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Beloved Infidel

Beloved Infidel(1959)

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Although the Daily Variety preview reported a running time of 108 minutes, the released film's running time was 123 minutes. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) published This Side of Paradise, his first novel, in 1920. Buoyed by the fame and fortune of his novels and magazine stories dealing with the privileged lives of wealthy, aspiring socialites during the Roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda led an extravagant life that led to Scott's alcoholism and Zelda's mental illness. After suffering several breakdowns, Zelda was in and out of clinics from 1930 until her death in a hospital fire in 1948. Zelda's mental illness had a debilitating effect on Scott's writing, and by 1936, he was hopelessly in debt and incapacitated by excessive drinking and poor physical health.
       In 1937, M-G-M hired Scott to write screenplays in Hollywood, and there he met and fell in love with movie columnist Sheilah Graham. Scott, who had little success in Hollywood, was working on the first draft of a new novel, The Last Tycoon, when he suffered a heart attack and died in 1940. Graham chronicled her life and affair with Scott in her autobiography Beloved Infidel. The film Beloved Infidel, however, dealt only with the last part of Graham's book in which she wrote of her affair with Fitzgerald.
       According to publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Jerry Wald wanted to film Graham's memoirs, but insisted that she publish them in book form before the film was made. To this end, he hired Gerold Frank to help her organize and publish her story. The film originally contained a sequence dealing with Graham's childhood at a London orphanage, but it was deleted from the released print. That sequence featured Lorraine Burke as Graham as a child and Peggy Shannon as the orphanage matron, according to studio publicity. The hotel bungalow in which Fitzgerald lived and worked was part of The Garden of Allah, located at Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights, the Hollywood residence of many famous entertainers. Many of the actors appearing in The Garden of Allah sequence were stars in the 1920s and 1930s.
       As noted in studio publicity, the character of "Bob Carter" was based on humorist Robert Benchley, a close friend of Fitzgerald. According to a December 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Jerry Wald considered casting Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer as Graham and Fitzgerald. Although Hollywood Reporter news items state that Jane Saunders, Anne Benton, Al Austin, June Blair, John Gabriel, Stanley Kamber and Nina Shipman were tested for roles, it is doubtful they appeared in the released film. According to a modern source, Deborah Kerr was unhappy with her role as "Graham" and submitted her own version of the script, which was rejected.
       ABC television broadcast several films based on Fitzgerald's life, including The Last of the Belles, which was shown on January 16, 1974, and featured Richard Chamberlain as the author and Blythe Danner as Zelda and was directed by George Schaefer. Broadcast on May 16, 1976, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood starred Jason Miller and Tuesday Weld as the Fitzgeralds and was directed by Anthony Page. A television film based on Fitzgerald's life was broadcast on the Showtime network in 2002. That film starred Jeremy Irons as Fitzgerald, Sissy Spacek as Zelda and Natalie Radford as Graham.