“I am really only myself when I’m somebody else whom I have endowed with these wonderful qualities from my imagination.” – Zelda Fitzgerald

She was an icon of the roaring 1920’s, wife and muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald the American writer who captured the essence of the Jazz Age with his magnum opus novel The Great Gatsby.

Born Zelda Sayre (Née) in the year 1900 to southern aristocrats Anthony and Minnie Sayre, she was the youngest of six children who were raised to be carefree, nonconforming citizens. Times were changing and women were gaining their rights to be as free thinking and as independent as men.  Zelda was ‘as a free-spirited, imaginative and thoroughly spoiled little girl. By the age of eighteen, when she met F. Scott Fitzgerald at one of the many parties she attended, she embodied the quintessential southern belle.’ 1

Scott fell head over heels for Zelda;  however she and her family were not so impressed with his financial prospects and while Zelda and Scott exchanged passionate love letters she refused to marry him until he improved his situation.  When his first novel This Side of Paradise 2 was published in 1920 earning him riches and celebrity status Zelda took him up on his offer.  Scott dubbed her “The first American flapper” and that she was; a beautiful, young bobbed hair, seemingly wealthy, free-thinking woman ready to conquer the world.

‘She was a huge influence on his writing, providing much of the material for his novels and short stories throughout their engagement and marriage. Scott frequently quoted her and her letters directly, using her words as the voice for several of his female characters.’ 3

Zelda & Scott

Within months of marriage Zelda gave birth to a girl they named Scottie, their only child, but motherhood didn’t slow her down.  For a better part of the 1920‘s the Fitzgerald’s marriage was a celebrity unto itself. They achieved unimagined fame and partied with the most popular and dynamic cultural figures of our time such as Josephine Baker, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings.

 

The-Fitzgeralds

Tom Hiddleston & Alison Pill as the Fitzgerald’s in the 2011 Film Midnight in Paris, written and directed by Woody Allen (2011)

A life of excess and extravagance naturally led to extramarital affairs, drunken fights, and scandalous escapades;  juicy fodder for gossip and news reporters. 4 Struggling to find her own identity, Zelda embarked upon a writing career of her own putting forth works in ‘magazine articles and short stories, and at 27 became obsessed with a career as a ballerina, practicing to exhaustion.’ 2.

Like Melpomene the Greek mythical goddess who was initially the Muse of Singing, but then became the Muse of Tragedy, Zelda’s world began to unravel. Zelda was a talented artist, dancer, and writer, but her restlessness and relentless ambition resulted in episodes of hysteria. She was admitted to the Sheppard Pratt sanatorium where she wrote a self autobiography entitled Save Me the Walz (published in 1932) in which she therapeutically incorporated accounts of her life and marriage to Scott. Her emotional instability was diagnosed as bi-polar schizophrenia.

‘Scott was furious that she had used material from their life together, though he would go on to do the same, as in Tender Is the Night, published in 1934; the two novels provide contrasting portrayals of the couple’s failing marriage.’ 2

Between his incessant drinking and her bouts with mental illness neither one of them could get pass the cumulative effects of their tumultuous history.   ‘Zelda and Scott seldom lived together after her  (1932) breakdown, although they remained married and Scott provided for Zelda’s care, until his death in 1940’3  Zelda passed away eight years later in 1948. It would seem that both their greatness and their misfortunes were summed up by their own words, both written and spoken. And though they loved each other deeply to the end they could not palate the bitterness nor abide the regrets.  ‘As Scott explained,

“Liquor on my breath is sweet to her.   I cherish her most extravagant hallucinations.” 3

Want to learn more about Zelda?  –We’ve discovered some of the best resources and articles about Zelda Fitzgerald on the web.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

This Month The Dames Examines The Great Gatsby…..Maybe the 2013 adaptation is not so Great after all.

Sold out not just its opening (Mother’s Day) weekend, but on authenticity, failing to deliver the true essence of why the 20’s were dubbed The Jazz Age. A soundtrack hijacked by watered down jazz and an overbearance of hip hop & rap. Jay-Z, who was executive producer of the film and sountrack needs a lesson in Crossover 101, including the significance of paying respects to the greatest Jazz musicians of our time. While the imagery and fancy fanfare is eyecatching, the movie doesn’t quite deliver on substance until towards the end when we actually get to some semblance of Fitzgerald’s message.

Carey Mulligan is lovely, but doesn’t provide enough substance to her character. Tobey is brilliant to watch as is Leonardo’s performance, -he never disappoints. Be prepared to take a few breaths in frustration the first half hour of the movie as you wait for some sort of feeling. Not what we had hoped for. Instead this highly anticipated film was more about perpetuating stereotypes than masterful historical fiction. What a shame. 3 STARS.