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Alan Ladd

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Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » September 1st, 2007, 3:09 pm

I found myself enjoying one of the Japanese "Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi" recently and throughout the film, something nagged at the back of my mind. "Who did this quiet, lonely, sometimes sullen and bemused wandering central character remind me of?", I kept wondering. Later it occurred to me: it was Alan Ladd, of all people! Zatoichi, if you've never stumbled across any of the numerous Japanese movies featuring this character, (best played perhaps by Shintaro Katsu), appears to be a harmless blindman, rather bumbling and unimpressive wandering masseur, whose unexpectedly deadly skill with a hidden cane sword usually takes his adversaries off balance.

Perhaps I made this connection because I've begun to appreciate Alan Ladd more in the last year since revisiting a rather florid Paramount Western starring the actor at the height of his stardom, Whispering Smith.

It's not because he was the tallest, fastest or toughest guy in the movies. He had unusual qualities in American actors of his time. Many of his movies were mediocre or worse, but in his best portrayals, such as his turns in This Gun For Hire, Lucky Jordan, The Glass Key, The Blue Dahlia, Two Years Before the Mast, Whispering Smith, Shane, and my new personal discovery, the late career Man in the Net, he seemed to be an actor swimming against the cultural tide of much of American life during his stardom, which, in many ways came to seem to glorify gigantism, and larger than life qualities physically and psychologically.

As evidenced by his star making characterization as Graham Greene's anti-hero in This Gun for Hire, he had mastered the ability to convey something like a depth of feeling while being quiet and still. This quality, which almost seems guaranteed to evoke a negative response from many audiences then and now, was underlined by his ability to move so quickly at moments of intense action. His dexterity and economy of motion may have suggested more latent danger within him than he was able to sustain over the course of a career, but when looked at in his own films, the impact of his presence on screen could be quite powerful.

The old cliche says that one should never "act with children or animals." Well, Ladd's on-screen interaction with adults could sometimes pale in comparison with his extraordinary ability to act on screen very effectively with children. Examples of some interesting films featuring Ladd with kids are Shane, of course, (despite the fact that many viewers did not like Brandon De Wilde), a whole passel of children in Man in a Net, The Proud Rebel with his son, David Ladd, and as to those animals--well, remember the kitten in This Gun For Hire?

I realize that others will emphasize his height or his obvious aging on film as detriments to his abilities. Still, there was an interesting sadness in him, as well as a capacity for expressing bemused resignation to the way of the world. Even Ladd seemed puzzled by his career, stating once that he had "the face of an aging choirboy and the build of an undernourished featherweight. If you can figure out my success on the screen you're a better man than I."

While I think his acting abilities had their limitations, he did what he could with his skills. I hope that you'll voice your opinion of him too.

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Postby MissGoddess » September 4th, 2007, 3:58 pm

I am attracted to Ladd's way of projecting a kind of melancholy, whether it's because he was really sad or he just looks that way I can't say, but it imbues his performances with a humanity they might otherwise lack. Perhaps I also picked up on his relation to kids and animals---that's an interesting point to consider. I never forgot how he reacted to the cats in This Gun for Hire, and of course The Proud Rebel, one of my favorite Ladd movies---favorite westerns period---shows him at his best with both his boy and a dog.

I wish TCM would show The Proud Rebel so more folks can appreciate this really marvelous western directed by Michael Curtiz. It has one of the most honest depictions of frontier farm life I've seen in those days.

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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » July 13th, 2011, 7:56 pm

I have just watched a beautifully made film called The Proud Rebel (1958) that was recommended to me by Miss Goddess (thank you so much, April). If you would like to see it in its entirety online, it begins here. I'll try to gather my thoughts and post more about this in the future, but I'd love to read others reactions. If you are interested in Alan Ladd's own life, you might like to see this well made assessment of him and his work from Biography. Friends and co-stars such as Anthony Caruso, Patricia Medina, Don Murray and his son David Ladd (the young man whose performance in The Proud Rebel should have gotten an Oscar) are part of the commentary. It is very touching, especially the sequences about The Proud Rebel, and a mention of a letter that David wrote to his father that was buried with him.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lee9GS4zk4s&feature=player_profilepage[/youtube]
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby MissGoddess » July 13th, 2011, 9:30 pm

That had me dissolved into tears by the end. The more I learn about him, the more I like Alan Ladd and feel for all the heck he suffered. That is absolutely...well what are the words to describe what it would do to you to witness what your mother did. No wonder he was shook up for the rest of his life. That would scar Captain Bligh's soul.

And I'm very happy to hear another admirer added to The Proud Rebel camp. I really can't stop recommending it to people, especially Ladd fans and western fans. It's unique and now that I've seen David all grown up in this bio, even more special.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby MissGoddess » July 13th, 2011, 9:43 pm

Oh, by the way...I didn't see it linked here in this thread but it looks like YouTube finally has the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby, the one that isn't supposed to be such a great movie but in which Alan Ladd is supposedly the perfect Jay Gatsby. I hope any who watch will chime in...I'm going to watch it tonight...I'm so excited!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2jh6XkjrHU&playnext=1&list=PL26C33481BB06E89F[/youtube]
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » July 13th, 2011, 9:59 pm

I think you know my opinion from previous exchanges we've had: Ladd was born to play Jay Gatsby. He had that character's naivete, edginess and the touching belief that if he transforms himself into someone important, does all the right things, and is a success, he will be loved. Ladd's the best part of the movie, especially in the scene when he is waiting for Daisy (a miscast Betty Field). Watch MacDonald Carey as Nick and tell me what you think, will you? I did think that Howard da Silva and Shelley Winters were well-cast, but there's a studio-bound mustiness to this film (and Elliot Nugent's direction), but I can't think of a better actor to play Gatsby and the movie comes to life in his scenes with Carey especially. The fact that Ladd really wanted to play this part makes the lifelessness around his characterization more disappointing.

Sadly, Nugent, who had known F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda in NYC in the '20s, never fully recovered from the disappointment of this movie. I think maybe George Stevens (before WWII), Mitchell Leisen or even John Farrow might have had a better chance of translating this effectively to the screen in that period.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby MissGoddess » July 14th, 2011, 11:57 am

Image
Somehow the sunny blandness of this lobby card captures the movie's main failings.

I'm glad I finally watched this version of one of the best American stories. In one sense this adaptation succeeds, if we are to come away believing Nick and Jay are the only worthwhile people in the story. In other respects, it does fall down and "pedestrian" and "studio bound mustiness" are good word choices by Moira and Bronxgirl. Betty Field as "Daisy" I think is badly miscast, as was Barry Sullivan (though he's preferable to the sweaty, vermin-like Bruce Dern) and Ruth Hussey as "Jordan" never seemed fully realized. I found both Hussey and Field too competent, too sure-minded to play these flowers of the jazz age. In Hussey's case, I'm prepared to blame the director. As much as I dislike Mia Farrow, her innate weirdness is closer to Fitzgerald's vague and treacherously weak "Daisy" than Field's earth-bound, actressy whine. Field is a terrific actress, she played the part as written, but Daisy, like Jay, is one of those roles that requires the right personality type, even at the expense of skill.

Image

Shelley Winters was perfect and I was impressed with Howard Da Silva's turn, and thought he lent the only really tense moments, aside from Ladd's and MacDonald Carey's (Nick) scenes. It's hard to mess up such a good story, this version is merely ordinary and that's in some ways worse than the faults of the later movie, which at least captured more of the "tone" of the era.

The direction was odd, some scenes felt like they were staged right out of a 1931 movie, which in 1931 was alright but in 1949 it seemed empty and amateurish. Maybe because this story depends so much on a light touch balanced by an ability to make the audience feel the uneasiness underneath a story about the "roaring 20s". It was like the movie was treated just as another melodrama, but with flightier characters. Again, thank goodness for Ladd's total commitment to the part.

Image

Too bad we can't take the best of both versions to make one good one.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » July 14th, 2011, 3:44 pm

I like your assessment, Miss G., especially comparing Mia Farrow to Betty Field (how and why did they choose her?). I thought that Barry Sullivan evoked some sympathy for his character--though your description of Bruce Dern made me chortle with laughter because it was so apt. The lack of period tone in this version was odd. In some scenes the hair and clothing and music seems evocative of the '20s, but then everyone started to look and act like post-WWII people--not like people who had been born and raised in the long shadow of the Victorian era.

I keep wondering who could have been a better Daisy--a girl who could easily be the prettiest and most charming girl in a relatively small town--but whose limitations would make her more ordinary in a larger, (harsher) setting like the Long Island rich? A couple who came to mind, though I'm not sure either would have been willing to pull it off, since the part required them to be the embodiment of a hollow ideal, the small and golden girl with many admirers and asked her to age somewhat:

Lana Turner: she'd be very good at playing the instinctively flirtatious girl who expected the world to be one big Country Club.

June Allyson: vivacious and interested in endless fun, but capable of sullenness and childish pettiness too.

It may seem as though it's unfair to describe these actresses this way, but both played roles very well that required these qualities. Both were capable of appearing emotionally and intellectually stunted, which could have been too much to ask of any MGM actress in that period. They had enough problems when they left their home studio behind eventually. I don't think that MGM would want them to appear in that kind of light.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby Gary J. » July 14th, 2011, 7:37 pm

Turner could definitely play 'flirtatious' but she was much too modern looking in order to play a 20's flapper. Allyson did have that look and made many films set in that era (GOOD NEWS, GLENN MILLER STORY) and she would had been fine if she could drop her 'sweetness level' for the role. I believe the reason Betty Fields was cast was because of Paramount's late 40's purge of their actor's ranks. Longtime contractees like Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake were let go, to be replace by cheaper, newer talent. As for Alan Ladd, he looked like perfect casting for Jay Gatsby. Without reading Fitzgerald's novel everything I've ever read about Gatsby's character is that he is enigmatic, so I find Ladd's wooden blandness working to his advantage in this case. The main problem with Paramount's 1949 version is the director. I'm sure Elliot Nugent was a much better writer than a director - but not by much. He made a lot of comedies in the 30's and 40's but never brought much to the projects. I've never understood how he worked as long as he did (although I've always enjoyed THE MALE ANIMAL, but more for the stars performance than for the filmmaking) I agree with Moira that George Stevens could had brought this book to life (except that I would lean toward post-war Stevens....) He did okay by Booth Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser and Edna Ferber.

But back to Ladd, he did have an innate sadness about him that especially made his work in the 50's - as his star was slowly slipping - all the more poignant. But no star ever had a greater final exit on film than Ladd was given with THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) . The movie's cast is a great mix of veterans and upcoming stars. It is not great film , not by a long shot. It's sleezy and cynical - no different than all of the other tales of Hollywood made at that time like TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (62), THE OSCAR (65) - but it builds beautifully to a wonderful moment. For two hours we watch a young George Peppard lie, cheat and brutalize his way up the corporate Hollywood ladder until finally his loyal lieutenant (Ladd) cannot take it any longer and walks across the room, locks the door and slowly takes off his jacket. What follows is a no holds bar, knock-down beating with Peppard eventually getting the worse of it.

And Alan Ladd is allowed to regain his pride and manhood as he slowly puts his jacket back on and play the role that he had always portrayed - Last Man Standing.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby MissGoddess » July 15th, 2011, 12:05 pm

Hi Moira,
It's fun speculating on probable Daisy's. I was wondering if maybe the 40s-50s were too realistic and pragmatic an era to produce many actress of that suitable type. She's so 1920s and not until the 60s kooks and flower children did you see that type again, only not necessarily with money. I think even Lana seems too prosaic to play her, and I can't see her capable of wrapping her pouty mouth around those crazy exclamations and declarations like "Our white girlhood..." Lana just screams Hollywood Movie Star which is something different than the sheltered butterfly, Daisy. I think a few actresses from the silent and early 30s era might have been good choices, and a few of the waify types from the 60s, perhaps Yvette Mimieux, but none of the big names.

Ultimately, as I re-read the novel, with the exception of Jay and Nick, these people are altogether uninteresting and empty except for the magical prism of Fitzgerald's words, as he uses his character of Nick and his reactions to describe them.

It occurred to me Lex Barker might have made a good Tom Buchanan. I seem to recall him even playing a character with the same sinister undertones. Or maybe Stewart Granger, though the part is too marginal for his status.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » July 15th, 2011, 1:58 pm

You guys have convinced me: Lana would not have been a good Daisy! I still wonder if June might have pulled it off. I have to disagree about the implication that Betty Fields was seen as a fresher face by Paramount or Hollywood in general.

Regarding Elliot Nugent, in his 1965 autobiography, Events Leading Up to the Comedy, the director wrote that he was assigned "to direct The Great Gatsby, by Scott Fitzgerald, for Paramount" and he didn't seek out the project. "In my mind," he wrote, "there were only two drawbacks about this project. First, the studio had cast Alan Ladd as Gatsby, and I was not sure he was right for the part." That probably undermined the insecure but hard-working Ladd. Gene Tierney was supposed to have been borrowed from Fox for the role of Daisy, with Tyrone Power expressing interest in appearing as Gatsby if Tierney played opposite him. After Nugent and the producer decided that Tierney's beauty would distract from the role of Daisy, making her too much the center of the story, that casting idea was dropped and longtime Paramount character actress Betty Field, who had been in movies since the '30s, was chosen for the role. An excellent stage actress and very good in certain film roles, notably in Kings Row made 7 years before, she might have pulled off Daisy in the theater, but her overly-fussy portrayal of Daisy was disastrous--throwing the movie out of whack for me at least.

The other problems faced by Nugent were the paltry budget given the film, and the screenplay by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum (who was also a somewhat overbearing producer) was far too wordy, lacking the elegance of Fitzgerald's shimmering prose. The screenplay was also chock full of flashbacks that slowed the story and diminished the focus of the story on Gatsby's realization of his heart's desire and the atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties. Another issue for Nugent, who had long experience as an actor and playwright, was that he knew he was not as skilled a director. An alcoholic and mentally fragile man despite his accomplishments and his very demanding schedule, within a few months of this production he suffered the first of a series of nervous breakdowns that required hospitalizations and pretty much hobbled his career. Perhaps a George Stevens might have been a better choice as director, but he didn't appear to be available for The Great Gatsby.

Gary J. wrote: Without reading Fitzgerald's novel everything I've ever read about Gatsby's character is that he is enigmatic, so I find Ladd's wooden blandness working to his advantage in this case. The main problem with Paramount's 1949 version is the director. I'm sure Elliot Nugent was a much better writer than a director - but not by much.

I don't find Ladd wooden myself, though his talent required good direction and the right setting. He may have suffered through more poorly scripted films than most stars of his time. Even in a flawed film, he could be extraordinary in a unique way, as evidenced by his leading man breakthrough in This Gun For Hire, as well as The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia, none of which fulfill their promise completely, though they are all classics of their time. His mute eloquence, quiet voice and physical grace, blended well into his wistful characterization, though I have read reviews of his Jay Gatsby that described him as "somnolent" and "too subdued." Maybe I was impressed because I'd re-read the book just before seeing this again, and his portrayal seemed quite fine to me. I liked Fitzgerald's book much more the second time around, even though after spending considerable time with rich people between adolescence and now, I do not think "the rich are different" in the same way that the author did!

Gary J. wrote:But back to Ladd, he did have an innate sadness about him that especially made his work in the 50's - as his star was slowly slipping - all the more poignant. But no star ever had a greater final exit on film than Ladd was given with THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) .

Since George Peppard has always annoyed me in everything, The Carpetbaggers is a movie that I've only seen once. It's not even pretentious fun like Two Weeks in Another Town or The Oscar, which is a great bad movie. The only reason I watched The Carpetbaggers was to see Lew Ayres, Audrey Totter, and most of all, Alan Ladd. Too bad that Ladd had no way of knowing that he would receive such good reviews for his role.

MissGoddess wrote:Hi Moira,
It's fun speculating on probable Daisy's. I was wondering if maybe the 40s-50s were too realistic and pragmatic an era to produce many actress of that suitable type. I think a few actresses from the silent and early 30s era might have been good choices, and a few of the waify types from the 60s, perhaps Yvette Mimieux, but none of the big names.

Ultimately, as I re-read the novel, with the exception of Jay and Nick, these people are altogether uninteresting and empty except for the magical prism of Fitzgerald's words, as he uses his character of Nick and his reactions to describe them.

It occurred to me Lex Barker might have made a good Tom Buchanan. I seem to recall him even playing a character with the same sinister undertones. Or maybe Stewart Granger, though the part is too marginal for his status.

Yvette Mimieux would have been a great choice for Daisy! Her doe-like beauty and blankness (used so well in The Light in the Piazza) would have made Gatsby's longing more understandable. I think you've hit on something about the problem with the 40s-50s. Maybe that generation had been through too much to recreate a '20s story.

You guys probably know that there is another version of this story coming in 2012, with Baz Luhrmann (hmmm, let's hope for the best) as director and Leonardo di Caprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey McGuire as Nick (uh-oh). Maybe it will be okay?

I should also mention that the lost silent version of The Great Gatsby (1926) starring Warner Baxter as Gatsby (!), Lois Wilson as Daisy Buchanan, Neil Hamilton as Nick Carraway, Georgia Hale as Myrtle Wilson, and...believe it or not...William Powell as George Wilson!! Eric Blore was also in the cast.
Image
Lois Wilson and Warner Baxter as Daisy and Gatsby

Image
Georgia Hale as Myrtle Wilson. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any pictures of Powell or Blore.

The film's trailer is the only scrap that seems to have survived (though occasionally so-far unconfirmed rumors have surfaced that some print has been found in a Moscow Archive). The Paramount film was based on the successful Broadway play of The Great Gatsby by Owen Davis which ran for 112 performances in NYC in 1926. It was directed by future movie director George Cukor. Some sources claim that Scott and Zelda both hated the play and the movie. A review of the film when it was released can be seen here.

This trailer has become available to us via the DVD, More Treasures from the American Film Archives:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWWketejkcE[/youtube]

Thank you both for sharing your comments and takes on this subject.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby kingrat » July 15th, 2011, 4:01 pm

Would love to see the Alan Ladd Gatsby after all these great posts. A basic problem is that the great strength of Fitzgerald's short novel is its prose, not its plot and incidents. This creates problems for any scenarist and director. My first choice for almost any literary project would be the late Anthony Minghella. George Stevens does sound like a good choice for the 40s. MissG, love your idea of Yvette Mimieux as Daisy.

Leonardo Di Caprio seems too boyish for Gatsby. Maybe he's aging interestingly, who knows. A pre-Superman Tobey Maguire would have been fine as Nick. There's one very talented actor whose career has taken a bizarre turn; it's as if Anthony Perkins had buffed up and become an action hero. Maguire would have had much more interesting roles in the 50s and early 60s, but he wouldn't have been as rich, either.

Alan Ladd seems such a minimal actor, and yet . . . he leaves us with a certain strength and sadness. Though I haven't seen a lot of her work, Betty Field seems to have declined as she went along. Excellent in Kings Row and The Southerner, coarser by Butterfield 8, and pretty awful in Seven Women, though I think Ford wanted her to overplay.

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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby Gary J. » July 16th, 2011, 10:18 am

Don't get me wrong - when I say that Ladd projects 'a wooden blandness' on screen, this is not a knock. I find him rather one dimensional, but it works really well for him - especially in his many noir and detective films he made. I've always enjoyed HELL ON FRISCO BAY (55) where Ladd's ex-cop seeks revenge against mobster Edward G. Robinson. Robinson is in KEY LARGO territory here as he snarls and chews up the screen, as only he could. And yet, in the same way that Bogie's quiet intensity allows him to hold his own on screen against Edward G. in LARGO, so to does Ladd in this film. Plus, it doesn't hurt that his character is a little more annoyed in this film.
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby moira finnie » July 16th, 2011, 11:19 am

Hi Gary,
I think I understood that you weren't saying "wooden" in an entirely pejorative way. Ladd's "lack of affect" (as the shrinks would say) in some roles conveys an intensity that more cerebral, versatile actors might never have, no matter how much formal training they acquired. I think I would prefer to think of him as more of a minimalist as some of the best film actors, Gary Cooper, Bogart, and Steve McQueen were in their best roles, for example. It helped enormously when a director understood his strengths and weaknesses.

I can't believe you've seen Hell on Frisco Bay (1956)! Even the VHS of this movie is almost $300 on Amazon...if you can get it.

Last I heard there was a bootleg DVD from Australia requiring an all region DVD player and that was $35. I'd love to see that final collaboration between Ladd and the director, Frank Tuttle, who guided him in This Gun For Hire.

Upcoming Alan Ladd Films on TV This Week

Here are two partial lists of movies available through Netflix or Youtube as of today:

Btw, currently Netflix streaming on line has the following rare Paramount and Warner Brothers movies featuring Alan Ladd:

Great Guns (1941): Alan Ladd makes an appearance in a Laurel and Hardy movie!
Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950): Former Military Intelligence officer returns to postwar Italy to avenge a wartime betrayal
Appointment with Danger (1951): Post Office Inspector vs. Hijackers led by Paul Stewart
Thunder in the East (1952): Flyer Ladd brings arms to India
The Man in the Net (1959): Unhappily married Alan Ladd + kids vs. vindictive wife & townsfolk
Botany Bay (1953): Aussie emigrant/prisoner Alan Ladd vs. James Mason at his meanest

The following movies are on youtube at the moment:
Gangs, Inc. (1941): Jack LaRue vs. Alan Ladd and others in a PRC movie

This Gun For Hire (1942)

The Glass Key (1942)

The Blue Dahlia (1944)

And Now Tomorrow (1944)

Two Years Before the Mast (1946)

My Favorite Brunette (1947): funny Ladd cameo

The Great Gatsby (1949)

Shane (1953)

Committed (1954) for GE Theater
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Re: Alan Ladd

Postby JackFavell » July 16th, 2011, 11:50 am

What a super discussion is going on here! I am enjoying reading every word of it.

Gary,

I think you might be surprised at Ladd's portrayal in The Great Gatsby, he hits all the right notes, and I don't find him at all wooden, though in some of his gangster/detective films I do. I think some of those characters are meant to be flat - one note or one tone - The Glass Key is the one that springs to mind immediately. In TGG, He is really wonderful, despite the shortcomings of the movie. Ladd was spot on. I totally believed his Gatsby, every minute of every sharp blow, and every longing, far reaching look. I think this movie has to be rated highly if only for that.

Maureen O'Sullivan in the thirties fits my idea of Daisy - maybe that's what the producers of the seventies version were thinking when they hired Mia.

The more I think about it, the more I think Yvette Mimieux could have done a seriously fine job as Daisy - she has the light and airy quality, and she is ethereally beautiful. Men would fall at her feet - no matter what she might say, men would be charmed by her. She could seem very otherworldly, one could see Gatsby thinking she had finer qualities than she might have.

I also feel that she could fall in love with Jay and still be moved to do something contrary to that love out of weak misguidedness or fear of the unknown. She seems like she could be easily swayed, and that's pretty much Daisy. Yes, Mimieux has the sensitivity to be totally believable as Daisy in love, as Daisy in distress, and also as Daisy backing away from a "mistake". She is to be protected at all times, even from her one great love, Gatsby, wo possibly could have made her a real woman. Sadly, her prime motivation isn't love, it's to be protected, cosseted as a trophy or an art object. She simply can't break out of that habit, it's how she is most comfortable. She doesn't want anything else.... I think Daisy will be vaguely dissatisfied with her life with Tom, but will get over it, just as she is already getting over Jay at the end of the book. What is a scrape to be gotten out of for Daisy, is a tragedy for Jay.

kingrat,

I think you may be right, it might be hard to translate Fitzgerald to the screen because he is such a joy to read...but stranger things have happened - I'm sure it is possible, one just needs someone who understands the material thoroughly.

Fitz is my absolute favorite 20th century American writer (with Dorothy Parker coming in a close 2nd, and Steinbeck 3rd), he's not hung up on style like Hemingway and Faulkner, and his writing has a grace that none of them have. It wouldn't matter what he wrote about, his sentences are beautiful to read. But then he adds ideas that are so modern - spending time inside people's heads, worrying over their psychological makeup, for good or for bad - even in his protagonist, as in This Side of Paradise. He's intuitive, but with pinpoint accuracy.

I think he is terribly underrated, even though we all know his name. No one really reads him, and when they do, they are stuck thinking of him as "of his time", rather than the father of modern, complex characters who could live only in the 20th century. His characters are usually laboring under a malaise that only those of us lucky enough to have been born after 1900 can really know. No Fitzgerald - no Mad Men, no Face in the Crowd, no Grey Flannel Suit, no From Here to Eternity.... and on and on and on.


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