Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gatsby Times Five

I reported on the HBO adaptation of the classic Mildred Pierce a couple of weeks ago and here we go again as plans for a remake (this will make the fifth) of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book The Great Gatsby have been in the works for sometime now. Director Baz Lurhmann of Australia, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge! fame will direct and apparently has chosen Carey Mulligan as his Daisy to star opposite Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. Tobey MacGuire will play the role of best friend/narrator Nick Carraway.

Rumors have been swirling for months (first I heard musical and then 3-D) and as of yesterday, the project appears to be stalled in preproduction while Lurhmann mulls its direction. Fox Studios in Australia will double as the gilded gold coast of Long Island. I traveled to Sydney to cover Australia  several years ago and it will be interesting to see how they translate this to film. My guess is the director's talented wife, Academy Award winning designer Catherine Martin will no doubt be the costume and production designer.

Leo DiCaprio

Carey Mulligan

Perhaps the best known of the Gatsby's was the Redford-Farrow Paramount vehicle in l974. While the film did well at the box office, critics were not as kind. Redford appeared to be very ill at ease and out of his element but fit the mystique and style of Jay Gatsby perfectly. Many actresses were up for the role of Daisy (Candice Bergen, Lois Chiles, Katherine Ross, Natalie Wood and Faye Dunaway) and Mia Farrow brought an ethereal quality to the role. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen were considered for the part of Gatsby. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay after Truman Capote was replaced as screenwriter.

And an interesting backstory --Ali MacGraw was promised the role by her husband at the time (Robert Evans) who purchased the film rights. She first filmed The Getaway with Steve McQueen, fell in love with her co-star and the rest was history -- along with her part as Daisy.

Mia Farrow

The film won the late Theoni Aldredge an Oscar for her costumes along with a BAFTA for Best Art Direction (John Box who did Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia was the production designer).

The star crossed lovers

Robert Redford
Alan Ladd  and Betty Field played the ill fated lovers in the l949 version (fans of Days of Our Lives will no doubt recognize MacDonald Carey in the role of Nick Carraway). The film was originally slated to star Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.

Alan Ladd and Betty Field

Great Gatsby 1949
Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson starred in the the original 1926 version. There was also a Broadway play that ran that year and directed by George Cukor.

Lois Wilson and Warner Baxter

Perhaps one of the more visual remakes was the A&E television version starring Mira Sorvino, Toby Stephens and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway. (Stephens is a British actor who appeared in Jane Eyre).

Mira Sorvino

Toby Stephens

And in a timely twist of fate, the stately mansion Lands End that was supposedly the inspiration for the l974 film, is set for demolition. The 1902 property is located on 13 acres in Sands Point, Long Island and costs are estimated at $4500 a day for upkeep. Valued at 30 million dollars, plans are to build five homes on the property. Sadly there are no takers in this economy -- perhaps Lurhmann might purchase?  Stay tuned.

Lands End
As always, you can't beat the original. Read the book!

Photo credits: Paramount Pictures, New York Post


  1. At today's presentation to Decorative Arts Trust, Hearst Castle historian Victoria Kastner stated that Mrs Wm R Hearst's home, Beacon Towers, at Sands Point, Long Island, inspired Fitzgerald to be the model for Gatsby's house. Designed for Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont by Hunt & Hunt, c. 1917, it was demolished in the 1940s. See photos on the Old Long Island blog by clicking on the Vanderbilt family category and scrolling down. Our fellow blogger The Downeast Dilettante comments that this house was an inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz film.

  2. Interesting! The Emerald City was inspired by a photograph of a post war town in Germany - Cedric Gibbons (the art director on the film) said it looked like upside down test tubes and that was his starting point for the film as well.

  3. Having Leo DiCaprio die (drown, get shot, whatever) at the end of your movie seems to lock-in your chances for Best Picture.

    So perhaps Luhrmann has found a way to beat "the Gatsby jinx."

  4. I think the Gatsby films are as jinxed as the character himself!

  5. Marvelous post, as always. And there in the comments I find myself quoted. I wish to point out that in the actual quote I said that the legend that the Belmont/Hearst house inspired the Oz castle was probably apocryphal.

    Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Really..

  6. Thanks for your comment and would love to have heard your lecture. Maybe Carey M was cast as she looks like a young Mia:)

  7. Great post. So sad to lose another piece of historical architecture.

  8. Thanks and yes, always sad to lose a piece of history. Happening too often!

  9. The Great Gatsby is one of my most favorite books. I reread it every few years. I think Leonardo is going to be perfection in this role. Carey Mulligan would not first come to mind for the part...but she has been good in everything she's been in and I expect her to be good here. I hate it that a historic mansion will be taken down - only to be replaced by McMansions.

  10. I agree Nita and hope they scrap the Gatsby in 3D idea though!