The Great Gatsby
A Novel
A Film
A Review













10/4/98




The 1974 version of The Great Gatsby was produced by David Merrick, directed by Jack
Clayton with a script credited to Francis Ford Coppola turns it into a love story that is "comatose"
and while it uses more cinematic effects, they are old film metaphors: white flower symbolizing
Daisy’s virginal beginnings, two birds nibbling bread while Daisy & Gatsby are in Nick’s cottage,
Nick’s stubbing out a cigarette showing his impatience during the tea, and a shot of a pool
reflecting the images of Daisy & Gatsby kissing. Furthermore, there are even more obvious filmic
devices to show the erotic relationship between Daisy and Gatsby: water fountain spurting as they
dance, a candlestick burning as they dance again, and Daisy fondling copper molds & then her
lover’s hand.
Joining Robert Redford, playing Jay Gatsby, in the film are Mia Farrow .... Daisy
Buchanan, Bruce Dern .... Tom Buchanan, Karen Black .... Myrtle Wilson, Scott Wilson ....
George Wilson, Sam Waterston .... Nick Carraway, Lois Chiles .... Jordan Baker, Howard Da
Silva .... Meyer Wolfsheim, Roberts Blossom .... Mr. Gatz, Edward Herrmann .... Klipspringer,
Elliott Sullivan .... Wilson's Friend, Arthur Hughes .... Dog Vendor, Kathryn Leigh Scott ....
Catherine, Beth Porter .... Mrs. McKee, and Paul Tamarin as Mr. McKee.
Howard de Silva as Wolfsheim and Bruce Dern as Tom received praise but Sam Waterson
as Nick and Lois Chiles as Jordan were considered too bland and Karen Black too broad for
Myrtle. Mia Farrow’s poorly disguised pregnancy bothered many as much as her uneven acting
and Robert Redford’s matinee-idol All-American look didn’t fit FSF’s description of "an elegant
young roughneck, a year or two over30,whoseelaborate formality of speech just missed being
absurd."
As for dialogue, even though it is from book, it is broken up like the climactic comment by
Nick on "the fresh…new world" or new and trite like "Gatsby: "I’ll love you forever." And
Daisy:; "Be my lover; stay my lover." Gatsby: "Your husband."
The Great Gatsby repeatedly investigates how photography expresses and affects the ways
its characters think. More importantly, it suggests cinematic techniques in Nick Carraway’s
narration.
While in its largest perspective, the novel is philosophic about social, political, and
psychological concerns, it deals with the disparity between aspiration and achievement of Gatsby
(the hero) and the stunned observations of contemporary life of Nick (the narrator). He sees
Gatsby as great because of his innocence.
In regard to how photography expresses the ways its characters think we have: --the
character of the photographer McKee who tries to capture the ideal essence of his wife on film &
bungles it --Gatsby’s photographs to prove his past (Oxford, Dan Cody) --Gatsby’s father’s
photograph of the house
In support of Nick’s photographic sensibility, turn to almost any page of the novel:
--When Nick first meets Gatsby on p. 52 and describes his characteristic smile, "He smiled
understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality
of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. … --When Nick
sees at the end on p. 152 "Daisy and Tom…sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, with a
plate of cold fried chicken between them, and two bottles of ale….They weren’t happy ,and
neither of them had touched the chicken or the ale—and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There
was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that
they were conspiring together."
The most part of the novel to film change included the film having retained most of the
novel’s peculiar glamour it had clumsiness in the ordering of material and frequent shifts of mood
such as antifemale comments emphasis on Gatsby’s evil qualities, and Daisy’s desire to sleep with
Gatsby for revenge against Tom and Myrtle but refusal to divorce Tom in keeping with
contemporary attitudes
When this adaptation came out it was negatively received and became a fiasco. Opinions
ought to be revised upwards. The film is quite faithful to the book but it has a number of irritating
qualities. Its 144 minutes are too protracted; the tempo is slow; the pregnant silences are
overdone; many shots are drawn-out and much dialogue, or rather speeches, as mostly people
speak solo even when two are involved. Hardly any of this speech has a natural rhythm. The
sound is dubbed, too much so. It has the echoey quality which is excellent when it stresses the
vastness of Gatsby's house, but then this spreads to other sounds and speeches.