The Last Gatsby
The Last Gatsby is a novel weaving history and fiction into a tale of silent-era Hollywood and the search for a vanished actress. In 1968, residents of a charity home for retired film workers set out to recreate their lost opus, the original, silent Great Gatsby--a failed project which ended in disaster. They defy the restrictions of time and their situation to reshoot the film and solve and the disappearance of its alluring star, Nova Romanov.
Sample Chapters & Synopsis
Woodland Hills, 1968
Former cameraman Frank Potter is awakened by Anna Randall, once the heroine of the popular silent serial The Adventures of Anna, and now his fellow resident at the Silent Picture Rest Home. Anna imagines herself filming a scene from their film, The Judgement of Solomon, and Frank, gently returning her to her bed, recalls that evening's entertainment: a film starring the lost actress Nova Romanov.
The Inland Empire, 1918
Frank recounts his upbringing at the turn of the century, among the farms and fruit groves of The Inland Empire, west of Los Angeles. On the day of his stepmother's funeral, a group of movie people, looking for a filming site, unintentionally disrupt the wake. Frank later watches them from a distance, and when disaster intervenes on his return home, he makes a decision that will change the course of his life.
About the Author
Gregory Loselle graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in Humanities, Education, and Creative Writing, and has taught there in the Creative Writing and Composition Programs, and in the School of Education. He has been associated with the Interlochen Arts Camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts as an Instructor of Creative Writing and staff member since 1981. A recipient of the Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting, the Lorian Hemingway Award for Short Fiction, the Robert Frost Award, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry, among others, he won four Hopwood Awards and the Academy of American Poets Prize at U of M. He has written six chapbooks and a full-length collection of poems.
Background: Historical Threads
The novel owes its inspiration, in part, to a confluence of unusual circumstances.
Though The Last Gatsby is a work of fiction, it draws on many historical sources and events.
Based on a successful Broadway adaptation, the original, silent Great Gatsby was produced by Famous Players-Lasky Pictures and distributed by Paramount. It has since vanished, with only a trailer (below) and some written records left of its existence.
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, Marilyn Monroe grows up in foster care, her father's identity unknown. She would later repeat a rumor that he was Clark Gable, whose film career began between 1924 and 1926.
The filmed version was not a great success, and even F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda walked out on a screening. "We saw The Great Gatsby at the movies," Zelda subsequently wrote in a letter. "It's rotten and awful and terrible and we left."
The Motion Picture Relief Fund founds the Motion Picture Country House as a retirement home for destitute former silent-era film personnel. It has since expanded in size and scope, and many famous former film workers have resided there.
Greta Garbo arrives in Hollywood. She later disappears for a nine-month period, during which no trace of her can be found. It has been conjectured that during this time she bore a child in seclusion and gave it up for adoption.
Silent film star Ramón Novarro, the original Ben Hur, dies in Hollywood. His funeral reunites several figures from the silent film era--and kicks off the plot of The Last Gatsby.
Above: an early, open-air shooting, using sunlight and reflectors. Center: all that survives of the 1926 Gatsby film is this trailer.
Thanhauser Studios, 1914.