6/18/16: The Great Gatsby (1974)


 “On 9/5/09, the Saturday before Labor Day, we had my daughter Kimmie’s High School Graduation Party in our little backyard. Our good friend Brett Connors of Flipper Dave  Brett  was there. ‘Summer’s almost over, Brett.’, I told ‘im. ‘It’s sad, isn’t it? In 2 weeks it will be the Autumnal Equinox. In the Autumn, my mood is very different. Makes you want to, I don’t know, reach out & hold it back.’ ‘There’ll be other summers. How ’bout a swim? Let’s go to the Lake.’ While there he invited me to Jill & Bill’s Day Before Labor Day Party the next day.

Flipper Dave FD  was playin’ & goofy Ralph Ralph would be sittin’ in on percussion. Well we went & when we got there, I’d never been to a place like it: Gatsby - Mansion Mansion on a hill; manmade lake in the backyard; screened-in pool; waiters & waitresses, butlers & maids everywhere; huge stage w/ a lighting rig & full P.A.; bars & coolers & appetizer stations; girls in bikinis; a hippie dream; oh & there was Olive. More on her later. I popped my 1st brew & got tapped on the shoulder: [Brit] ‘How do you do, Old Sport? I’m Vantine.’ I believe that very few people were actually invited to this party. They just went. They got into automobiles that bore them out to Norfolk & somehow they ended up at Bill Vantine’s door.” “Joined the comin’ par-arty” “with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.’” That’s when Ralph happened by & introduced me to Olive, a pretty, fit, drunk platinum blonde in way too tight white spandex pants & a black spaghetti strap tank top; her bikini was soon to follow. Oh…she was also in her 70s. Gatsby - Olive [Popeye] ‘This is Olivesk. She’s coo’, but a bit muchada coug’ toe Gatsby - Toe or I’d marry ‘er. He-he-hoo’ “‘Rich girls don’t marry poor boys.’ ‘Olive is always here; probably been here since a party I threw in April. She’s an Oxford woman, Old Sport.’ ‘Like ‘ell she is. She wears white spandex pants!’ There was Flipper Dave’s music throughout that summer night. In his enchanted gardens, men & girls came & went like moths among the whispering & the champagne & shrimp cocktail & steaks & the stars. Almost everyone stayed the night in 1 of the 25+ rooms. We didn’t. And the gourmet delights didn’t stop us from hitting Torrington McDonald’s for Late Night Dollar Menu on the way home either.

Gatsby - McD

And the great parties that The Great Vantine threw were nothin’ compared to those Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby (Robert Redford) had in the Summer of ’22. Jay Gatsby was a secretive multi-millionaire living in a huge coastal mansion in nouveau riche West Egg, Long Island, just across the bay from old money East Egg where Tom & Daisy Buchanan (Bruce Dern & Mia Farrow) lived. Nick Carraway (Sam Waterson), Daisy’s 2nd cousin & Tom’s Yale buddy, rented the cottage next door to Gatsby that summer.

 The overriding symbol in the novel & film is the billboard advertisement for Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, Occulist. What does it represent? First, “oculist”, which is an ophthalmologist or optometrist, is spelled incorrectly. There is only one “c” in oculist. Spelled “o-c-c-u-l-i-s-t” reminds us of the occult. It’s missing just the 1st “t” for it to be occultist. Spelled with a “double c”, the word seems to mean seer. And that’s how George Wilson (Scott Wilson) Gatsby - Wilsonsees the billboard: As the Eyes of God, overlooking the Valley of Ashes – now Flushing Meadows, but a barren, industrial dump of a wasteland in 1922. Next, the name T.J. Eckleburg reminds us of T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s contemporary & co-American ex-patriot in Paris, whose success predated Fitzgerald’s. Gatsby was published in 1925 but takes place in 1922, the year that arguably Eliot’s greatest work, the epic poem The Waste Land was released. The Waste Land is Eliot’s reflection of the cultural & physical impact that World War I had on Europe, especially France & Germany. The name “Eckleburg” seems of German heritage. The poem is 64 pages long & dedicated to Ezra Pound, the poet that helped develop & expose Eliot, whose work soon became the more important. The dedication is for “Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro”, “the better blacksmith” or “craftsman”, because he helped edit the poem down to the published 64 pages. Also, an oculist could be viewed as a blacksmith for the eyes. Take a look at these 2 pictures: The first is, of course, the billboard in Clayton’s Gatsby. The next one adds a little Eliot to it: The eyes on the top are Eliot’s from the photograph on the cover of his The Complete Poems and Plays; and the book is The Waste Land.

The movie won Oscars for Best Costume Design (Theoni V. Aldredge) and Nelson Riddle’s Adapted Score. The Oscar for Best Original Score went to Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola for The Godfather Part II. Carmine’s son Francis Ford was busy in ’74. He directed & co-wrote The Godfather Part II’s screenplay; wrote & directed The Conversation; and adapted Gatsby’s screenplay after original writer Truman Capote was fired.

But I digress. We were discussing the score. An original score is original music which sets the film’s mood & drives the action. The soundtrack is some or all of the film’s music packaged for sale, via CD or download these days. The 1st soundtrack was a set of 78 RPM records of the music of the 1937 Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Gatsby - SW&7DAn adapted score combines the 2: The score is presented as previously written music set to the action; sort of a performed soundtrack & hence not an original score. So what you’ll hear in the trailer below & the film when you stream it on Netflix is period music in Nelson Riddle’s great Adapted Score for Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby. 4 Stars!



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