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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby(1949)

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According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, and a modern interview with producer and co-author Richard Maibaum, Paramount originally intended for John Farrow to direct this film, but Farrow withdrew over disagreements about the production. (Farrow's daughter, Mia Farrow, later appeared as "Daisy" in Paramount's 1974 production of The Great Gatsby.) Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: Paramount first submitted a draft of the story in February 1946, which the PCA rejected due its inclusion of "illicit sex and adultery, without sufficient compensating moral values." In April 1946, in a letter regarding four screenplays, including The Great Gatsby, PCA director Joseph I. Breen requested that Paramount "dismiss from further consideration...any thought of making [The Great Gatsby] into [a] screenplay."
       Paramount continued to submit story outlines to the PCA. However, in June 1946, Breen noted in a letter that "to salvage this story and to produce it as a motion picture at this time, would be a very definite disservice to this industry as a whole" and recommended that the filmmakers take up the matter with the PCA's Board of Directors. Almost a year later, Paramount submitted a "rough treatment" of the screenplay to the PCA, and noted in a letter that "Maibaum has done a swell job of capturing the moral flavor that was so necessary to make the story acceptable." Breen responded that the basic story was indeed acceptable, although he noted in his February 1947 letter that "we believe it will be necessary to remove the suicide on the part of Wilson [and] the second part [which] has a reference to the characterization of Mr. Buchanan as a man who has had adulterous affairs."
       In a 1973 interview in Los Angeles Times, Maibaum noted that Breen suggested adding a prologue to the story, and Maibaum ultimately complied by including on "Gatsby's" tombstone a biblical quote from Proberbs 14:12: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death." In the interview, Maibaum concludes that although the quote "seemed apt enough at the time...I think now it was anti-Fitzgerald, too explicit, too much on the nose....Fitzgerald wasn't a moralizer." Portions of the film differ significantly from the novel, such as the prologue, the sequence featuring "Gatsby's" pre-Egg years and the final scene depicting a definite romance between "Nick" and "Jordan." Reviews such as Hollywood Reporter remarked that "some changes have been made in the story, especially in providing a different background for the hero's youth" and that there was "too much moralizing in the dialogue-heavy script," while the New Yorker reviewer noted that "the players bear little resemblance to the characters created by Fitzgerald." The New York Times reviewer added that unlike Gatsby's novel, "the flavor of the Prohibition era is barely reflected in this new film."
       Although actor Alan Ladd was announced for the lead role as early as 1946, because of the lengthy delay in production, he reportedly threatened to take a suspension until the studio proceeded with the film. According to the Maibaum interview, this, along with the PCA's approval of the script, compelled the studio to finally begin production. A Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that the wood-panelled library seen in "Gatsby's" mansion was purchased by the studio from the Hearst collection.
       In 1926, Paramount made a silent version of Fitzgerald's novel, directed by Herbert Brenon and starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson and Neil Hamilton (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2225). Francis Ford Coppola produced Paramount's third adaptation in 1974, which was directed by Jack Clayton and starred Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston.