The Last Tycoon is Fitzgerald’s brilliant unfinished novel. It would have been his greatest and most mature piece of fiction. Even unfinished, it is a fascinating read. His friend from Princeton, Editor Edmond Wilson, edited the published version and wrote the introduction.
The story focuses on the last days of Monroe Stayre, the brilliant studio executive, who understands how to make a popular blockbuster, but also how to make quality movies that he knew would lose money. Fitzgerald based this character on Irving Thalberg the boy-genius film producer. This is an insider view of Hollywood in the 1940s.
The Last Tycoon is told through the eyes of Monroe’s rival studio executive’s daugher, Cecelia, a honest modern girl with a satirical eye. The core of the story is Monroe falling in love with the mysterious Kathleen, who immediately reminds him of his dead wife. The haunting quality echoes Scott’s lost love and disintegration of Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda. As in more of Fitzgerald’s work, Zelda becomes the subject and emotional backstory of his writing.
The romanticism of creating a perfect world in Tender is the Night or The Great Gatsby is replaced by a darker and starker vision. There is a plot with a Hollywood ending combined with his Scott’s artistry. But we’ll never know what this book could have been if Fitzgerald had lived another six months. What it is a piece of work that could have been better than The Great Gatsby.
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