Stewart O’Nan on ‘The Last Tycoon’ – Edinburgh Book Festival


Roundtable discussion into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel ‘The Last Tycoon’ about the downfall of a young movie mogul based loosely on the short life of Irving J. Thalberg. O’Nan’s latest work ‘West of Sunset’ follows Fitzgerald’s last few years struggling in Hollywood. Despite his talent for melodrama and telling stories about beautiful people Fitzgerald couldn’t adapt his writing style to the needs of the Hollywood studio system which for better or worse back then operated as a factory production line. Usually fired early on in a film’s development his only screen credit would be shared with another eleven writers for ‘A Yank at Oxford’ (38, Jack Conway).

 O’Nan filled in a great deal of the background around Fitzgerald’s time in Tinsel Town and went into the novel in depth. I was a bit disappointed to find out Fitzgerald was an angry drunk prone to violent rages rather than the sad pathetic lush I’d always imagined. It’s been a while since I’ve visited The Last Tycoon and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen Elia Kazan’s 76’ movie adaptation starring Robert De Niro.

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