardian: Why Gatsby Is So Great – “At that time, ‘Gatsby’ seemed like the relic of an age most wanted to forget. In the succeeding years, Fitzgerald’s slim tale of the jazz age became the most celebrated and beloved novel in the American canon. It’s more than an American classic; it’s become a defining document of the national psyche, a creation myth, the Rosetta Stone of the American dream. And yet all the attempts to adapt it to stage and screen have only served to illustrate its fragility and its flaws. Fitzgerald’s prose somehow elevates a lurid and underdeveloped narrative to the level of myth.”

Soundtrack Sampler

Parental advisory: Contains explicit content

Additional Trailer

An extended TV spot featuring Lana Del Ray’s “Young And Beautiful”:

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  • Expanded_Consciousness

    “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’” Good advice, old sport.

    Poor F. Scoot Fitzgerald never knew how beloved his great novel would become. He died in 1940 and had only earned $2000 from his masterpiece. Only after his death was his American tale widely appreciated.

    The Frank Muller narrated audio book of The Great Gatsby is succulently read and worth seeking out.

  • Jasoturner

    Not to sound like the old man that I am, but that soundtrack looks atrocious.  Curious to see if any of the panel members mention it, and to hear what they think.

    • ToyYoda

      I can’t play the video above, but the sound track in the theater trailers are awful.  It’s difficult to sit through the preview.  Perhaps, they are just blasting the music too loud.  I hope they do something about it before general release.

    • StilllHere

      Agreed.  Jay Z … pass.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Rice/100000693874282 Joseph Rice

      I think the music is the one thing that will keep me away. The clip they played during this program sounds like I was at the multiplex and it was leaking in from another movie playing next door.

  • brettearle

    Is it just me?

    Why have I never warmed up to DeCaprio as an actor?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      With some age I think he’s really proved his chops. Not every young idol which girls squeal over makes that move to adulthood.

      “Man in the Iron Mask” I couldn’t pay attention to; simply too grown up a role for him at that point (1998?). But as of the last decade or so I’ve seen a growth I didn’t expect to be there.

      • brettearle

        I agree, he’s better.

        But I still don’t like him.

        Kind of the same way that I feel about Travolta.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          John Travolta. Interesting comparison. I think his career, in both commercial and “coolness”, has been a sine wave for over a third of a century: One never knows how seriously he would be taken in Hollywood any given year, what he’d be cast to do.

          And I remember this movie, which I was primed to enjoy because of its SCTV roots, but disappointed.

          • brettearle

            Ya know, he has been recognized as having a range of versatility–after he remade himself, in the aftermath of Sat Nite Fever.

            It’s just something about his demeanor and `aura’; can’t exactly put my finger on it.

            I looked at the link.  It does seem like a Flick I might like.  If I watch it, I’ll let you know what I think.

            [But I guess you actually didn't go for it.]

            Did you go for,

            “Fisher King”?
            “Being There”?
            “Purple Rose of Cairo”?
            “Slaughter House 5″?
            “Lord Love a Duck”?
            “The Man Who Came To Dinner”?
            “Start the Revolution Without Me”?
            “Cat Ballou”
            “Some Like It Hot”

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            “The Experts”, to me, was missing a comic tone. (That’s a hard thing to define, I know.)

            You’ve put up a pretty decent to very good list of movies.

            Just offhand:

            Some folks think Sheridan Whiteside is my role model.

            As an Anglophile, Terry Gilliam, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore interest me even when not five-star.

            And if “Morgan” means “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”, Preston Sturges is another favorite.

          • brettearle

            “Mr. Whiteside, I started out in the nursing profession, because I wanted to help people….

            But now, because of my escapades with you, I am leaving the profession!”

            [not verbatim]

            I am an ABSOLUTE Anglophile.

            And `my’ “Morgan” is an English film, circa 1966?….

            SEE IT:

            “Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment”,

            with David Warner and Vanessa Redgrave….

            One of the all-time greatest comic scenes (for my money) with Warner and a constable–when Morgan is living in a car, outside of his estranged wife’s townhouse, in Hampstead or some London suburb like Hampstead.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            I’ll have to put “Morgan” on my list, then.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Spoiler alert:

    I loved Moulin Rouge! from the “of course she has tuberculosis–it’s fin de siecle Paris” to the Shakespeare-style play within a play which causes the Duke to ask “Why doesn’t the princess choose the maharajah over the penniless sitar player?”

    I’m looking forward to this movie, especially since for all the attempts at it, Gatsby hasn’t been made into a definitive movie. It’s not like Baz Luhrman is remaking Gone With The Wind.

  • charles corbin

    Jeez.  Unabashed promotion masquerading as literary examination.  This is garbage. 

    • Tyranipocrit

       is it garbage if it brings people to art, movies, story, or literature…?

  • http://www.facebook.com/grace.adams.3914 Grace Adams

    I loved the older movie starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston.  I had never read the book until I saw that movie.  I felt that movie version captured the book very well.  I thought Robert Redford really portrayed the character very well.  Will see the newer version, but I have my doubts whether I will like it as well.

    • Tyranipocrit

       some people cant adapt and get left behind.  Some people close their minds rather than open them. 

  • travelheaven

    The sound of typing (!) in the background as Jay McInerney speaks is driving me nuts. Someone at On Point, please make that sound go away!

  • Ed75

    Gatsby to me is the story of three affairs that lead to disaster and even death. An unexpectedly moral tale. After entering this scene and becoming disillusioned, the speaker returns to the mid-west.

  • Ineedabagel

    Someone want to compare this version to the 1974 version with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford???

  • Ineedabagel

    Someone want to compare this version to the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow?

    • Tyranipocrit


  • Ed75

    If it is a vision of the emptiness and immorality of the 20s, it perhaps echoes our depraved time, perhaps on the edge of a change.

  • http://www.kazzmedia.com kazzmedia

    All this talk about the novel versus Baz Luhrman’s film, yet barely a mention of the 1974 release with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Bruce Dern …

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Rice/100000693874282 Joseph Rice

    I’m puzzled as to why the updated music was necessary – and if the director wanted it, why not update the whole thing to present day? It seems like a waste of effort to be so authentic with costumes, etc.  (as I have heard), and then shatter the illusion with this soundtrack. 

    • Tyranipocrit

       disagree.  It makes it pop.

  • 2Gary2

    who cares–with the economy in the mess it is who gives a rip about some dumb movie.

    • Tyranipocrit

      me.  There are always problems, always will be, always have been…story is meaningful.  The economy is a n illusion and I dont care to talk about it.  I dont want to be enveloped in negative energy all the time.  You should think about dispelling that negative cloud as well.  Stories illuminate.  Talk of the economy is only deceptive sorcery–manufactured consent–BS.

      Be the change you seek.  Dont work or depend on corporations to wipe your butt–its nothing more than corporate-welfare.  Corporations are fascist-communists.

    • Michele

       Do you know how people got through the Depression?  The movies.  They found solace in them.  Maybe the movie is “dumb” maybe it isn’t but the corollary with the economy misses the mark.

      • 2Gary2

         ok ok I guess you have a point.

  • lauklejs

    This show made me finally remember why I thought TGG was such a mediocre book.  When FSG said it was a short on characterization and plot, he wasn’t kidding!  The movie with Mia Farrow as Daisy must have been right in that way–a nothing actress playing a nothing character from the book.  IOW I could never believe that Daisy had fallen so far that she was ever interesting enough to make Gatsby more than a totally unbelievable character.  How could anyone with an ounce of interest ever take Daisy to be his Dulcinea?  (Maybe it’s believable for a lunatic Quixote, but TGG was supposed to be a sane person.

    • lauklejs

      (Sorry I had to reply to my own post since Disgus is so terrible that it doesn’t utilize the protocols for normal activity and hence edit doesn’t work.)
      (I failed to mention in the above for those who haven’t read it (or listened to the broadcast) that Gatsby apparently accrued his money in order to win back his Daisy after he failed to marry her when he went off to war.)

  • Lucille Magnus

    shameless promotional.

  • Lucille Magnus

    Tom Ashbrook’s show has become a disappointment.  This is just a promo for the movie, much as the promo a few weeks ago for the video game (I forget its name).  I have found this often to be the case of late.  Sad, because the show used to offer some differences of opinion and some intellectually challenging discussions.  

    • Tyranipocrit

       I think you are partly right.  however, it is art, and it is worth talking about.  When have talk shows NOt been promotional–even john stewert is promotional.  They features authors who have recently released a book, and they promote it.  Isn’t it worth talking about?

      I have never been more turned off by a story than I have The Great Gatsby–makes me sick, but now, the way thes creators have re-imagined it, I am interested and I want to see the movie–I’m thinking about going back to the lame novel as well.  Without this show, that might not be true.  Promotional or not, there is something in the art of the great gatsby–movie and novel–that is worth looking at. 

      Ashbrook has also introduced me to a lot of fantastic musicians–promoting thier music.  Without promotion no one knows who you are–and great talent could be lost forever.  Unfortunately, without promotion, art and ideas are lost.  A nasty business, but somebody has got to do it.

      Having said that, i do wish these shows would feature some lesser known artists (writers) from small and independent publishing houses.  Or a good show might be to select a random sample of successful and not so successful self-published e-books and review them.  I know nothing about self-published e-books but there is a seething debate over it in the publishing industry at the moment.  maybe some of these writers have something to offer.  Not just the Gray pornos. 

      I want to say I like the new format on ON Point with the sampling.  It works beautifully.  And ‘in’ my Bose headphones the music is wonderful.  (not a shameless plug)

    • 228929292AABBB

       It is a bit suspicious, yeah?  They couldn’t find anyone who didn’t like the movie to provide a counterpoint?  A movie that’s been panned by almost everyone who’s seen it?

      Well, Gwyneth Paltrow has a movie coming out, and all of a sudden she’s named on some list as the most beautiful woman in the world.  Tom’s panel is at least more credible than that. 

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    In this copy-and-paste, hyperlinked, postmodern age, this is The Great Gatsby I expected: filmed in 3D, the colors unreal, the camera swooping everywhere, the extreme close-ups (for playback on smart phones), and the modern-day music. Most likely there will be a fair amount of period music (at the parties, over the radio, in the clubs), but modern music will represent the inner states of characters and explicitly emphasize audience identification. Since The Great Gatsby is a story of the American Dream and American modernity, it speaks to the present as much as it speaks of the past. Gatsby wants to control his own narrative and rewrite his past. What is more modern than that? He is the king of social media, with the most friends on Facebook. If Gatsby won’t be confined by the truth of his past, why should the movie? In DeCaprio’s last film, Django Unchained, modern music was ostentatiously featured. Seeing Django walk outside to Jim Croce’s “I Got A Name” or shoot the bad guys to rap music, was hilarious and just encouraged identification. Modern music, in The Great Gatsby, will similarly draw the audience into the mind and soul of its characters. A period piece, with only music from its era, would alienate modern audiences, and turn The Great Gatsby into a precious and staid trip to the museum. No fun, that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordanwester Betty Jordan Wester

    I saw Gatsby today and it was absolutely beautiful. I’m a huge fan of Fitzgerald and the 1920s and this film managed to evoke the spirit of the “roaring 20s” better than anything I’ve ever seen. 

  • 228929292AABBB

    I think it was a mistake to have Jay McInerney discuss so many of the resolutions in the story, there are still people who will be seeing it for the first time and don’t know how it ends and they shouldn’t have it ruined, why can’t people reviewing movies and books discuss the merits of a work without discussing the specific events is it that hard to do?

    I also think it was a mistake to run this story with a universally like minded panel before anyone had a chance to see the film and inject a little reality.  I was glad to see it, as I would be glad to see any visual representation of flapper girls and too much gin, but the flaws were unlimited.  Examples –

    1)  The framework of Nick’s narration – stupid in essence and badly done
    2)  The scene in which a change in Gatsby’s temper supposedly changes everything for everyone forever – completely insufficient to support the supposed impact.
    3)  Why, in a proven story, would such talented actors look untalented so often?  The focus on Luhrman’s madcap style distracts us from this fatal condemnation of a director’s work
    4)  Why is the only strong part of the movie a section in the middle where the movie gets out of the way of the actors and the story; why is the movie better, the less Luhrman does?
    5)  Why is an unknown drama student doing the best acting in the star studded film?

    With this and inglourious bistirds or whatever stupid spelling is supposed to make that film intelligent, it seems like the new marketing scheme is to circulate the rumor a film is a train-wreck and delay it, so that when it comes out the small amount of relief from a poor (but not disastrous) movie becomes a form of praise.  It wasn’t awful, but the baseline for this story, those actors and that money is fantastic, anything less is a failure.  This wasn’t fantastic.

    • J__o__h__n

      The book was published 88 years ago.  I lack sympathy for anyone who had the plot spoiled. 

      • 228929292AABBB

         You’ve read every book that was published before a certain date, have you?  I wish you DID have sympathy for those of us who haven’t been educated in such absolute fashion.   What is your cutoff?  There will be blood was based on Upton Sinclair’s book from 1927, should everyone have been expected to read that, or is 80 years within your window?

        Even if you’re selfish, consideration of others is a virtue you might want to try, as Shakespeare says, it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.  If you can’t manage that and must be pedantic, then you should know that Gatsby was written in 23-24, 89 years ago at the least.

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