The Great Gatsby (1974)The novel

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is told in the form of a book written by and from the point of view of Nick Carraway, who at the beginning of the narration has been home in the Midwest since “last autumn” and by the end has been home two years. (1) Nick had gone East, stayed through a summer and into a fall, then went back where he thought he belonged and, after a while, set about writing down what he thought had happened during the five or six months in 1922 he worked in Manhattan as a bond salesman and hung out on Long Island with his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband (and his Yale classmate) Tom, Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson and her husband George, Daisy’s childhood friend Jordan Baker (a professional golfer), and Nick’s mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby. It is mostly a novel of character and revelation; the plot can be summarized in a few lines.

Gatsby had modest sales on its publication in 1925: 23,870 copies, far fewer than Fitzgerald’s previous novel, This Side of Paradise, published in 1920, which had sold 41,025 copies. (2) The novel nearly disappeared in the 1930s, along with the rest of Fitzgerald’s work: until Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind in 1939, Depression-decade American readers weren’t much interested in well-wrought narratives about the rich and rich-wannabes.

When Fitzgerald died at the age of 44 in 1941, not one of his books was in print. The obituaries triggered a resurgence of interest in his work. “Between 1941 and 1949,” writes critic and Fitzgerald biographer Matthew J. Bruccoli, “seventeen new editions or reprints of The Great Gatsby were published.” (3) Members of the military received 155,000 free copies. In 1946, the poet John Berryman called it a “masterpiece”. “Before The Great Gatsby became a required textbook in the fifties and sixties,” writes Bruccoli, “some half million copies were in the hands of readers who were reading it because they wanted to read it.” It is now, writes Fitzgerald scholar James L.W. West, “probably the most widely read novel written by an American in the twentieth century” (4). There have been several stage versions and even an opera. Little wonder that the story has again and again attracted the attention of filmmakers and continues to do so.

Film Versions

Within a year of its first publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby was a successful Broadway play (script by Owen Davis) and a silent film (based on Davis’ play) directed by Herbert Brenon. (5) Three sound versions followed: 1949 (directed by Elliott Nugent), 1974 (Jack Clayton) and 2000 (Robert Markowitz; made for A&E-BBC TV). Australian director Baz Luhrmann has reportedly acquired the rights to make one more film version of Fitzgerald’s novel and hopes to begin production in 2010. (6)

The silent is lost; no one has seen a print for decades. All three sound versions have appeared on DVD (the 1949 version is out of print and difficult to find). Each of those three sound versions is, in its own way, awful.

The 1949 film was basically a star vehicle for Alan Ladd. The script doesn’t adapt the novel; it pillages it. The novel, as Wheeler Winston Dixon points out (7), is one of penetration: things and characters are introduced and chapter by chapter we learn more about them, but in this film no question outlasts its moment and everything is explained in flashback as soon as it is introduced. In the novel, for example, Nick realizes Daisy was driving the car that killed Myrtle Wilson only when Gatsby lets slip in a later conversation that he grabbed for the wheel; in the 1949 film, we see it as it happens, so there is nothing that needs to be revealed. The plot isn’t so much simple as it is simple-minded.

One key failure all three sound versions of The Great Gatsby share is their inability to deal with the narrative voice and point of view of the novel. Which is to say, each of the sound versions presents some of the same plot points as the novel, but none of them tells the same story as the novel, and none of them finds an adequate cinematic substitute for what was lost or discarded in transition.

Pages and Screens

Films and print don’t tell stories the same way, which is why filmmakers are under little or no obligation to maintain fidelity to their sources. Their primary obligation is to make good movies: succeed at that and all else is forgiven; fail at it and nothing else matters.

The Great Gatsby (1949)Perhaps the two most important differences in print and film narration have to do with mediation and time. All printed narratives deliver information to a reader via a mediator: the author’s narrative voice or voices, written from whatever point or points of view the author finds appropriate. These are not the same as the author’s own voice or point of view. The voice of all narrative (and all utterance, for that matter) is a construct specific to that narrative: the voices we use in any kind of discourse are always conditioned on the kind and nature of discourse going on. The voice I use to write this essay, for example, is not the voice I would use if you and I were sitting across a table and I were trying to make the same points, nor is it the voice I might use in a class or a seminar or an email. This notion of the first person voice as construct was perhaps expressed most famously and economically by Arthur Rimbaud in his 15 May 1871 letter to Paul Demeny: “Je est un autre” (“I is an other”).

Some novels are told in one voice all the way through (Albert Camus’ L’Étranger, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations); others are told by multiple voices (William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men). Either way, the mediating narrative voice is between the reader and whatever is being read about. Everything you know is in what that voice says and how that voice says things.

All film narratives, on the other hand, present information to viewers directly: the audience sees the actors, what they do and the scenes in which they do it, and it hears whatever is on the soundtrack: voices, cars, gunshots, wind in the trees, running water, music, silence …

Writers control the density of information, the amount of detail about any character, scene or action, but the reader determines the pace at which that information is encountered, the amounts of it encountered at any one time, and the order in which things are read. Readers can pause whenever they like, reread something already read, skip ahead or shift to a scanning mode when the narrative seems to be dragging, just like viewers watching a film on DVD. But viewers watching a film in a theatre or when broadcast are wholly subject to the filmmaker’s choices about how much time shall be spent with each part of the narrative and the order in which those parts are encountered. If they miss a line of dialog or a piece of action because their attention wandered or because they had to go to the toilet, they will, unless they ask someone what was just said, go through the rest of the film not knowing what that line or piece of action was.

When filmmakers are trying to make a film version of a written narrative (as opposed to merely using a written narrative as starting point for another narrative entirely (8)), they take from written narrative things they can use that are particular to film in order to approximate or otherwise accomplish what occurred on the page. That is always a work of major translation. “Film takes from literature”, wrote Andrew Sarris, “as from nature, that which is cinematically accessible. What is then projected on the screen is not literature (nor nature) but a restructured entity full of light on shadow.” (9)

In his screen adaptation of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman (10), Harold Pinter didn’t attempt to enact Fowles’ narrative voice, which was sometimes set in the 19th century with the characters and sometimes in the 20th century with the reader. Instead, Pinter invented parallel and interlocking narratives of 20th century actors playing 19th century characters, with both narratives presented as equally “real”, just as Fowles’ 19th century story and 20th century narrative intruder were equally “real” in the book. And director Philip Kaufman, who felt the first person commentary by novelist Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being couldn’t possibly work as a voice-over, instead used as an emotional equivalent musical selections from work of the Czech composer Leo Eugen Janáček. (11)

But filmmakers meddle with the structure of well-known and -loved works of fiction at their peril: it’s not just that audiences note the absence of key parts that aren’t there or are mutilated; a film audience will accept anything if it works – and, with only a few exceptions, most filmgoers haven’t read the original anyway. The difficulty arises when major structural changes in the process of adaptation turn a narrative that works perfectly well in one medium into a narrative that works badly or not at all in another, when the filmmakers fail to find the structural device that will let them move the narrative from page to screen. And that is precisely what happened with each of the three sound versions of The Great Gatsby.

Nick’s “I” and “Eye”

The “I” and “eye” of the novel are coterminous; both belong to the character whose name is Nick Carraway, who is a sometime participant in the action, and who is always the observer and narrator of and commentator on it. The homonym is a pun incorporating both senses of that sound, and it also plays on the most famous visual metaphor in the novel: the huge deteriorating sign of the “eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg” in the Valley of Ashes.

The eye of the film, on the other hand, as is the case in all film and for all photographs, is the lens. Even in the few films that use the gimmick of having the camera-eye in the space presumably occupied by the character-eye (such as Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake and the early scenes of Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage, both 1947), the point of view is that of the lens. It’s just that in those few films the lens and the central character happens to be occupying the same spot. That’s a gimmicky and limiting way to shoot a movie, which is why the device has been so rarely utilized in fiction film for anything longer than a few shots. (12)

If we see something from a character’s point of view in literature, we see, hear and know nothing not seen, heard or known by that character. We may infer things, based on what the character says, but that’s us, not him or her. You don’t see Nick Caraway in F. Scott Fizgerald’s novel, published in 1925; he’s the character doing the seeing we’re reading about. But Nick Caraway is a character up there on the stage or screen just like any other in the 1926 stage play, the 1999 opera and the 1926, 1949, 1974 and 2000 films.

The Great Gatsby (1974)Nick’s narration in Fitzgerald’s novel wasn’t written as screenplay. It was written as text. In Markowitz’s 2000 version, those lines are read by Nick’s character off camera and they sink like stones in water. The problem with using a novel’s narration for voice-over is, if the voice is over what the voice is describing, then the scene is redundant; if it is over something the voice is not describing, then it can be discordant or disjunctive. One of several such instances in Markowitz’ version occurs in the apartment party scene: Nick’s voice-over tells us he had been drunk only two times in his life, the second being that afternoon, so much of what transpired “had a dim and hazy cast over it”. But we are seeing the events of the party in perfect clarity. The only haziness is in the words themselves.

The Clayton version is bookended by Nick’s narration from the novel. The first spoken words are Nick’s voice-over doing the novel’s first few sentences; the last are a few lines from the novel’s end. As Nick (Sam Waterston) walks away from the empty house, his voice-over intones:

“I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”

Whereupon Nick walks into the darkness, the music swells, then the action shifts to a large giggling party led by Daisy (Mia Farrow) and Tom (Bruce Dern) getting off a yacht, walking along a dock to a squadron of waiting period cars while the music track plays “Ain’t We Got Fun” and the credits roll.

But that isn’t the end of the novel; Clayton’s voice-over doesn’t even finish Nick’s sentence. The novel’s final three paragraphs are:

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. … And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Clayton deals with Nick’s voice by abolishing it.

What Nick Sees, What Nick Knows

In his famous essay on time in Faulkner’s fiction, Jean-Paul Sartre posited a reader telling the story of The Sound and the Fury in chronological order, but then, “The reader stops, for he realizes he is telling another story. Faulkner did not first conceive this orderly plot so as to shuffle it afterwards like a pack of cards; he could not tell it in any other way.” (13) Likewise, the voice and point of view of Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway.

The voice and point of view of Fitzgerald’s novel – both of them Nick’s – aren’t just the device through which the novel is presented; they contain essential information that tells us what the novel is about and how to regard the actions that transpire in it. The voice telling the story in the novel knows how the story will end; the Nick we see in the film does not. Subtract Nick’s narrative voice and point of view and you’ve got Fitzgerald’s plot, but not the story Fitzgerald told. That voice and point of view are characters in the novel in the same sense that colour and mis en scène are characters in a film.

Everything in Fitzgerald’s novel is mediated by and filtered through the sensibility of Nick Carraway. We are aware of no image, save as it comes to us in Nick’s words; we are privy to no thoughts, save Nick’s. We know nothing of any character or action or physical condition in the novel other than what we hear from Nick. On the few occasions Nick describes events that transpired in his absence, he provides a plausible source for his report: Nick wasn’t present for the conversation between George Wilson and his friend Michaelis after Myrtle was killed, for example, but a few pages after he reports that conversation he refers to “Michaelis’s testimony at the inquest”; he gets the details of the pre-war Louisville romance between Gatsby and Daisy from Jordan Baker one afternoon in the tea-garden of the Plaza hotel. He sometimes mentions facts before we learn how he became aware of them, but, since the narrative space of the frame is set in that two-year period after Nick’s return to the Midwest, there is no more anachronism in these revelations than, say, in Marlow’s puzzling use of the word “also” in his first utterance on the deck of the Nellie in the Themes Estuary at the beginning of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: “And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.” We won’t learn what that “also” conjoins until we get to Kurtz’s horrific compound many pages later.

There are things we can infer from how Nick describes or analyzes events that are not said overtly in the words Nick writes and which very well may not be known to Nick himself. One reason the novel bears rereading is its apparently simple surface does not give up all of its secrets at once.

“Jordan Baker”, he says in the section of Chapter 3 describing their relationship, “instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men.” He never comments or reflects on how that might apply to him. The last line of that same chapter is: “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” His “honesty” is a kind that admits observation, but no action: he brokers an affair between his neighbour and his cousin, deceiving his Yale classmate; he parties with his Yale classmate, Tom and Tom’s mistress, deceiving his cousin Daisy; he is unbothered when he learns that the woman with whom he might be in love is a liar and a cheat; he learns that his cousin killed the mistress, not his neighbour and friend, Gatsby, yet he never tells a soul – save for us more than a year later and half a continent away. (14) Nick’s “honesty” is a consequence of his disengagement; he’s “honest” because he has nothing at stake.

The Great Gatsby (1974)Dennis Cutchins points out that that Daisy doesn’t utter one intelligent sentence, and that many of her lines are banal and some are stupid, inane or pointless. (15) She shows no awareness of anything that doesn’t affect her directly and immediately. In both the 1994 and the 2000 film versions, most of Daisy’s lines are right from the novel; in both, she comes off as a mindless, self-indulgent twit. We can understand why Gatsby doesn’t notice: Gatsby is obsessively in love with Daisy; he adores everything about her, except the fact that she married Tom Buchanan. But what about Nick, who is, after all, our source for those lines? Except for a few moments of mild annoyance, he never says anything negative about Daisy, is never put off by her – until he realizes that it was Daisy who killed Myrtle and that Daisy is going to let Gatsby take the rap for it, and his reaction there has to do with her ethics rather than her style or intelligence. “Are you in love with me?”, she asks him when she arrives at his cottage for tea without her husband. Thomas E. Boyle argues that he is: “How else can we account for Nick’s failure to recognize her vanity and stupidity?” (16) If Nick is in love with her, it doesn’t go deeply enough for him to do anything about it, and it doesn’t interfere with him playing Pandarus for Gatsby.

Daisy is shallow and narcissistic. Her child is an occasional toy. She takes no responsibility for anything. She seems blissfully unaware of the world: when she chides Gatsby for missing her wedding he tells her he was in Europe fighting a war. In the novel, the fact of her character comes on us only slowly, because Nick himself hardly appreciates it. “Several critics,” writes Wheeler Winston Dixon,

have suggested that Farrow’s acting is the film’s weakest link. John Simon noted at the time of the film’s release, ‘Mia Farrow, whose voice is all crooning and squawking, embodies Daisy’s superficiality, but not her charm and attraction.’ Simon’s view, though it is somewhat typical, completely misreads both the text and the film and ignores fundamental differences between Fitzgerald’s prose and Clayton’s imagery. Farrow is, in fact, the perfect Daisy. She epitomizes exactly what readers come to understand about Daisy by the end of the novel. The nature of her character is simply made too clear too soon.” (17)

Not one of the adaptations in any medium deals adequately with Nick’s narrative voice; most don’t deal with it at all. Nick is a character in all the adaptations: the audience sees him doing things along with the other characters. The action of the novel is in revelation that comes through the narration itself, not the thin plot, so that inability or unwillingness to deal with Nick’s voice results in two massive structural changes: the films, plays and opera all add one major character (in the novel we never “see” Nick; he’s the one doing the seeing) and subtract or mutilate one major voice (Nick’s, which, as noted above, speaks to us long after the events it purports to describe and which tells us far more than its owner comprehends). Except when he’s quoting himself, Nick’s voice in the novel is a written, not a spoken voice; it is the voice of a fictive author, not a fictive speaker. Fitzgerald was very much aware of the difference in the two.

Two Anthropologists, One Plains Indian

Many years ago I heard about an anthropologist working with a group of American Plains Indians who was told a wonderful story by a particularly good narrator. He’d never heard that story or anything quite like it previously, so he was at first delighted with his find, then puzzled because there was something vaguely familiar about it and it wasn’t quite of a piece with the other stories he’d been hearing. He asked the storyteller to tell him about the source of the story and was told that a few years earlier anthropologist had visited the same tribe. They had all been telling stories and someone told that anthropologist that he should tell a story himself and this, the Indian said, was the story the first anthropologist had told.

That was when the second anthropologist realized he hadn’t been hearing a previously undiscovered Plains Indian narrative at all, but a famous European folktale (I forget which, perhaps it was Beowulf) that had undergone a singular structural transformation. The basic structure of European folk narrative is grounded in a notion of threes: three wishes, three giants, three attempts to scale the wall … But the basic structure of narrative among that group of Indians was four: four tasks, four attempts, four directions. At some point between the recitation by the first anthropologist and the retelling to the second, every set of three in the narrative had become a set of four, and in the process the story had become unrecognizable because it had become a different story altogether.

And likewise with the film versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. As long as Nick – whose continuing revelation of information to us is at the heart of the novel – is in the films a primarily inessential character, just someone hanging around, the films are not Gatsby on screen but a different story entirely. It may look as if those scenes have the same number of characters as the counterpart scenes in the novel, but they don’t. They have one more character and they haven’t a clue what should be done with him.

Can It Be Done?

Given the centrality of Nick’s first-person voice and point of view, is it possible to translate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to the screen? It is indeed possible to transfer the plot, or something like it, but the plot is neither what the novel is nor what the novel is about. Voice and point of view are at the heart of Fitzgerald’s story. As Sartre said of The Sound and the Fury: the story cannot be told in any other way. Lose the voice and change the point of view, and you’re telling a different story. Whether you tell it well or badly, it’s a different story. Until and unless a filmmaker finds a way to accomplish on screen what Fitzgerald accomplished on the page with Nick’s voice and point of view, the result will never be a fair adaptation of the story F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote and neither will it be a good movie.

The Great Gatsby (2000)Perhaps it is not possible to make a good movie of Gatsby if Nick Carraway is one of the primary characters. His primacy in the novel doesn’t result from his conduct in those rooms in which most of the action takes place but rather in the way his narrative style permits us to gradually understand things about the other characters he doesn’t figure out until late or at all. If he’s standing there beaming at Daisy while she jabbers like an idiot (as Sam Waterston does in the 1974 version), it is difficult not to think he is something of an idiot as well. If he stands there looking bored or superior to everyone else (as Paul Rudd does in the 2000 version), we wonder why he doesn’t hang out with people he finds less distasteful. If we get his voice-over, telling us what we’re seeing on the screen (Rudd again), we wonder why the director thinks we need to be told what we’re looking at, or, as is more often the case in that film, the voice-over and the screen action contradict one another, we wonder why the director doesn’t decide which story he’s telling and stick with it.

Gatsby is, for all the fancy cars and drunk party guests, a small narrative. All the significant action except Myrtle’s death takes place in rooms: Nick’s cottage, Jay’s bedroom, Wilson’s garage, the Buchanans’ sunroom, Tom’s upper Manhattan pièd-a-terre. The action in those scenes occurs mostly in dialogue among very few people, which is why the novel worked so well as a play. Nick is rarely doing or saying anything in those scenes. With only a few exceptions, his job is to bear witness, to tell us about it a year or so later from the heart of the country.

If Baz Luhrmann or whoever is the next filmmaker to take Gatsby on thinks the plot is what the novel is really about – a mysterious rich guy with a lingering love for a flighty society lady who tries to get her away from her playboy husband but only gets the husband’s mistress and himself killed – he should acknowledge that’s what he’s up to, get rid of Nick and do with Gatsby what no filmmaker has yet done: make a movie that works. And if he understands the centrality of Nick’s narration to Fitzgerald’s novel and wants to make a film of that, he should deal with that voice and character as something more than mere decoration.


  1. It is possible to read the internal dating as an error by Fitzgerald or as Fitzgerald economically letting us know that Nick was taking longer to write his story than it had taken him to experience it. Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli comments on the two dates: “In Chapter I Nick states that he ‘came back from the East last autumn’ – that is, after Gatsby’s murder which occurred around Labor Day 1922. At the end of the novel Nick remarks that he remembers the events of the day of the murder ‘after two years.’ This inconsistency is probably Fitzgerald’s lapse; but it is possible that he added a year to the time scheme to account for the time Nick was writing the book.” In “Getting It Right: The Publishing Process and the Correction of Factual Errors—with Reference to The Great Gatsby”, http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/essays/right.html, accessed 13 March 2009.
  2. Matthew J. Bruccoli, “Introduction”, in Matthew J. Bruccoli (Ed.), New Essays on The Great Gatsby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 2.
  3. Ibid.
  4. F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L. W. West III, Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. xviii.
  5. In addition to the IMdB listings for the films and directors discussed here, I drew details on the silent and first two sound versions from Wheeler Winston Dixon, “The Three Film Versions of The Great Gatsby: A Vision Deterred”, Literature Film Quarterly, 2003:4, online at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3768/is_200301/ai_n9219407, accessed 11 March 2009. The Wikipedia entry on The Great Gatsby provided leads and information on early television and stage versions of the novel:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby, accessed 21 February 2009. I also found useful information in Judith S. Baughman, “Fitzgerald and the Movies”, http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/movies.html, accessed 9 March 2009. The information in the following list was compiled from those various sources:
    • 1926: Owen Davis’ play, directed by George Cukor, which opened 2 February 1926 at the Ambassador Theater in New York and ran for 112 performances. It was a play in a prologue and three acts set in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1917 and Long Island in 1925.[1]1926: film based on Davis’ play, script by Becky Gardiner; adaptation by Elizabeth Meehand; directed by Herbert Brenon. Warner Baxter as Gatsby, Lois Wilson as Daisy, Neil Hamilton as Nick, Georgia Hale as Myrtle, William Powell as George Wilson, Hale Hamilton as Tom, and Carmelita Geraghty as Jordan. Produced by Jesse L. Lasky and Adolph Zukor.
    • 1949 film: screenplay by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum; directed by Elliott Nugent. Paramount. Alan Ladd as Gatsby, Betty Field as Daisy, MacDonald Carey as Nick, Barry Sullivan as Tom, Howard Da Silva as Wilson, and Shelley Winters as Myrtle.
    • 1955 television drama: Robert Montgomery Presents, NBC, 9 May 1955. Written by Albert Sapinsley.
    • 1958 television drama: Playhouse 90, CBS, 6 June 1958. Written by David Shaw.
    • 1974 film: screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola; directed by Jack Clayton. Paramount. Robert Redford as Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy, Sam Waterston as Nick, Bruce Dern as Tom.
    • 1999 opera:libretto and score by John Harbison; song lyrics by Murray Horwitz. Premièred 20 December 1999, Metropolitan Opera, New York.
    • 2000 television film: teleplay by John McLaughlin; directed by Robert Markowitz. A&E-BBC. Mia Sorvino as Daisy, Toby Stephens as Gatsby, Paul Rudd as Nick, Martin Donovan as Tom, Francie Swift as Jordan Baker, and Heather Goldenhersh as Myrtle Buchanan.
    • 2006 play: by Simon Levy, July 2006, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis.
    • 2010(?): film, presumably in pre-production, to be directed by Baz Luhrmann.
    • According to Wikipedia, “The Great Gatsby, in a new adaptation by Simon Levy, was performed for the opening of the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July 2006. This was billed as ‘the first authorized stage version of the novel since 1926’. However, two months earlier, in Brussels, Belgium, The Kunsten Festival des Arts debuted Gatz, a six-hour production by the New York theater company Elevator Repair Service. Set in a ramshackle contemporary office building, Gatz utilized the entire text of Gatsby, at first read by employees at the office building, and eventually acted out by them. Gatz premiered in the U.S. on September 21, 2006, at the Walker Art Center (also in Minneapolis) just eleven days after the closing of The Great Gatsby at The Guthrie. Also, it has received an adaptation by the Japanese musical theater company Takarazuka Revue in 1991, performed by Snow Troupe. It will be performed by Moon Troupe of the company in 2008.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby, accessed 21 February 2009.
  6. Michael Jones, “Baz Lurhmann eyes ‘Great Gatsby’”, Variety, posted 18 December 2008. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117997638.html?categoryid=13&cs=1, accessed 10 July 2009.
  7. In “The Three Film Versions of The Great Gatsby”, note 5, supra.
  8. The extreme instance of this is perhaps Woody Allen, who used only the title of Dr. David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask.
  9. “Literature and Film”, Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 4:1 (Spring 1971), p.14.
  10. The novel was published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1969; the film, directed by Karel Reisz, was released in 1981.
  11. “The Making of The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Warner Home Video, 2004, disk 2.
  12. Unlike much documentary, particularly with modern lightweight handheld equipment. In such films, the filmmaker and the lens are experiencing the events the same way in the same place at the same moment.
  13. “On The Sound and the Fury: Time in the Work of Faulkner”, in Frederick J. Hoffman and Olga W. Vickery (Eds), translated by Martine Darmon, William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism,p. 226.
  14. Thomas E. Boyle discusses these and other disjunctions between what Nick says and what his words reveal in> “Unreliable Narration in ‘The Great Gatsby’”, The Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association 23:1 (March 1969), pp. 21-6.
  15. Dennis Cutchins, “Adaptations in the Classroom: Using Film to ‘Read’ The Great Gatsby”, Literature Film Quarterly 2003, online at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3768/is_200301/ai_n9219434, accessed 11 March 2009.
  16. Boyle, “Unreliable Narration in ‘The Great Gatsby’”, p. 25.
  17. In “The Three Film Versions of The Great Gatsby”, note 5, supra.

About The Author

Bruce Jackson is a photographer, filmmaker and writer. He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo. He and Diane Christian have directed The Buffalo Film Seminars since spring 2000; they have also directed and produced several documentary films and books together. The French government has honored Jackson for his documentary and ethnographic work by naming him chevalier in The Order of Arts and Letters and in The National Order of Merit. His most recent books are Ways of the Hand: A Photographer’s Memoir and The Story is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories (revised and expanded edition), both State University of New York Press, 2022.

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