F. Scott Fitzgerald's
Contents and Introduction
Lester Cowan, an independent film producer, spoke with F. Scott Fitzgerald over lunch in order to glean Fitzgerald's "ideas for turning his story 'Babylon Revisited' into a full-length motion picture" (Latham 238). Fitzgerald was wary of Cowan, knowing "that a clever producer could loot the finer furnishings of a screenwriter's mind the way less talented Hollywood crooks cleaned out Beverly Hills homes" (238). Cowan then met with Fitzgerald's new agent, William Dozier, and a deal was made in late January 1940, with Fitzgerald selling the screen rights to his story for a thousand dollars (239). Fitzgerald felt a little bit cheated, as he noted in a letter to his daughter Scottie, "the sum received wasn't worthy of the magnificent story" (Letters 64). Subsequently Fitzgerald agreed also to write the adaptation for three hundred a week, which eventually totalled $5000 (Dardis 69).
The offer came at an opportune time for Fitzgerald, however, "for he had again begun to think of himself as perhaps unemployable as a screenwriter" (Dardis 69). The deal with Cowan brought the added benefits of Fitzgerald being able to work at home (69), and the money that Fitzgerald did earn from working on the screenplay in part bought him some time to continue working on his novel The Last Tycoon (Donaldson 208).
Fitzgerald anticipated the work of writing a screenplay for "Babylon Revisited" being a joy. He wrote Zelda's mother that "it should be pleasant for it consists of picturizing one of my own stories" (Correspondence 593). Fitzgerald did find the work rewarding; in a letter his daughter Scottie, he noted that "it is rather fun and may amount to something" (Letters 71). His own evaluation of the script he was writing is also reflected in another letter to Scottie: "My movie progresses and I think it's going to be damn good" (Letters 73), and in a letter to Zelda: "I think I've written a really brilliant continuity. It had better be for it seems to be a last life line that Hollywood has thrown me. It is a strong life line--to write as I please upon a piece of my own" (Letters 116). In a letter to his agent Bill Dozier, Fitzgerald both evaluates his work and notes his enjoyment: "I think I have a pretty fine continuity here. ... Though I've sweated over it, it's been pleasant sweat, so to speak, and rather more fun than I've ever had in pictures" (Correspondence 596).
"Babylon Revisited" was thus transformed by Fitzgerald into a screenplay, which was initially titled Honoria, then Babylon Revisited, and finally Cosmopolitan, although it would be published as Babylon Revisited in 1993. Lawrence D. Stewart notes that "the Babylon of the scripts seems not to have been revisited. The original title [Babylon Revisited] held a wealth of connotation, however, which the revision [Cosmopolitan] lost; and Fitzgerald himself appears ever to have thought of his script as 'Babylon Revisited.' There was reason to do so: for though Charlie Wales does not come from and return to Babylon, are not we--the audience--making the return across so many years when we see this experience at the end of an era? The detached point of view came only with time for the rest of us" (101-102).
"Babylon Revisited" was transformed. In order for the short story to make the transition to the silver screen, the story had to be enlarged, but in doing so, Fitzgerald also changed its basic elements, the most notable being that, in the end, Victoria (Honoria in the short story) is reunited with her father Charles Wales.
The screenplay is divided into five sequences, and my summary of the screenplay here, with limited editorializations, follows those sequences.
Sequence A opens in Paris in October 1929 at the Petrie apartment. Lincoln, Marion, and Richard Peters have become Pierre (a Frenchman), Marion, and Richard (pronounced "Reeshard") Petrie. Elsie, the other Peters child, does not appear in the screenplay.
The action begins with the eleven-year-old Victoria (Honoria) cleverly eliciting information from Richard concerning the trains to Switzerland and proceeding to make her way to the Gare de l'Est, attempting to buy a ticket to Hautemont, Switzerland. The ticket price being too expensive, she instead purchases a ticket for Melun, France, which at least gets her on her way. A shadowy youth in a close-fitting topcoat, seen with a man Victoria recognizes, boards the car behind Victoria's. Circumstances allow Victoria to remain on the train and enter Switzerland, and the youth in the close-fitting topcoat is seen once again. As Sequence A ends, little resemblance of the screenplay with the short story is apparent.
Sequence B flashes back to New York, to late June 1929, with Victoria's voice from the end of Sequence A being heard over the new setting as the scene opens. Victoria tells us that her mother "hadn't been well, and now Daddy was taking a real vacation--retiring from the stock market for good" (36). Though Helen is alive here, we never do see her. While Charles and Victoria are awaiting Helen's arrival, they have a remnant of a conversation found in the short story in which Charles attempts to revive the relationship with his daughter, which had been lagging because of his preoccupation with business:
|VICTORIA||Here we go, Daddy|
|WALES||We certainly do. And I'm glad of this chance to
get to know you.|
(takes off his hat)
I'm Charles T. Wales, Sixteen and a half Wall Street.
I'm Victoria Wales, One ninety-five Park Avenue.
|They pause in their walk and shake hands.|
|WALES||Married or single?|
|VICTORIA||No, not married--single.|
|Their Red Cap is wheeling a truckload of their baggage past them.|
|WALES||(indicating the doll in her arms)|
But I see you have a child, Madam.
|Victoria looks at her doll, almost with surprise.|
|VICTORIA||Oh, that's just a habit.|
|Spotting the Red Cap she puts the doll on the truck with the other baggage.|
|VICTORIA||Actually, that's when I was a child. Lately, I've been reading the papers from cover to cover. I'm more interested in things like bulls and bears. (38-39)|
While Charles and Victoria continue waiting for Helen in order to board the steamer for France, Dwight Schuyler, a business partner of Wales, arrives to dissuade Charles's actions. Schuyler "feels strongly about Wales's defection" (42), and says to Charles, "The moral side doesn't seem to have occurred to you--obligation to your partners" (42). Schuyler goes on to say, "It's your talents we'll miss, Charles. That gift of the--divine guess. That's why we insured your life for a cool million" (43). Charles and Victoria then discover that Helen has already boarded the steamer, and proceed to board themselves.
We learn that the Wales do not conduct themselves like others on board; a stewardess states, "At least they are not drunk like the Americans in 3A--3B--3C" (49). Wales's dissipation does not begin until after his wife cannot be found on board, and a wild shriek is heard from the water, "which breaks down after a moment, into the cry of the gulls as they swoop in a great flock down toward the water" (64).
Pierre and Marion Petrie are waiting in the crowd as the steamer arrives at Le Havre, France. The description of Marion at this point is much like that of Marion in the short story:
Marion is an extremely pretty American woman of thirty-two who must have hoped for a better match. She is now in a state of great emotion--barely controlled. She is agitated almost to the breaking point by the news of her sister's suicide, which reached her last night in Paris. Always before this she has felt a secret jealousy of her sister, who has had great wealth and luxury. Now suddenly this has changed into a wild hatred of Charles Wales, whom she makes the scapegoat of the catastrophe. In a few hours she has fully convinced herself that her sister was the dearest thing in life to her." (65).
Charles Wales comes off the boat "a different man. He is like one in a dream. There is a stubble of beard on his face, his eyes are bloodshot as if he hadn't slept, and his mouth is slightly ajar in a sort of suspended horror. He walks with a slack, listless step--like a man who has passed through hell and is going to his execution" (68). Charles Wales has entered his period of dissipation even before stepping foot in France, a dissipation caused by Helen's suicide and the guilty recognition of his own role in it, which had placed business above all else, including family. The Charles Wales of the screenplay is in this way different from the Charlie Wales of the short story, whose dissipation came after leaving business and having an extended period of idleness in which he and Helen had reveled in the "vice and waste" of Paris (620/130).
Charles, in his confused state, even after recognizing Marion's feelings, asks her to take Victoria for awhile, and Victoria "looks with scarcely concealed dismay between her aunt and her father" (74). Charlie, in a Rolls-Royce, is driven off by his chauffeur to the Hotel Ritz.
Sequence C opens with a montage of newspapers that jumps the time ahead to July 20, 1929. The action begins at the Petrie apartment, and from Pierre Petrie we discover that "Dwight Schuyler, Charles's partner, has arrived in Paris" (79), and that Schuyler has been having continued success in the bull market. Schuyler stops at the Petrie apartment and tells the Petries that "old Charles is in pretty bad shape. He seems to have been sucking a bottle ever since the--" (84). Schuyler looks at Marion and Pierre closely, and it doesn't take "Schuyler long to realize that Marion is the more intelligent of the two and, also that Marion hates Charles Wales with deadly hatred" (84). Marion talks about putting Charles in a sanitarium to straighten him out, but Schuyler is reluctant about that. Schuyler here is clearly willing to let Charles's health slide so as to gain stronger control of the business himself. At this point also, Schuyler mentions possibly having the Petries obtain a guardianship of Victoria.
Victoria goes off with Schuyler to see her father at the Ritz Hotel. There she first meets Julia Burns, a twenty-six year old with "not a beautiful face, but distinctly a pretty one, with sometimes a certain sadness" (89). Julia becomes Charles's nurse. When Victoria sees her father, she "is naturally shocked" (94). "An overwhelming wave of pity goes over [Charles] as he realizes that she, too, has suffered this loss. For a moment it seems to him that perhaps their destinies should lie together now. ... He takes a step toward her, then the hope fades" (94). Charles then tells Schuyler to make sure Victoria is taken care of. The following day Schuyler has arranged for papers to be signed giving the Petries legal guardianship of Victoria. Charles, lying on the bed, "sleepy, half-drugged, very low," says, "Anything you decide. Anything" (104). Charles signs.
Sequence D opens with a montage showing the passage of the summer. The action begins with Mr. Petrie, Victoria, and Richard strolling down a Parisian street, with Petrie "dreaming of millionaires" (107). They stop upon reaching a brokerage house, which Petrie looks at "with awe and fascination" (108). Petrie decides to enter the brokerage house and, as fate (and Fitzgerald) had this day be October 29, 1929, "they [lose] everything in their pockets at one turn of the wheel" (110).
Schuyler has returned to Paris, and he stops to see Mr. Petrie, with the intention of gaining from him authority to reinvest the child's money. Petrie finally gives in to Schuyler and signs his rights away, hoping that this might help him "recoup his little loss of today" (118).
Meanwhile, Charles is effecting a recovery under the nurse Julia Burns, who states to Charles her reason for her "unprofessional" help in his recovery by not following the directions of the doctor: "I had Victoria to account to" (121). Victoria comes with Petrie to see Charles, and the scene in which she greets her father comes from the short story: "Oh, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Dads, Dads, Dads!" she exclaims as she "jumps up into his arms, struggling like a fish and pulls his head around by one ear and sets his cheek against hers" (123). Petrie "with honest happiness" states, "You are a new man, Charles. Dressed and all! I'm overwhelmed--bouleversé" (123). We find out Julia is planning to leave Charles this day, and plans to return to America the next week, and Charles now dismisses his doctor as well.
Charles and Victoria go to a tea shop together, reminiscent of Charlie and Honoria at Le Grand Vatel in the short story. In fact, the conversation here comes from that very scene:
|WALES||I'm glad you're doing so well at school.|
|VICTORIA||I'm third. Reeshard is only eighteenth.|
|WALES||You like Richard?|
|WALES||(trying to draw her out)|
And Aunt Marion and Uncle Pierre? Which do you like best?
Oh, Uncle Pierre, I guess.
She gets so excited.
(as if she had often thought of this)
Why don't I live with you? Because Mother's dead?
|WALES||But you're learning
And it would have been hard for me to take care of you.
|VICTORIA||But I don't need taking care of, any more than you do.|
Darling, do you ever think of your mother?
|WALES||I don't want you to ever forget her. Have you got a picture of her?|
|VICTORIA||Aunt Marion has.|
|WALES||She loved you very much.|
|VICTORIA||I loved her too.|
Daddy, I want to come to live with you.
|Sudden joy comes into Wales's face, but he controls it.|
|WALES||Aren't you happy?|
|VICTORIA||Yes, but I like you better than anybody--and you like me better than anybody, don't you--now that Mother's dead?|
|WALES||(this is a little difficult)|
Of course. Of course, I do. But you won't always like me best, honey. You'll grow up and meet somebody your own age and go marry him, and forget you ever had a father.
Yes, that's true. (128-130)
This scene of the screenplay, more than any other, because it keeps almost verbatim the original dialogue between Charlie and Honoria, retains the emotion and tone of the short story.
Like the short story too, Charles now returns to face Marion and lets her know that he intends to take back Victoria soon. Marion states, "My duty is entirely to Helen. I try to think what she would have wanted me to do," and she continues, "Frankly, from--that--day you haven't really existed for me, Charles. She was my sister" (132). Upon his departure, Charles straight out says, "I'm not going to lose Victoria's childhood, Marion--you can understand that" (133).
Charles returns to the Ritz Hotel and upon "remembering that the pleasant nurse is not waiting upstairs" decides to enter the Ritz bar. Paul, the head bartender, exclaims to Charles, "I haven't seen you in years" (134). While in the bar, Charles learns what has been happening to the market and that his firm has apparently been ruined. Schuyler now enters the bar, but upon seeing Charlie, slips back out. Wales now springs into action by bribing a porter for the exclusive use of a radio phone in order to get a connection to New York, and also having a bellboy trying to discover Schuyler whereabouts.
Victoria has sneaked down to the Ritz and enters her father's room, and waits patiently while Charles is trying to engineer some deals over the phone. Schuyler now shows up at Charles's hotel room as well. Schuyler, bearing the brunt of Charles's wrath, and trying to get him to do something to save the firm, lets Charles know that Victoria's money has been tied up in all this, too. In the midst of their argument, Schuyler once again mentions how Charles's life was insured for a million dollars because he was the brains of the business, not him. This time the "word million echoes in [Schuyler's] head" (151).
Schuyler leaves the room and goes to the Ritz bar, where Paul points out a bootlegger Dorini and two others; "Killers," Paul says, and Schuyler shows "sudden new interest" (153).
Back up at Charles's room, Julia Burns has returned, and Victoria is "overjoyed to see her" (154). Charles invites Julia to stay for dinner. Charles, realizing the extent of Schuyler's ruining of the firm, knows all his work this day has been for naught.
The action returns to the Ritz bar where Schuyler is shown sealing a deal with Dorini, and we see now the "YOUTH IN THE CLOSE-FITTING TOPCOAT, whom we should recognize from Sequence A" (157).
Back in Charles's room, Marion arrives with a lawyer to take back Victoria. Charles informs Marion that he plans to take Victoria with him to America the next day, which Marion immediately negates. Julia wisely intervenes, again for Victoria's sake, and the scene ends quietly with Victoria leaving with Marion. Charles won't leave for America without Victoria, and he recalls one person who may help him: Van Greff, in Switzerland.
Sequence E takes us to Switzerland; the flashback that began Sequence B is finally catching up to the action we first saw in Sequence A, with Victoria off to Switzerland as well. After Honoria locates her father's hotel in Hautemont, the Youth approaches her and asks, "Mr. Wales your father?" (166). Victoria affirms this, and he "drops a little behind her" (166). Wales, after exiting a meeting with Van Greff's secretary, see Victoria, who runs full speed toward him, and "Wales takes her in his arms" (167). Victoria mentions the Youth, but he has disappeared. Charles has a dinner meeting with Van Greff that evening, but, while waiting for him, the secretary comes to inform Charles that Van Greff has suddenly died. Charles, realizing that Van Greff was his last chance, determines not to let it spoil his evening with Victoria. He asks Victoria to dance to a song he had requested the orchestra to play, "I'm Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" (176).
As the pair head off to the dance floor, a "man and woman, both a little tight, come up to them" (177), in a scene that recalls Duncan and Lorraine's appearance at Le Grand Vatel in the short story. Wales wards them off, and "dances off with Victoria" (178). Their conversation during their dance is in realization that the night must end, and that they will soon be apart again:
Will it be that I don't see you?
|WALES||Not if I can help it.|
|VICTORIA||(sensitive to his tone)|
Well, if you can't we've been to this ball together, haven't we? And we went to tea that afternoon in Paris. And the two days on the ship, do you remember the games we played? I mean, I can make up a whole day with you now--for the morning I could think we were playing games and talking like we did on the ship, and for the afternoon I can remember how that ice cream tasted with the whip cream on it, and for the evening--oh, how we got away from the parasites--and this dress. So that makes a whole day, doesn't it, Daddy? So I could just think of it, over and over. (180-181)
The touching portrayal of Victoria's sensitivity shows here Fitzgerald's deftness at writing dialogue and his ability at revealing character from that dialogue.
After leaving the ballroom, Charles is informed that he has a call from Mrs. Marion Petrie. While continuing on, Victoria tells Charles that she "saw Mr. Schuyler in the station in Paris" and continues "He's my parasite. The day he made Uncle Pierre sign that paper, he offered me ice cream--" (182). Charles realizes the import of this, and after further questions of Victoria states, "By heaven, that is conspiracy. And now I've got Mr. Schuyler in my pocket!" (183), not to mention the Petries, from whom he now easily regains custody of Victoria.
Leaving Victoria in her bedroom, Charles returns to his own room, where a further surprise awaits him. The Youth steps out of a shadow with gun in hand. The Youth backs Charles against the window, and the Youth offers him the choice of jumping or being shot. Suddenly the phone rings, startling the Youth, and in that split second Wales strikes him, knocking him out. Wales picks up the gun from the floor.
Victoria is on the phone: "I just wanted to know if I can keep the dress. I don't want to be exravagant, now we're out of Wall Street" (185). Wales tenderly responds, "Ah, you can keep it, darling" (185).
"Far below, the orchestra has begun to play the tune he and Victoria danced to. Wales speaks with quiet confidence, 'Ah, there's a lot to live for' " (186).
With this ending, Fitzgerald, in a way, answers the question raised in his short story "Babylon Revisited": Yes, Charlie Wales would regain his Honoria.
Evaluations of the script in the main have been overly harsh, mostly because critics are intent on comparing it to the short story, which is like, if you will, comparing apples and oranges. The screenplay is not the short story, to be sure, but perhaps we shouldn't expect it to be. The screenplay is really a new story of its own, and in that respect, I think, Fitzgerald created an intriguing, if not masterful, plot, with characterizations and dialogue to match.
Lester Cowan never produced the screenplay he had commissioned. When attempts to lure Shirley Temple to play Victoria failed, the script fell by the wayside. A decade later Cowan sold the rights to "Babylon Revisited" "to MGM for a reported price of $100,000" (Dardis 72), but Jeffrey Meyers, the latest biographer of Fitzgerald, put the price at forty thousand dollars (317). The story was produced as the 1954 film The Last Time I Saw Paris. The director of the film was Richard Brooks. The screenwriters were Julius and Philip Epstein, who had already earned Oscars for their work on Casablanca. The star-studded cast included Elizabeth Taylor as Helen, Van Johnson as Charles Wills, Walter Pidgeon as James Ellswirth (Helen's father), Donna Reed as Marion, Eva Gabor as Lorraine Quarl, and Roger Moore as Paul (a flirtation of Helen's). Sandra Descher played the role of Vicki (Charlie and Helen's daughter).
Though one would not recognize Fitzgerald's own screenplay for "Babylon Revisited" in this production, elements of his short story make a return in The Last Time I Saw Paris, with the life that Charlie and Helen fell into in Paris and the circumstances of Helen's death being revived. The closing scenes particularly are tied most closely to the short story, with Charlie having a touching conversation with his daughter and then returning to Marion to ask for custody of his daughter. Although major differences exist, The Last Time I Saw Paris resembles Fitzgerald's short story more than Fitzgerald's own screenplay did. One change made Charlie's occupation in the film a writer, with the "deterioration of Charlie's career as a writer [causing] him increasingly to take refuge in the bottle" (Phillips 59), which ties Charlie a little bit more closely to Fitzgerald himself. Most notably, the time frame is shifted to post-World War II. What makes The Last Time I Saw Paris most like Fitzgerald's screenplay is the employment of a lengthy flashback to let us in on all that had previously transpired, and, in the end, Charlie regains his daughter, with Marion telling Charlie, "I don't think Helen would have wanted you to be alone."
Reviews of the movie were, again, overly harsh, mostly because critics insisted on comparing The Last Time I Saw Paris with "Babylon Revisited," rather than as a distinct work of its own. The thing noticeably lost from the short story in the film was the tie "Babylon Revisited" had thematically to its era. (Excerpts from reviews of the film are found in the bibliography section of this chapter.)
The revised film script of "Babylon Revisited" was Fitzgerald's last completed work during his lifetime (Stewart 81), and perhaps it is fitting that the story that was so intensely personal for him, that reflected so much of his own life and times, was there for him at the end, to give him what is considered, wanting as it is, his crowning achievement in Hollywood.
Dardis, Tom. Some Time in the Sun. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
Donaldson, Scott. Fool for Love: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Babylon Revisited." The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989.
----------. Babylon Revisited: The Screenplay. Introduction by Budd Schulberg. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1993.
----------. Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Eds. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Margaret M. Duggan. New York: Random House, 1980.
----------. The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Andrew Turnbull. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.
Latham, Aaron. Crazy Sundays: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood. New York: The Viking Press, 1971.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.
Phillips, Gene D. Fiction, Film, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986.
Stewart, Lawrence D. "Fitzgerald's Film Scripts of 'Babylon Revisited.' " Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 3 (1971): 81-104.
The following bibliography is not intended to be inclusive of Fitzgerald's Hollywood experiences and his writings based on those experiences; rather the bibliography is centered around Fitzgerald's screenplay based on his short story "Babylon Revisited." The various writings, biographies, and critical studies listed have been selected with that in mind; certainly other works exist concerning Fitzgerald's Hollywood years.
Other bibliographies found in this study are listed below:
Annotated Bibliography - Click here for a bibliography concerning the
biographical origins of "Babylon Revisited."
Chapter 2 Annotated Bibliography - Click here for a bibliography concerning the texts and textual studies of "Babylon Revisited."
Chapter 3 Annotated Bibliography - Click here for a bibliography concerning the popular and critical reception of "Babylon Revisited."
Babylon Revisited: The Screenplay. Introduction by Budd Schulberg. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1993.
In the introduction, Budd Sculberg, a screenwriter and novelist himself, explains how he met Fitzgerald in 1939 when Fitzgerald was assigned to work with him on the Dartmouth Winter Carnival movie Schulberg was trying to put together. More than fifty years later, Schulberg came across a copy of the manuscript for the screenplay of "Babylon Revisited" in a carton marked "other people's manuscripts," and, as a result of Schulberg's efforts, the screenplay was published for the first time.
On Fitzgerald's own copy of the screenplay, the title had been changed to Cosmopolitan. Elements of the original short story remained in the screenplay, but the switch to the silver screen necessitated many changes and additions. Fitzgerald's screenplay was never produced, but the story was eventually transformed into the 1954 film The Last Time I Saw Paris.
The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald
The abbreviated titles at left are used for the itemizing of letters found immediately below.
|Correspondence||Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Eds. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Margaret M. Duggan. New York: Random House, 1980.|
|Scott/Max||Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence. Eds. John Kuehl and Jackson R. Bryer. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.|
|Life in Letters||F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.|
|Letters||The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Andrew Turnbull. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.|
|Crack-Up||"Letters to Friends" and "Letters to Frances Scott Fitzgerald." The Crack-Up. Ed. Edmund Wilson. New York: New Directions Paperbook, 1956. First published in 1945.|
|To His Daughter||Scott Fitzgerald: Letters to His Daughter. Ed. Andrew Turnbull. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965.|
The only published volume of Fitzgerald's letters not included here is As Ever, Scott Fitz--: Letters Between F. Scott Fitzgerald and His Literary Agent Harold Ober, 1919-1940. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1972. No letters found in this volume are applicable to the following itemization.
Letters with ties to the Screenplay of "Babylon
Because some letters are printed in more than one volume, individual letters are referenced below, chronologically, followed by the volumes in which they appear. Letters with purely biographical or textual ties to "Babylon Revisited," are dealt with in their appropriate chapters.
|Date||Recipient||Tie to "Babylon Revisited"||Publication|
|Jan. 25, 1940||Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald||Sold "Babylon"; magnificent story||Letters 63-64|
To His Daughter 103
|Feb. 21, 1940||Maxwell Perkins||Release on "Babylon"; to receive $800+, very little||Letters 287|
|Mar. 8, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Still in consultation on screenplay||Correspondence 588-589|
|Mar. 8, 1940||Mrs. A. D. Sayre||May get job next week on own||Correspondence 587-588|
|Mar. 18, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Negotiations still in course||Letters 65-66|
To His Daughter 107-108
|Mar. 26, 1940||Dr. Robert S. Carroll||Almost sure of signing picture this week; will send substantial check||Correspondence 591|
|Mar. 27, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||To work at lousy salary||Letters 67|
To His Daughter 109
|Apr. 1940||Mrs. A. D. Sayre||Work suitable to my health; should be pleasant; badly paid||Correspondence 593-594|
|Apr. 1, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Expect to work on picture next Monday||Correspondence 592|
|Apr. 11, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Conditions of work||Letters 68-69|
To His Daughter 110-112
Life in Letters 439-441
|Apr. 11, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||"Speculation" job; should be fun||Letters 114-115|
Life in Letters 441-442
|Apr. 27, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Rotten salary but fun||Letters 70-71|
To His Daughter 114-115
|May 4, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||About finished a swell flicker piece||Letters 71-72|
To His Daughter 116-117
|May 7, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Movie progresses; damn good||Letters 72-73|
To His Daughter 118-119
|May 11, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Really brilliant continuity; last life line Hollywood has thrown me: strong life line; a piece of my own||Letters 116-117|
|May 15, 1940||Bill Dozier||Matter of job running over money allotted to it; pretty fine continuity; sweated over it, but a pleasant sweat; more fun than ever in pictures||Correspondence 596|
|May 18, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Fun to work on something I like; a promised bonus||Letters 117-118|
Life in Letters 443-444
|May 20, 1940||Maxwell Perkins||In last week of eight week movie job; will receive $2300; it was something; my own picture||Letters 287-289|
|May 22, 1940||F. Scott Fitzgerald from Maxwell Perkins||Must be mighty interesting, a happy event, to work on own story||Scott/Max 262|
|May 28, 1940||Lester Cowan||Picture fun to write; discussion of some details, a young actress, Mary Todd, an actor for "Pierre," title of screenplay||Correspondence 599-560|
Life in Letters 446, 448
|Summer 1940||Gerald and Sara Murphy||Work for $2000 and share of profits||Letters 428-429|
Life in Letters 458-459
|June 6, 1940||Maxwell Perkins||Finished "Babylon"; may do revise next week||Scott/Max 263-264|
|June 7, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Finished the picture; back to work?||Letters 76-78|
To His Daughter 123-126
Life in Letters 448-450
|June 14, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Lot depends on producer continuing immediately||Letters 119|
Life in Letters 452
|June 15, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Picure is going to be done; not yet||Letters 80-81|
To His Daughter 130-131
Life in Letters 453-454
|June 20, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Producer trying to sell screenplay to Shirley Temple||Letters 81-83|
To His Daughter 132-134
|June 26, 1940||Lester Cowan||Discusses details and revisions of screenplay, opinion of S. Temple||Letters 601-602|
|July 12, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Spent yesterday with Shirley Temple and her mother||Letters 84|
To His Daughter 136-137
|July 12, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Spent silly day with the Temples; Temples undecided about picture||Letters 121|
|July 20, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Ten days to go on Temple picture||Letters 121-122|
|July 29, 1940||Scottie Fitzgerald||Still on Temple picture; job has given me part of money for your tuition||Letters 86-87|
To His Daughter 140-141
Life in Letters 456-457
|July 29, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Discussion of S. Temple; recount of circumstances of "Babylon": bought for $900; Cowan hired me to do script on percentage basis; gave me few hundred a week to do quick script; been good except for health angle.||Correspondence 602-603|
Life in Letters 456
|Aug. 15, 1940||Maxwell Perkins||Finished the job for S. Temple; worked last weeks without pay on a gamble||Scott/Max 264-265|
|Aug. 23, 1940||Garson Kanin||My spirits raised by pleasant things you said about my script||Correspondence 604|
|Aug. 24, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Good Temple script behind me||Letters 122|
|Aug. 1940||Lester Cowan||Felt you were discouraged about venture; rather see new people in picture than Gable and Temple; bigger and better thing for you||Correspondence 605|
Life in Letters 459
|Sept. 14, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Producer can't find big star to work with Temple||Letters 123-124|
Life in Letters 464
|Sept. 21, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Temple script looking up again; my great hope for real status here||Letters 124-125|
|Sept. 28, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Shirley Temple will be grown before her mother meets terms||Letters 124-125|
|Sept. 28, 1940||Lester Cowan||S. Temple not appropriate for part, she would be too old by time the picture would be done||Correspondence 608|
|Oct. 11, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||If I get credit on either of last efforts, things will never be so black as year ago||Letters 126-127|
|Oct. 14, 1940||Maxwell Perkins||Wish to work on Last Tycoon full-time; possible if producer sells S. Temple story for decent sum||Scott/Max 266-267|
|Oct. 19, 1940||Zelda Fitzgerald||Be great relaxation if Temple decides to do it||Letters 127|
Life in Letters 467
Some notes for biographical and critical studies listed in the bibliographies of Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 are repeated here for their input to Fitzgerald in Hollywood.
A[lpert], H[ollis]. "Hollywood Daze." American Film 1 (March 1976): 13.
Brief treatment of Fitzgerald's screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited."
Baker, Carlos. "When the Story Ends: 'Babylon Revisited.' " The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism. Ed. Jackson R. Bryer. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. 269-277. Screenplay: 274-276.
Baker's study centers on the following observation: "Apart from the pleasure [working on the screenplay] gave [Fitzgerald], the metamorphosis of 'Babylon Revisited' from story to filmscript opened vistas into his past that enabled him to comprehend, with characteristic honesty but also with a sinking heart, the shape his career had taken over the past twenty-five years" (275).
Bruccoli, Matthew J., Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, and Joan P. Kerr, eds. "Hollywood and Aftermath (1937-1948)." The Romantic Egoists: A Pictorial Autobiography from the Scrapbooks and Albums of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974. 216-239.
Contains facsimile of Fitzgerald's October 19, 1940, letter to Zelda (225).
Bruccoli, Matthew J. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. Screenplay: 484-486.
"Cosmopolitan has the reputation of being Fitzgerald's best screenplay. It is not a close adaptation ... for Fitzgerald invented a new plot which greatly enlarged the role of the child, Honoria" (485). "Cosmopolitan again demonstrates that he approached movies as a genre that required standards different from those of literature" (486).
Canby, Vincent. "They've Turned Gatsby to Goo." New York Times 31 March 1974, sec. 2: 1, 3.
This review of the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby contains passing mention of "Babylon Revisited" and its encasement "in a concrete overcoat of a film called The Last Time I Saw Paris" (1).
Cerf, Bennett. "Trade Winds." Saturday Review of Literature 30 (16 August 1947): 4-5.
Cerf recounts James Thurber's now oft-told tale of how Lester Cowan had been looking for someone to do a rewrite of Fitzgerald's screenplay of "Babylon Revisited," and one writer who read the script said, "This is the most perfect motion-picture scenario I ever read. I don't see why you want to revise it." To which Cowan responded, "You're absolutely right. I'll pay you two thousand dollars a week to stay out here and keep me from changing one word of it" (4).
Cowley, Malcolm. "Third Act and Epilogue." F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work. Ed. Alfred Kazin. Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1951. 146-153. Cowley's essay first appeared in The New Yorker on June 30, 1945, but the end of the article was revised before appearing in this volume. Cowley's revised essay also appeared in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Arthur Mizener. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. 64-69.
Brief mention of Fitzgerald working on a screenplay based on his story "Babylon Revisited" (152-153).
Dardis, Tom. "F. Scott Fitzgerald: What Do You Do When There's Nothing to Do?" Some Time in the Sun. New York: Penguin Books, 1981. 17-77. Screenplay: 69-73.
In this clear and concise look at Fitzgerald's Hollywood years, Dardis puzzles over "why either Cowan or Fitzgerald ever thought a story like 'Babylon Revisited' could be transformed into a feature-length film script. Fitzgerald did just this, but at the cost of losing whatever feeling his story originally possessed, creating in its stead a rather cheap and glossy melodrama, filled with embezzlers, hired assassins, last-minute rescues, and kindred types of outlandish villainy in high places. He is perhaps unique among modern writers whose work has been 'savaged' by Hollywood in that he did it all by himself in cold blood and while quite sober" (70).
----------. "Fitzgerald: 'Bluer Skies Somewhere.' " The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1989. 97-153.
Very brief mention of Fitzgerald working on his screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited" (145).
Dixon, Wheeler Winston. The Cinematic Vision of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1986. Screenplay: 19, 65-66.
Dixon's look at the screenplay involves the unique point-of-view camera shots that Fitzgerald incorporated into the script: "Fitzgerald meant literally that approximately half of the shots were to be filmed from the physical perspective of Victoria, the child lead. The other half were to be taken from the customary standpoint of the ideal spectator" (65).
Donaldson, Scott. Fool for Love: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989. First published in 1983.
Passing mention by Donaldson indicates only that the money earned from working on the "Babylon Revisited" screenplay bought Fitzgerald time to work on his novel The Last Tycoon (208).
Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1963. Screenplay: 147-148.
Brief study calls Cosmopolitan "a very interesting revision of the original story" (148).
Fahey, William A. F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Dream. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1973. Screenplay: 159-160.
Fahey's dim view of the screenplay states, "It is difficult to see how anyone could describe Cosmopolitan ... as a perfect script. Expanded with extraneous detail to make it into a full-length film, it is cluttered with a gangster sub-plot and a sentimental love story between Charlie Wales and a nurse. The result is that the center of the original story--the relationship between Charles and his daughter--is submerged beneath the kind of shoddy sensationalism that Stahr complains about to Boxley in The Last Tycoon" (160).
Gallo, Rose Adrienne. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1978. Screenplay: 137-138.
Brief synopsis of the circumstances surrounding the screenplay. Gallo states, "Cosmopolitan was an excellent screenplay" (138).
Gessner, Robert. The Moving Image: A Guide to Cinematic Literacy. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1968. Screenplay: 240-248.
Comparing "Babylon Revisited" to the screenplay, Gessner notes the shift in emphasis from Charlie in the story to Victoria (the screenplay name for Honoria) in the script, and he states, "The shift is disastrous" (243). The screenplay "is a wholly different story" (243). "Aside from the sentimentality, done so deliberately by an ill author that it appears an act of Hollywood desperation, Cosmopolitan is an interesting screenplay because of its excessive scene climaxes. The slight drama is overburdened with narrative ideas not necessary for the advancement of the conflict. It is as though Fitzgerald, who died shortly after completing this second draft, were issuing his final testament" (247-248).
Graham, Sheilah, and Gerold Frank. Beloved Infidel. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1958. Republished in 1989 for Quality Paperback Book Club.
Sheilah Graham, Fitzgerald's lover in his last years in Hollywood, recounts those years in this memoir. Fitzgerald's screenplay work on "Babylon Revisited" is briefly mentioned on pages 309 and 314.
Graham, Sheilah. College of One. New York: The Viking Press, 1967. Screenplay: 138.
Fitzgerald spent much time literally as "teacher" to Graham, and this book recounts that education, and includes a facsimile of the curriculum in an appendix. Graham states that income from working on the "Babylon Revisited" screenplay gave Fitzgerald "time for his book [The Last Tycoon] and for my education" (138).
----------. Hollywood Revisited: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.
In this volume Graham briefly recounts circumstances surrounding the film version of "Babylon Revisited" (31).
----------. The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald: Thirty-five Years Later. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1976. Screenplay: 153, 154-155, 200.
Graham recalls that with "Lester's daily phone calls that went on for hours and hours, Scott became exhausted. He dreaded the ring of the telephone which he must answer" (154). Graham also recalls that, when tentative plans had Cary Grant playing Charlie Wales (whose character was based on Fitzgerald himself), "Scott strutted, mimicking the star's British accent" and saying, "Baby, can't you see me as the gorgeous Cary Grant?" (154-155).
Hamilton, Ian. Writers in Hollywood: 1915-1951. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1990.
In passing mention, Hamilton quotes Nunnaly Johnson as saying that Fitzgerald "was immensely proud of a script he did from his short story 'Babylon Revisited,' one of the very best he or any other American short story writer ever wrote, but I read it a few years ago and to me it is unusable. To me he managed to destroy every vestige of all the fineness in his own story. He had padded it out with junk and nonsense and corn to an unbelievable extent" (189).
Kuehl, John. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991. Screenplay: 89.
General synopsis of circumstances surrounding Fitzgerald's work on screenplay. Despite the differences between the short story and the screenplay, "Cosmopolitan is generally considered the best Fitzgerald scenario" (89).
Latham, Aaron. Crazy Sundays: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood. New York: The Viking Press, 1971. Screenplay: 24, 238-240, 245-258.
Latham recounts Fitzgerald's initial encounters with Lester Cowan, the independent film producer, which led to Cowan's purchasing the rights to "Babylon Revisited" (238-240). Latham, in contrasting the screenplay and the story, states that the screenplay "is actually the story of how the father comes to discover his need for that daughter" (251). "Cosmopolitan draws its moral richness and complexity from the two points of view, child and adult, and yet the action in the closing two scenes has to do with erasing the gap between the father and daughter so finely portrayed through most of the story" (251). "The most important lesson that Wales learns from his daughter is that preserving what is left is more important than mourning what has already been lost. Incidentally, Fitzgerald seems to have been trying to teach himself the same lesson" (252). Latham also compares the screenplay "Babylon Revisited" with The Last Tycoon (253-254). Latham ends his study with an account of how the screenplay eventually became the film The Last Time I Saw Paris (257-258).
Le Vot, André. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. Trans. William Byron. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1983. Screenplay: 347-348.
Le Vot gives a general account of the circumstances of Fitzgerald's work on the screenplay, but notes that "the money Cowan paid him was a godsend that kept him going all spring" (348), and observes that in "a curious way his screenplay echoed the novel [The Last Tycoon] it had temporarily interrupted" (348).
Margolies, Alan. "F. Scott Fitzgerald's Work in the Film Studios." Princeton University Library Chronicle 32 (Winter 1971): 81-110. Screenplay: 102-106.
Magolies states that Cosmopolitan "was a trite melodrama that included suicide, embezzlement, a love affair between Charles Wales and his nurse, and an attempted murder. The scant amount of dialogue retained from the short story only serves to remind the reader how much better the original was" (102).
Mayfield, Sara. Exiles from Paradise: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1974. First published by New York: Delacorte Press, 1971. Screenplay: 272.
Mayfield briefly covers the circumstances surrounding Fitzgerald's work on the screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited."
Mellow, James R. Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984. Screenplay: 481.
Mellow's brief treatment includes his observation that in Fitzgerald's "eagerness to succeed, he messed up what was a fine and sensitive story with Hollywood gimmickry, including the same kind of murder plot between business associates that he was contemplating for The Last Tycoon, but that had nothing to do with his original story" (481).
Meyers, Jeffrey. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994. Screenplay: 316-317.
Meyers briefly treats the circumstances surrounding Fitzgerald's work on the screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited."
Milford, Nancy. Zelda: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.
Very brief passing mention of work on screenplay in which Milford notes how, if "Babylon Revisited" were produced, "he might have enough money to send [Zelda] to the shore" (160).
Mizener, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1951. Screenplay: 289-291 Revised edition, 1965. Screenplay: 326-327.
Mizener recounts the general circumstances surrounding Fitzgerald's work on the screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited."
Phillips, Gene D. Fiction, Film, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1986. Screenplay: 52-61.
Phillips divides his study into three areas: 1. " 'Babylon Revisited': The Short Story"; 2. " 'Babylon Revisited': Fitzgerald's Scenario" and 3. "The Last Time I Saw Paris: The Film." Phillips states that "the script was not nearly as good as Fitzgerald thought--or hoped--it would be" (56). Phillips evaluation of The Last Time I Saw Paris is that it "turned out to be a better picture than Cosmopolitan could ever have been" (60-61).
Piper, Henry Dan. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Critical Portrait. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965. Screenplay: 255-256, 258.
Brief look at the "Babylon Revisited" screenplay by Piper includes his evaluation that it "was not especially good. In his [Fitzgerald's] attempt to stretch an excellent magazine story into a ninety-minute film, he cheapened and padded it almost beyond recognition" (258).
Ring, Frances Kroll. Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitgerald. Creative Arts, 1980.
Frances Kroll, Fitzgerald's secretary during his last two years, wrote this memoir which covers the time in which he worked on his screenplay of "Babylon Revisited."
Sklar, Robert. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoön. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Passing mention of Fitzgerald working on the screenplay version of "Babylon Revisited" (332).
Stewart, Lawrence D. "Fitzgerald's Film Scripts of 'Babylon Revisited.' " Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual 3 (1971): 81-104.
Stewart presents a thorough study of the first version of the screenplay, which was titled "HONORIA: A Screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald--based on his Saturday Evening Post story--'Babylon Revisited.' First draft May 29, 1940" (83); after slight revisions, Fitzgerald altered the title page to "BABYLON REVISITED: A Screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald--based on his Saturday Evening Post story of the same name. Revised, July 30th 1940" (83); and the second version, titled " 'Cosmopolitan' A Screenplay by F. Scott Fitzgerald--based on his Saturday Evening Post story 'Babylon Revisited' 2nd Draft Revised August 12, 1940" (94). Stewart concludes that the "weakness of the film scripts is their failure to work with the number of parallel balances which enrich the story where the conflict of money and having Honoria is a consistent theme" (101) and that "the older Fitzgerald lacked the ability to see dualistically, there is little wonder that the film script of his famous short story should reveal all the myopia which characterized his later work" (102-103).
Turnbull, Andrew. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962. Screenplay: 316, 317.
In passing mention of Fitzgerald's work on the screenplay, Turnbull notes how "Fitzgerald exulted in the work. Not only was 'Babylon Revisited' a favorite among his stories, it was about a man who gets a second chance. It was also about Scottie, one place where he felt he hadn't failed" (316).
Reviews of The Last Time I Saw Paris
These notes are collated from Jackson R. Bryer's 1967 The Critical Reputation of F. Scott Fitzgerald and its 1984 Supplement One through 1981 (full bibliographical notes are found in Chapter 3). Annotations are my work, except for Taylor's review, which I have not seen.
"Cinema: The New Pictures." Time 64 (22 November 1954): 102, 104-105.
"Aside from its length, the script ... is a fairly clever one. The verbal sparks fly often. ... With better than her usual lines to speak, Actress Taylor sometimes manages to speak them as if she knew what they meant. And Van Johnson gives everything he has--his emotional range gets steadily wider--to a portrayal that is obviously intended to encompass Fitzgerald himself. But all these excellent efforts are lost in the general effort to bring the '20s up to date--an attempt about as sensible in 1954 as mixing bathtub gin" (104).
Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: The Last Time I Saw Paris: Capitol's Film Inspired by Fitzgerald Story." New York Times 19 November 1954: 20.
"Mr. Fitzgerald's cryptic story ... has excited the picture-makers to an orgy of turning up the past and constructing a whole lurid flashback on the loving and lushing of a man and his wife before she died. Where Fitzgerald did it in a few words--in a few subtle phrases that evoked a reckless era of golden dissipation toward the end of the Twenties' boom--Richard Brooks, who directed this picture after polishing up an Epstein-brothers script, has done it in a nigh two-hour assembly of bistro balderdash and lush, romantic scenes. ... The story is trite. The motivations are thin. The writing is gloss and pedestrian. The acting is pretty much forced."
Freeman, Marilla Waite. "New Films from Books." Library Journal 79 (15 December 1954): 2438.
"With the aid of Elliot Paul's more literal title, and Jerome Kern's nostalgic theme song, Scott Fitzgerald's poignant 'Babylon Revisited,' of the twenties, is here largely transmuted into a colorful romantic screen drama of the American expatriates of the forties. The chief gift of this segment of the film seems the discovery of Elizabeth Taylor ... as a real actress, capable of expressing genuine feeling. ... One wonders how Scott Fitzgerald would have viewed the substitution of a happier ending for the sad inconclusiveness of his own finale. Yet with such mounting emotion does Van Johnson portray the suspense of the tortured father that we too are moved, and glad for once to accept the script writers' easement.
Hartung, Philip T. "The Screen: Parasites in Paris Sites." Commonweal 61 (26 November 1954): 223-224.
"The makers of The Last Time I Saw Paris saw fit to move the time forward some twenty years; and a long, too long flashback to V-E Day and the post-war period in Paris tells what happened to this man and his wife in those giddy hard-drinking let's-live-fast-and-furiously days. Although the film gets a little tiresome as it establishes over and over again how irresponsibly gay these people were during the post-war days--especially the wife and her playboy father (nicely played by Walter Pidgeon)--the picture is worth staying with; it becomes more and more engrossing as Director Richard Brooks builds suspense in the final third when the characters really get down to the business of acting out their pathetic drama. Van Johnson gives a moving performance. ... Elizabeth Taylor ... makes the wife believable, if not entirely understandable. And Donna Reed is excellent as the sister who carries a secret yen for Van through the years and is now intent on making him suffer for his indiscretions. Hers is the most interesting role in the film and I'm sorry it was not developed more fully" (223-224).
McCarten, John. "The Current Cinema: Muddled Fitzgerald." New Yorker 30 (4 December 1954): 145.
"Richard Brooks, and the adapters, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein ... have reduced Fitzgerald's tale to lachrymose shambles. ... Here there is no incisive contrast between the gaudy twenties and the sombre thirties; instead, we are confronted with a pair of cutups having a wild time after the Second World War, and their gaiety ... is about as effervescent as molasses."
"New Films." Newsweek 44 (22 November 1954): 106-107.
"Elizabeth Taylor is a limpid beauty with limited facial expressions who has been caught in the movie corruption of some very good literature. ... Fitzgerald's delicacy has been turned into a long soap-operatic flashback into the past of the young parents. ... Fitzgerald's tone of sad irresolution is sacrificed for a melting happy ending. Director Richard Brooks' picture has one pleasing surprise: Eva Gabor in a bang-up performance as a flashy worldling à la Gabor" (106-107).
O'Hara, John. "Appointment with O'Hara." Collier's 125 (7 January 1955): 12-13.
"For maybe eighteen of the last twenty minutes of the film The Last Time I Saw Paris you are given a motion picture treatment of 'Babylon Revisited,' the F. Scott Fitzgerald story on which the film is based. By that time you have forgotten, temporarily, the small credit Fitzgerald is accorded at the beginning of the picture. (But of course Fitzgerald no longer cares. It is only the people who cared about Fitzgerald who are likely to care now.) ... They change the time of the original story ... to circa and post-World War II, gaining, so far as I could determine, nothing except the right to include a few more recent stock shots. ... There are some permissible postcard views of Paris and some rather candid-camera views of Miss Taylor, who you could see must have been finding the éclairs and napoleons irresistible. The usually irresistible Donna Reed has been made up to resemble a mythical sister of Miss Taylor, thereby sacrificing Miss Reed's unique attractiveness. I liked Miss Gabor as an overmarried member of the international set, but I like her anyway. In my set she is almost always referred to as the nice Gabor" (12).
Rogow, Lee. "SR Goes to the Movies: Three from the Library." Saturday Review 37 (20 November 1954): 31.
"Richard Brooks, who directed and worked on the screenplay of The Last Time I Saw Paris, had better be careful next time he walks past his bookcase, or the portable F. Scott Fitzgerald will fall out and hit him on the head. ... There is no reason why 'Babylon Revisited' should not have suffered a transmogrification in film if something serviceable had emerged. Nothing serviceable has. ... These are not figures of tragedy, they are just a couple of attractive displaced kids who discover that love isn't enough to keep them from going wrong. Whether or not you have read the Fitzgerald story, you will find this new orchestration strangely flat. ... There is a harsh rule that applies to the use of sure-fire scenes like the reuniting of a father and his daughter. Because we are human we cannot fail to respond to such moments, but unless a work has given us our due in drama up to that moment we will hate it for our tears."
Taylor, Brian. Review of The Last Time I Saw Paris. Films and Filming 1 (February 1955): 20.
"Review which notes that this film 'illustrates just how difficult an author he is to translate successfully to the screen' " (Bryer Supplement One 118).
Walsh, Moira. "Films." America 92 (4 December 1954): 284-285.
"The Last Time I Saw Paris is a very long and lugubrious movie based on a very short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald taken out of its context. ... As a result it loses the universal connotations of Fitzgerald's chronicling of the Lost Generation and becomes instead merely the record of the irrational behavior of a couple of individuals.
... By way of box-office insurance, however, the picture does have the title song, a handsome Technicolor production, and a high-powered supporting cast (Walter Pidgeon, Donna Reed, et al" (285).
Chapter 4: "Babylon Revisited" and Hollywood: An Overview and Bibliography
© 1995, 1998-2000
F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited":
A Long Expostulation and Explanation:
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