Great Gatsby, The (1949)

“If a smart man sees something he wants, he just stakes his claim to it!”

A bonds salesman (Macdonald Carey) recounts the story of his second cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Betty Field), who married a womanizing wealthy man (Barry Sullivan) rather than wait for her true love — Jay Gatsby (Alan Ladd) — to return from World War I and make a name for himself. Eleven years later, bootlegger Gatsby purchases a home near Daisy, determined to win back her love; meanwhile, Sullivan carries on an affair with the unhappy wife (Shelley Winters) of a garage shop owner (Howard Da Silva).


Other than a lost silent film from 1926, this hard-to-find flick — made after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death, but before his book became such a widely-read staple in American high schools — is notable as the first cinematic attempt to translate this classic novel for the screen. Alan Ladd is well-cast as the title character, a self-made millionaire whose love for a “careless” socialite becomes his downfall. Unfortunately, the film itself is rather forgettable, deviating from the novel in its focus on Gatsby’s hard-scrabble past and criminal background as a bootlegger (Elisha Cook, Jr. shows up as one of his employees), and highlighting the potential romance between Nick Carraway (Carey) and a cynical golfer-friend (Ruth Hussey) of the Buchanans. This adaptation remains permanently overshadowed by the big-budget version — co-starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow — released in 1974, which unfortunately also fails to “do justice” to the book and its enduring themes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Seitz’s cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is simply a curiosity for those interested in seeing all available adaptations of the novel.


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