Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The Great Gatsby (1949)
Alan Ladd is an interesting choice for Gatsby. He is able to convey the naive, almost childlike qualities of the character, as well something darker, even somewhat sinister, under the surface. The casting of Ladd, a staple of Paramount's series of dark crime dramas of the decade (This Gun For Hire, The Glass Key, The Blue Dahlia), further places the film's interpretation of Gatsby within post-war noir's long line of tragic protagonists. One of the more frustrating results of this approach, however, is a reductive morality imposed on the story, which undermines some its power. Nowhere is this more glaringly obvious than in the frankly trite and unnecessary prologue, which has Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker (now married) visiting Gatsby's grave in the present day, and reflecting back on the tragic events that led to his downfall.
Paramount's 1949 version of The Great Gatsby ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, fails to convey the spirit of the Jazz Age zeitgeist that Fitzgerald captured so well in his novel, but it is, also inevitably, revealing as a glimpse of that era as viewed through the very different sensibilities of the time in which it was produced.