American author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Last Tycoon
, left unfinished at his death in1940, was later edited and released by Edmund Wilson, a literary critic, writer, and close friend of Fitzgerald’s. Considered a roman à clef, or a novel about real life with an overlay of fiction, it is believed to be based on the life of film producer Irving Thalberg. The story focuses on Monroe Stahr, who rises to power in Hollywood and clashes with Pat Brady, a ruthless studio head, believed to be based on Louis B. Mayer. Exploring themes of the corruption of power, temptation, and the culture of Hollywood in the era, The Last Tycoon
was also released in an alternate version called The Love of the Last Tycoon
, edited and reworked by Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli in 1993. This version was the winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Books Award in 1995. It has been adapted multiple times, including a 1976 film adaptation that was the final directorial work of Elia Kazan, and most recently an Amazon Studios streaming adaptation in 2016. It has also been adapted for television, radio drama, and stage.The Last Tycoon
begins as narrator Cecelia Brady, a young college student from New York, prepares to fly home to Los Angeles. She is the daughter of Pat Brady, an influential Hollywood producer. At the airport, she is surprised to meet Wylie White, an author and an old friend of her father’s. He is joined by a failed producer he introduces as Mr. Schwartz. Complications during the flight result in a forced landing in Nashville, where they make a spontaneous trip to the estate of former President Andrew Jackson. However, the attraction is closed when they arrive, and the trip becomes more awkward. The older Wylie proceeds to flirt extensively with Cecelia while Mr. Schwartz is sleeping. When he wakes up, Schwartz informs them that he’s decided not to travel back to Los Angeles after all, and he asks Wylie to deliver a message to a friend. Wylie agrees and leaves with Cecelia.
The next day, Cecelia realizes that the message from Schwartz is meant for Monroe Stahr, her father’s business partner. She’s known Stahr since she was a young girl, and has been attracted to him for many years. When she arrives at her father’s office to pick him up for a party, a minor earthquake leaves her, her father, and his companions in Stahr’s office. After the set is flooded, Stahr sees two women clinging to the head of a statue and is shocked to see one of them is the spitting image of his deceased wife. Stahr asks his secretary to identify the girls for him, and she soon gives him a phone number. He calls the number, but it’s not the girl he wanted to see. He gives her a ride home, and she introduces him to her friend, Kathleen Moore. This Irish-born girl is the one who resembles Stahr’s late wife so closely. Stahr immediately begins flirting with her, but she rebuffs him and won’t even tell him her name. They meet again at a party, and he finally convinces her to go out for coffee with him. They drive to the building site of his new house in Santa Monica, and he persuades her to have sex with him. Days later, he receives a letter from her stating that she’s engaged to another man. She’s decided to marry him, despite feeling the same intense connection to Stahr that he feels to her.
Stahr, meanwhile, has met with Cecelia and asked her to arrange a meeting for him with a suspected communist who is plotting to organize a labor union in the film studio. Stahr and Cecelia meet the man for dinner; Stahr gets drunk and gets into a violent confrontation with the man. He’s beaten and Cecelia patches him up afterward. The two start becoming closer, causing Brady to become more unhappy. He’s long been unhappy with Stahr as a business partner, and his connection with his daughter makes him more determined to oust him. Brady finds out about Stahr’s affair with Kathleen, who is now married, and tries to use it to blackmail him into leaving the company. Having failed to manipulate him that way, he decides to go all in and hire a contract killer to assassinate Stahr. Stahr survives the shooting and in retaliation decides to hire his own hit man to eliminate Brady. However, Stahr’s love for Cecelia wins out in the end, and while flying to New York City, he decides to call and cancel the assassination as soon as he lands. However, just as he’s made this decision, his plane crashes. The hit man carries out his mission, and Cecelia is left without a father or a lover, having lost everything because of the war between the two men she loved most.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American author whose novels and short stories are closely associated with the Jazz Age. He is best known for The Great Gatsby
, as well as his additional four novels: This Side of Paradise
; The Beautiful and Damned
; Tender is the Night
; and the unfinished The Last Tycoon
. He also released four collections of short stories and one hundred and sixty-four short stories published in magazines during his lifetime. His marriage to Zelda Fitzgerald has been the subject of many writings, and their lives have been adapted into movies, television dramas, and a stage musical. He is considered one of the most influential American authors of the twentieth century.