March 23, 2016

Central Casting Part V: Making Gatsby Great

Mia Farrow is perfect as Daisy Buchanan. We'll keep her.

Going back in time today. The year is 1973 and GSL has just heard that a new Hollywood blockbuster is being made of The Great American Novel. The cast as announced is way off the mark. Corrective action must be taken.
Redford is way out of his depth as Jay Gatsby. Sorry 'Old Sport', but you were good in The Sting.
Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan? Nope.

Sam Waterston as narrator Nick Carraway is fine by me.

Lois Chiles as Nick Carraway's love interest Jordan Baker? This is good too.
Karen Black as Myrtle Wilson who we also will retain. Myrtle's plight as a good time girl and unfulfilled wife in search of a more exciting life and on call plaything to the wealthy Tom Buchanan has many interesting angles that GSL would discuss with our new director long into the night over several drams of whisky.
*hat tip to Darling Rachel for reminding me of Karen Black's talents that went largely unused in this debacle

Lois, darling; because you are GSL's fave Bond Girl (along with Honor Blackman); we are going
to write you into a few additional scenes

Robert Duvall (here as Tom Hagen in The Godfather) would be a huge upgrade as Jay Gatsby.
Likewise for Gene Hackman as Tom Buchanan.
Orson Welles as script writer and Director. Welles was a fascinating and eager conversationalist, so GSL would draw the best out of perhaps America's greatest ever Artistic talent who unfortunately never realized  many of his grand ambitions.
We need a money guy. How about the world's richest man, J. Paul Getty? Perfect!
This is how GSL pulls it all together. Orson Welles was in his twilight years as was 82year old  J. Paul Getty. Welles knew he had squandered numerous opportunities in spite of making some of the best movies ever made. Getty was an Arts Patron. Both men were from the Middle West  and understood The Great American Novel as well as anybody as they lived it in a sense. GSL would function as go-between while keeping Mr. Welles' creative fires well stoked, his temperament generous and agreeable, and his propensities for spending lavishly and needless delay at bay. GSL would remind Mr. Getty (at his sumptuous Sutton Place estate) of the tens of millions and many years that went by before he hit those gushers in the Middle East and how he'd go down in history like the Medici's...only with the knowledge that the great movie he underwrote actually turned a tidy profit.

Mia in the very first issue of People Magazine and T-Swizzle in the 40th Anniversary Edition from 2014
This movie had unprecedented hype and failed miserably. Not your fault Mia, GSL was only 8 years old and his Mum wouldn't let him fix this mess.


  1. Ahhh, My Dearie!

    What a verdant, witty, ascertaining mind you have! J'Accord re Duvall and Dear Gene Allan---not many shoes they can't fill, but I have only the Southern ear to dispute Mia's unfortunate accent---and somewhere in there, i guarantee you she said the anathema: Anythin' Ain't no such word. Anywhere.

    And I'm resting on the fact that your respect and admiration and great regard for the inestimable, luminous Karen Black prevents your mentioning her in any context---she's a given, a standard to which they all aspire.

    No matter how many remakes---they oughta rise her up as Myrtle Wilson. That Number Is Retired.

    Hope all is well with you, Sweetpea---we're Springing!

    1. Yes indeed my dear Rachel! She was good as Myrtle Wilson even if she had to carry all that Bruce Dern dead weight. Orson will want to keep her too.

    2. Rachel, I did add Karen Black to the post and many thanks for reminding me of her talents.

  2. Interesting, I agree with you about the ladies but I say RR can stay as Gatsby! I think this novel is absolutely impossible to film. It's too internal, the narrator knows things that cannot be filmed believably--and it's hard to capture the longing Jay has. I thought the Baz Luhrmann version was well cast but it was not very good as a movie for the same reason the Mia/Robert version was not good--this novel just does not translate to film. I do love Gatsby though, it is my favorite American novel. I try to read it once a year to remind myself how good American literature can be! I love 'Tender is the Night' too but for different reasons and I find it much more complex and cynical.

    Side note: There is a TV ad playing here nightly for a new musical called 'Cagney' with a tag line something like, "A musical about the tough guy in tap shoes." I think of you every time I see it. x

    1. My Dear Jill,
      It is difficult to film which is why GSL brings in the heavy artillery with Orson Welles, Duvall, & Hackman. Welles was from Racine, WI and Hackman's hometown is little Danville, Illinois with Duvall going to college outside of Saint Louis. They would all know exactly what Jay Gatz/Gatsby was all about and are the best there has ever been at the subtly articulate expressions of longing, ambition, deception. etc. required to convey Gatsby and what he represents. Redford is only good looking and he's also too good looking and the sort of pretty boy a silly girl like Daisy would have fallen for. Duvall is far better as the young man hell bent on becoming the man he thinks can win the ultimate prize of Daisy and could far more easily be convincing as a bareknuckle bootlegger one minute and a lovesick pup the next. Watch Welle's superb The Third Man, Touch of Evil, Long Hot Summer, and tell me if OW knows how to wring a little internal strife out of a scene without heavy dialog holding your hand thru it.
      GSL is a tough guy with a vastly underrated soft shoe.

  3. Never read it, never seen it...any of them. I have been told by dear daughter to read it and not see any of the movies. She may be wise beyond her years. Hope all is well. Much love!

    1. Please do read it T and wait for a quiet weekend as it's not long and can easily be taken in on 2 or 3 sittings but it's not a 'beach book'. Hope all is well with your Clan too!

  4. Sutton Place has the most sublime gardens - each owner seems to have contributed to developing additional garden rooms. An old English friend (who knew the owner before the Russian) took us there maybe 15 or so years ago. He introduced us to the head gardener who briefed us and then allowed us to wander as we wished. The only other people there were the gardeners. Heavenly.
    Later on a coach trip from Canberra to Sydney I sat across the aisle from a wonderful old lady. She'd led a fascinating life - at a key stage as a concierge in luxury hotels in London. She often looked after royalty and was headhunted by an Arab King as his head of Protocol and Travel. She travelled the world in his personal giant airliner. Then moved on to other Arab kings. Finally she came back to England and was offered the job of Estate Manager for Getty at Sutton Place. He provided her with a beautiful cottage on the estate - her main task was managing the hordes of gardeners. She loved it there. She'd had three husbands, all rich. The latest was a much older American (well into his nineties). He loved travel and to drive but she said by then he was totally a danger on the roads but he couldn't see it. So she booked them on lots of cruises on luxury liners to get him off the roads. Best wishes, Pammie

    1. The Den just loooves when 'Pack Drill Pammie' loosens up her well traveled tongue. I would have prevailed upon Mr Welles to write you into a delicious scene at one of Gatsby's parties as you stage whisper a tantalizing tidbit .