Posts Tagged ‘The Great Gatsby’

“Grand Hotel… always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.”

GrandBuda_2798049bBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

“Grand Hotel… always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.”

That famous line from the Greta Garbo film Grand Hotel is only half right. Hundreds of movies have used hotels as a backdrop for the action because people come, people go, but despite the quote’s assertion, there’s always something happening.

This weekend’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is a case in point. Starring Ralph Fiennes as a concierge at a European hotel between the world wars, it features an all-star cast, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel and Edward Norton. They are all part of the fabric of the hotel’s history, which includes assassins, murder, riches and a mysterious painting.

Hollywood has always recognized that the transient nature of hotels makes for great drama.

New York City’s Plaza Hotel has played host to many famous movie scenes. Everything from Barefoot in the Park to Funny Girl to The Great Gatsby has used the iconic hotel as a backdrop, but it is probably best known as a location for North by Northwest. In the Alfred Hitchcock film Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for a government agent and kidnapped from the ornate lobby.

The opening shot of Goldfinger features a stunning aerial view of Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel, which at the time was the most luxurious guesthouse on Miami Beach. Later in the film Bond Girl Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) dies of skin asphyxiation inside the hotel after henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) coats her whole body in gold paint.

In the 1920’s the Hotel del Coronado was a famous weekend getaway for Hollywood stars like Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn but the Victorian wooden beach resort found fame as the setting for several scenes in Some Like it Hot. Located on San Diego Bay across from San Diego, the beachfront location was the scene of one of the film’s most famous lines. When Jerry (Jack Lemmon) first spies Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) sashaying through the sand he says, “Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs.”

Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining after staying at the 140-room Stanley Hotel in Colorado. “I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years,” says Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in the film version. “And not all of ’em was good.”

The Stanley has been used as a location for Dumb and Dumber and other films, but Stanley Kubrick chose not to showcase the place in his 1980 adaptation of the novel. Instead, much to King’s disappointment, he used Oregon’s Timberline Lodge as a stand-in for the film’s fictional Overlook Hotel.


great_gatsbyJay Gatsby, the doomed millionaire and star of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, is one of the most famous characters of the twentieth century. Representing the ultimate self-made-American man he is, at once, a romantic, fatally idealistic figure and a poseur with grandiose ideas, much like the new Baz Luhrman movie about Gatsby’s short but eventful life.

We first meet narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) when he is at a sanatorium being treated for severe alcoholism and bouts of depression. Part of his treatment involves writing a memoir about the events that brought him to his current state. Flashback to the Jazz Age, early 1920s in New York. Nick is working as a stockbroker in the city while living in a wealthy enclave known as West Egg. His neighbor is the enigmatic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo Di Caprio), whose ornate mansion—more of a palace really—plays hosts to wild weekend parties that attract a mix of the era’s well-heeled and round-heeled.

Across the water is the estate of Nick’s cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). She’s a debutant; he’s old money, a sports star with a short temper and a roving eye.

Nick soon learns that Gatsby was Daisy’s first love. That’s not the only secret in Gatsby’s life, however. Turns out he isn’t the aristocrat he claims to be, but the son of dirt-poor farmers who reinvented himself as Jay Gatsby, making a fortune bootlegging alcohol and manipulating the stock market.

Gatsby and Daisy pick up where they left off, but Gatsby proves unable to control the future as adeptly as he created his past.

Baz Luhrman may be the perfect person to retell Jay Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties’ story. Equally at home with razzle-dazzle and substance, he captures the tone of the Jazz Age while still allowing the story’s deeper resonance to shine through the gloss.

The movie’s first hour focuses on the superficial. Luhrman’s restless camera sweeps and swoops, never settling in one place for too long. It’s so over the top it makes the effervescent “Moulin Rouge!” look subdued but it also captures the unbridled optimism of the age. Gatsby’s parties are bacchanals complete with giant champagne bottles that shoot glitter over crowds of scantily clad flappers, gallons of bootleg whiskey served by white-gloved waiters and other “riotous amusements on offer.”

It’s eye candy, pure and simple, and yet the sense of doom that hangs over the beautiful and damned characters in the story is palpable. Without it this would be just another story about pretty people doing pretty-people things, but Luhrman broadens the story to inject some real-life feeling into a mannered story about a life that feels unreal.

He stays quite faithful to Fitzgerald’s book—even including the novel’s famous last line, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” which was noticeably absent from the Robert Redford version—but has structured the story to have a cinematic arc.

As the story changes so does the look and feel of the film—it slows down, luxuriating in the details, not only of the character’s lives, but of their situation as well. It’s an extremely stylish movie, but aside from some curious music choices—like the anachronism of a Jay-Z rap blaring over 1920’s NYC footage—the style doesn’t overwhelm the narrative.

As Gatsby Di Caprio not only makes the best movie star entrance ever—complete with swelling music, fireworks and zooming camera—but also plays a more tortured Gatsby than we’ve seen before. He’s smooth and slick in an “Old sport” kind of way, but bubbling just under the surface is an inner turmoil that trumps the mannered façade.

Maguire and Edgerton hand in effective performances—Maguire is a passive observer for the most part, Edgerton more aggressive—but Carey Mulligan steals the show.

Daisy is one of Fitzgerald’s “bright precious things,” a hothouse flower and Mulligan has a face capable of simultaneously showing great happiness and profound sadness, a duality that serves her character well.  She effortlessly tosses off shallow lines like, “Your life is adorable,” while digging deep to convey Daisy’s conflicted nature.

“The Great Gatsby” is a flashy, in-your-face 3D movie but despite the sophisticated use of special effects it still maintains a classic feel, driven by a respect for the story and interesting performances.

A brief history of the Great Gatsby in film By Richard Crouse Metro Canada – In Focus May 8, 2013

the_great_gatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is one of the best-known novels of the twentieth century. Dubbed one of the two best books of the century by The Modern Library these days it may be most familiar as the movie that reestablished Vincent Chase’s career on the show Entourage.

On that HBO series Chase (Adrian Grenier) was a fast-fading movie star until Martin Scorsese cast him in a movie based on the book. That fictional film became a big hit and put Chase back on top of the Hollywood heap.

This weekend The Great Gatsby comes to the big screen for real when Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann unleashes a 3D version of the story starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

It’s not the first time the life and times of doomed Jazz Age millionaire Jay Gatsby has been filmed for the screen.

In 1926, just one year after the book was published, a silent movie starring William Powell, appeared. The movie was popular with audiences but at least two paying customers weren’t impressed.

Scott Fitzgerald and wife Zelda walked out of a screening and later Zelda, incensed, wrote to her daughter, “We saw The Great Gatsby in the movies. It’s rotten!”

A 1949 film noir version spun the story to fit its lead actor. Movie tough guy Alan Ladd–he’s billed as Ladd – Man of Violence and Mystery–stars in a cautionary tale about learning “the hard way about the wages of sin.” To play up to Ladd’s core audience he’s seen firing a machine gun in a story that focuses on Gatsby’s violent history as a bootlegger.

Despite Ladd’s fame and passion for the project–he personally convinced Paramount to make the film–the movie was not a success, and was eventually withdrawn by the studio. To this day it’s still hard to find a copy.

The most famous version to date starred two of the biggest stars of the 1970s, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Working from a script by Francis Ford Coppola–who lived in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s home while he wrote the screenplay–the movie stays true to the novel. Embellished by beautiful set design and lush costumes, it’s a treat for the eyes, but received tepid reviews. The New York Times wrote, “the movie itself is as lifeless as a body that’s been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool.”