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The Love of the Last Tycoon

The Love of The Last Tycoon: A Western is an unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, compiled and published posthumously.

Plot introduction

The novel centers on the life of film executive Monroe Stahr in Hollywood in the 1930s. Stahr is modelled on the life of film executive Irving Thalberg, though only in ideas and ambitions, not in actual life events. The notes for the novel were collected and edited by the literary critic Edmund Wilson, who was a close friend of Fitzgerald, and the unfinished novel was published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon.

Explanation of the novel's title

The Love of the Last Tycoon was originally published as The Last Tycoon, though there is now critical agreement that Fitzgerald intended the former as the title. It wasn't until the 1993 publication, as part of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, that the work first appeared as The Love of the Last Tycoon. According to Bruccoli, Fitzgerald wanted the title to "sound like a movie title and completely disguise the tragic-heroic content of the book".

Plot summary

The narrative begins with Cecelia Brady, Wylie White, and Mr. Schwartze on a plane headed toward Hollywood. At first, the men do not know that Cecelia is the daughter of a famous producer. She is ignored until the realization is made, at which point they become eager for conversation. The plane makes an emergency landing in Nashville due to a storm, leading the three to take off on an adventure to The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, which is closed when they arrive. Cecelia and Wylie have grown close by this time and sit talking in front of the house but Mr. Schwartze goes off on a hunt for a way inside. By the time he finds his way back to the others he has fallen and hit his head. Soon it is time to go to the plane, but he wishes to stay behind, where he kills himself.

Monroe Stahr makes his first appearance on the plane as Mr. Smith, whom Cecelia mistakes for the co-pilot. He reappears back on the plane talking to Wylie about a letter given to him by Mr. Schwartze. This is the first glimpse of the conspiracy going on with Monroe Stahr in the movie industry and of Cecelia’s infatuation with him.

In Hollywood there is a large earthquake that occurs as Cecelia goes to collect Pat Brady, her father, who is late for his birthday party. She walks into his office as he and Jaques La Borwitz are discussing Stahr. They set off in search of Stahr. Stahr believes the earthquake to have been part of a dream, continuing to do so until he hears reports of flooding all over the studio. Going to check out the flood they find two women on a large head depicting Siva floating in the middle of the water. The men are at first angry, but Stahr becomes awe-struck when by one of the women, who is an exact double of Minna Davis, his deceased wife.

Stahr gets his workers to start searching for the woman that he remembers at the flood. When they finally track her down, it turns out she is Kathleen Moore, the friend of the girl that Stahr remembered. Neither of the girls want to be with Stahr.

Cecelia repeatedly tries to get Stahr to think of her as more than his associate's daughter, but as a prospect for marriage. Though she flirts with him, Stahr maintains that he is too wrapped up in pictures for anything else.

Stahr spends most of his time working, dealing with many people in the innovative ways that brought him to the top of the industry. Red Ridingwood, a director, has proved a disappointment, so Stahr removes him from a film, replacing him with another. When the eyesight of Stahr's favorite cameraman begins to fail, he sends the man to an oculist, clears up rumors, and returns him to work. Many of Stahr's screenwriters become upset with his system of having multiple writers on one script. He reassures them, motivating the writers to continue to work.

Stahr runs into Kathleen at a dance and they talk until Stahr frightens her with his intensity. For a time, Stahr sits at his expected table of higher-end people, including Cecelia, until he sees Kathleen start to leave and convinces her to go out with him. Cecelia takes the narrative over now, and Stahr dances with her while Wylie tries to find out who Kathleen was.

Stahr and Kathleen meet in a car park the next day, go out to lunch and then to Stahr’s unfinished house, feigning formalities all the while. They eat dinner in a drugstore before Stahr takes Kathleen back to her house. There they kiss before returning to Stahr’s unfinished house on the beach. After making love the two share more of their lives and walk along the beach, They encounter an African-American man who challenges Monroe’s ideas about pictures. After taking Kathleen home, Stahr's housekeeper finds a letter in his car from Kathleen in which she reveals her engagement to another man.

After five days, Kathleen calls Stahr. They make plans to see each other over the weekend, but before Stahr can act on them Kathleen's fiancee arrives in America and the two are married.

Stahr wants to speak with a member of the Communist Party and calls up Cecelia to arrange a meeting. Cecelia arranges for Stahr to meet Brimmer. The conversation is pleasant at first, but Stahr gets drunk and attacks Brimmer, who knocks him out. Cecelia states that this is the start of a romantic relationship between her and Stahr.

Fitzgerald's death caused the narrative to end here, but his extensive notes indicate his plan for the rest of the novel. However, these notes sometimes conflict with each other in terms of plotting. Fitzgerald envisioned Kathleen and Stahr eventually coming together, but Stahr dying in a plane crash quickly after their reconciliation.

Main Characters

  • Monroe Stahr - Hollywood producer and the titular character
  • Cecelia Brady – Sometimes narrator, daughter of a producer
  • Pat Brady - Cecelia’s father and Stahr’s associate
  • Kathleen Moore - Stahr's love interest

Point of View

Fitzgerald wrote the novel in a blend of first-person and omniscent narration. While the entire story is ostensibly told by Cecelia, many scenes are narrated in which she is not present. Occasionally a scene will be replayed twice, through Cecelia’s eyes and through a third party's to give a different view, convey different emotions, or show different things that happened.

Setting

This novel takes place in Hollywood in the late 1930s. Critics think that Fitzgerald wanted the novel to be set about five years previous to composition, which would have been the summer of 1936.

Major themes

In The Love of the Last Tycoon, Fitzgerald explores the failure of the American Dream. Monroe Stahr has an unfinished house, he lives for his job, but is dying because of it through a heart condition, he can't get the woman he loves, and therefore ends up marrying another girl, all showing that he is victim to failing the American Dream even though he seems to be at the top. Stahr is thriving in the business world but Fitzgerald hints towards conspiracy and shows that Stahr's health is failing, presenting that one cannot be at the top forever. His house is unfinished and unroofed, turning out to be an escape for his romance with Kathleen, but she is taken off by the American and Stahr is left in his loneliness. Fitzgerald and Cecelia Brady present the idea that being married to one's work is failure of the American dream at its worst, because then one has no room to live.

Allusions/references to other works

The Love of the Last Tycoon alludes to many other works depending on the characters that are interacting. Cecelia mentions up fairy tales such as Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Kathleen and Stahr discuss writers such as Spengler. Zavras brings up Greek mythology. Most of the allusions in Tycoon are used in description of people or places.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

There are many references to famous Hollywood actors inserted in The Love of the Last Tycoon as well as other notably famous people of the time such as the Duke of Windsor. Fitzgerald slips allusions into the writing as part of the history because though the story is fiction he has put some real events into its timeline to make it feel as though it could have happened just a few years back. There are small references to the War and the Depression, Black and Tans, and The Holocaust which give more of a sense of time and history.

Awards and nominations

The Love of The Last Tycoon won the Choice Outstanding Academic Books award of 1995.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel was adapted for the screen and released as The Last Tycoon in 1976. It was director Elia Kazan's last film and starred Robert De Niro as Monroe Stahr, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Morgan Farley, Theresa Russell, Donald Pleasence and Jack Nicholson. Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter adapted the novel for the screen. It was produced by Sam Spiegel.

Publication details

  • 1993, USA, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-40231-X, hardcover
  • 2003, USA, Charles Scribner’s Sons, ISBN 0-02-019985-6, paperback

Sources, references, external links, quotations

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