I love the book and hope that one day the 1926 version will be found, it's currently considered lost.
Cast: Warner Baxter [Jay Gatsby], Lois Wilson [Daisy Buchanan], Neil Hamilton [Nick Carraway], Georgia Hale [Myrtle Wilson], William Powell [George Wilson], Hale Hamilton [Tom Buchanan], George Nash [Charles Wolf], Carmelita Geraghty [Jordan Baker], Eric Blore [Lord Digby], ‘Gunboat’ Smith [Bert], Claire Whitney [Catherine]
This is the first filmed version, considered to be the best of the many, by whom I don't know, but I read that somewhere.
Directed by Herbert Brenon only one year after the book was published, the scenario was taken from the stage play, which was adapted from the novel by Owen Davis and some say Fitzgerald himself. It seems a perfect cast, though I am having a hard time imagining Powell as the pathetic garage mechanic, but I am guessing that if one didn't know Powell's voice, it would be considerably easier to picture him in the role. In fact I am sure he was very good, and suitably dark - he got the best reviews, including the November 22nd, 1926 New York Times: Mordaunt Hall describes his performance as "unerring". He was singled out for praise in every review I could find, which adds up to 5, with most critics stating that Powell was the only one to really capture the mood of the novel. Lois Wilson's Daisy was considered a breakthrough role for her, with some great scene, but ultimately unsatisfying.
It's interesting reading the reviews of the time, since they sound as if they could describe every other version to date. It was considered a mere shell of the novel - a blank, just as Jay is a shell, projected onto the world with no real substance. It included all of the scenes we think of in Gatsby, crazy parties, diving for gold and cocktails (thank you Mordaunt Hall for that lovely image) but imbued them with no depth or humanity. One critic went so far as to say that Warner Baxter was only a dress suit, that he wanted to care for the characters, but couldn't for some reason. Sound familiar?
So essentially, we have a book with loads of filmable action, great iconic characters, an achingly painful storyline, but one that is completely untransferable to the screen. Fascinating. Perhaps the very nature of the novel is what makes it impossible to film? These jazz age babies encapsulate the halfness of their world and their times (and ours). Maybe we shouldn't sympathize with them.