The Great Gatsby (1974 film) – Not So Secret Obsession

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby was published on this day in 1925. The title was not one Fitzgerald liked; he’d asked his editor, Maxwell Perkins, to change it to either Trimalchio or Gold-Hatted Gatsby just a month prior, but Perkins had advised him against both. Shortly after, Fitzgerald requested a change to Under the Red, White and Blue, but by then it was too late. Fitzgerald remained convinced that the title wasn’t a good one even after it was published; in hindsight, it’s hard to imagine the book carrying his previous suggestions — like Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, On the Road to West Egg, or The High-Bouncing Lover.

Fitzgerald was already a huge celebrity, his This Side of Paradise having made him one five years prior, but Gatsby was not nearly as commercially successful as his first two novels had been. The book got a boost, though, nearly 20 years later when the American military distributed nearly 150,000 copies to WWII servicemen, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that it was widely accepted as a great American novel.

Directed by: Jack Clayton
Produced by: David Merrick
Screenplay by: Francis Ford Coppola
Based on:  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: March 29, 1974
Budget: $6.5 million
Box office: $20,563,273

The Great Gatsby is a 1974 romantic drama film distributed by Newdon Productions and Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Jack Clayton and produced by David Merrick, from a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same title.

The film stars Robert Redford in the title role of Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Scott Wilson and Lois Chiles with Howard Da Silva, Roberts Blossom, and Edward Herrmann.

The rights to the novel were purchased in 1971 by Robert Evans so that his wife Ali MacGraw could play Daisy. After MacGraw left Evans for Steve McQueen, he considered other actresses for the role, including Faye Dunaway, Candice Bergen, Natalie Wood, Katharine Ross, Lois Chiles, Cybill Shepherd and Mia Farrow. Eventually Farrow was cast as Daisy and Chiles got the role of Jordan. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen were considered for the role of Gatsby but they were rejected or declined the offer. Beatty wanted to direct producer Evans as Gatsby and Nicholson didn’t think that MacGraw was right for the role of Daisy, who was still attached when he was approached. Farrow was pregnant during the shooting and the film was shot with her wearing loose, flowing dresses and in tight close-ups.

Truman Capote was the original screenwriter but he was replaced by Francis Ford Coppola, with some scenes re-written first by Vladimir Nabokov, then Philip Roth. On his commentary track for the DVD release of The Godfather, Coppola makes reference to writing the Gatsby script at the time, though he comments: “Not that the director paid any attention to it. The script that I wrote did not get made.”

The Rosecliff and Marble House mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, were used for Gatsby’s house while scenes at the Buchanans’ home were filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. One driving scene was shot in Windsor Great Park, UK. Other scenes were filmed in New York City and Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

The film won two Academy Awards, for Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge) and Best Music (Nelson Riddle). It also won three BAFTA Awards for Best Art Direction (John Box), Best Cinematography (Douglas Slocombe) and Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge). It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black) and received three further nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Bruce Dern and Sam Waterston) and Most Promising Newcomer (Sam Waterston).

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