75 years ago today, F. Scott Fitzgerald died at age 44. Today he’s most famous for The Great Gatsby, a book not widely appreciated in his lifetime…which was difficult to say the least.
- Fitzgerald became an overnight sensation in 1920 with This Side of Paradise, a huge hit novel about post World War I youth culture. His second novel, The Great Gatsby, is widely regarded as one of the finest novels ever written, but at the time of its release in 1924, it was a middlingly-reviewed flop.
- His entire output: five novels and 160 short stories. Fitzgerald primarily made his living from the sale of his short stories. Fitzgerald’s short stories were extremely popular, particularly in the Saturday Evening Post, who in the 1920s paid him $4,000 per story. That’s about $50,000 in today’s money.
- While there is a boat cruise that takes Great Gatsby fans on a tour of sites mentioned in the novel, there is no “F. Scott Fitzgerald House,” the way there are similar houses/museums dedicated to Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemingway. That’s because Fitzgerald never owned a house. He came from a middle-class Minnesota family and always rented his home, be it a house, hotel room, or apartment, which were often located near the sanitariums where his wife, Zelda, was being treated for schitzoprenia.
- By the late 1930s, The Great Gatsby was out of print. (Fitzgerald reportedly went to a major New York bookstore to find a copy for his daughter, and couldn’t find one. He was told he’d have to write the publisher for a copy of the book.) What brought the book back from obscurity? Librarians, publishers and other book people recommended it be included in the run of Armed Services Editions, cheaply-printed novels sent overseas to entertain World War II troops.
- When Fitzgerald could no longer make a living from his books, he became a script doctor in Hollywood. Among the scripts he worked on, uncredited: Raffles, The Women, Honeymoon in Bali, Everything Happens at Night, and Gone With the Wind.
- Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood inspired his final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. He didn’t finish it before he died…but it was published anyway.
- What killed Fitzgerald? He lost his battle with alcoholism. Toward the end of his life, he reportedly drank a quart of gin and 12 bottles of beer every day.