We all know The Great Gatsby. And perhaps too well. Many a U.S. high school student would certainly agree.
It is rooted in a variety of its author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s experiences. Fitzgerald’s writing in general revolves mostly around the rich, decadence, and insanity. He had also lived for years in France, and had naturally once been an aspiring author.
“He wrote what he knew,” my wife noted as we discussed another Fitzgerald story and film. In Babylon Revisited we encounter essentially still more Fitzgerald autobiography wrapped up as fiction. After his death, it was adapted into the 1954 film, The Last Time I Saw Paris.
We happen to have bought “The Last Time” among others in a DVD old film series, but had never actually watched the movie. Last night, on impulse, my wife suggested with a grin, “We need to, in honour of my mum and aunt.” So, at long last, we did.
A personal observation on U.S. expat stories. I find solid non-American characters are vital when a tale is set outside of the U.S. Otherwise what is the point?
Again, though, we have to remember this is based on Fitzgerald’s life. I am not an authority on that. What we do see on screen is that this one is almost all Americans – except for brief appearances by Eva Gabor and Roger Moore (yes, really).
Although it’s Paris, the French seem mostly for background. They hardly register as actual people, doing little other than uttering a few French words and providing necessary “local color” to remind us it isn’t London, or…. Sacramento. Save for George Dolenz, who plays the thoughtful, French brother-in-law, and the bartender (it’s a Fitzgerald adaptation so there is drinking throughout) and some individuals doing their jobs (doctors, nurses), there don’t seem all that many French in Paris.
So this film didn’t have to be set in Paris really. It could’ve been most anywhere. That said, here’s the crux of the tale, including certain of my own, uh, personal “margin notes.” Who needs Wikipedia?
***** WARNING: SPOILERS *****