Picks and Pans Review: American Masters: F. Scott Fitzgerald
PBS (Sun., Oct. 14, 9 p.m. ET)
This finely wrought documentary closes with a note that more than 10 million copies of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books have been sold since 1940, when he died—sadly out of fashion—at 44. DeWitt Sage's film should have even more readers turning to the author of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night.
F Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams is a literary biography rather than an A-to-Z life story. At times moody and impressionistic, it relies primarily on a combination of evocative images and Fitzgerald's own words, with Amy Irving reading from his fiction and Campbell Scott giving voice to his first-person observations. There are talking heads here, but their purpose is to elaborate on themes or share memories, not simply to fill in narrative. Novelist E.L. Doctorow comments on Fitzgerald's sense of inauthenticity and his crippling disillusionment. Professor James L.W. West of Pennsylvania State University points out the tendency of Fitzgerald and his troubled wife, Zelda, to make their own lives into myths. Eleanor Turnbull Pope, a fascinated neighbor of the Fitzgeralds in her childhood, realizes now that the charming author's "warm, woodsy smell" came from gin and cigarettes.
If anything seems out of place, it's the clips from the 1974 movie version of Gatsby and the 1976 film of Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, both of which proved that ultimately there's no substitute for a good book.
Bottom Line: Literary success
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