Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

May 14, 2013

CALLERI: 'The Great Gatsby' looks at an era through a funhouse lens

Niagara Gazette — There have now been six attempts to film “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quintessential American novel about a mysterious wealthy man in love with a memory.

There is the silent effort from 1926, a noirish melodrama made in 1949 with Alan Ladd and Betty Field, and the most famous cinematic Gatsby played by Robert Redford in 1974, with Mia Farrow as Daisy, in a beautiful but dull version. A television movie from 2000 stars British actor Toby Stephens as Gatsby and Mira Sorvino as Daisy. There’s also “G,” a Black hip-hop edition based loosely on Fitzgerald’s book.

Director Baz Luhrmann returns the “The Great Gatsby” to the screen, but the novel’s meaning eludes him. The story is a tragedy revolving around a love triangle. Caught up in a dance of romantic domination are Jay Gatsby and the married couple Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Five years after failing in a relationship with Daisy, Gatsby’s heart still aches for her.

Fitzgerald writes about corruption and excess. The Constitutional prohibition of alcoholic beverages fueled the irreverent times. It also helped create the gangster mythology in which Hollywood revels. The author captured with literary precision the Roaring Twenties in a tale about mid-westerners being overwhelmed by the perils of New York City. They lose their values. However, the novel is also a powerful love story

The millionaire Gatsby is a bootlegger, who grew up poor in North Dakota and reinvented himself with a new name and new criminal friends. He lives in a literal castle on the north shore of Long Island and hosts over-the-top parties to assuage his loneliness. Gatsby wants to steal Daisy from Tom. But there is resistance from her combative husband, as well as from the flirtatious Daisy. They both come from old money. To Tom, Gatsby is an interloper, a parvenu.

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