Fitzgerald, Her Infidel

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Sep 24th 2015

This Thing Called Love was the name of the movie laurelled author F. Scott Fitzgerald and gossip columnist Sheilah Graham saw the night before Fitzgerald died on December 21, 1940. Those things called love and contentment proved elusive in Fitzgerald’s writing and life; once a literary giant, later in life a victim of writer’s block, haunted by the mental unraveling and institutionalization of wife Zelda, he took to drink and moved to Hollywood in search of screenwriting work that could restore his failing finances. Born 119 years ago this day, Fitzgerald became a major literary character himself, first in Graham’s 1957 memoir (co-written with Gerold Frank) recounting her tumultuous romance with Fitzgerald in his final year, then later in the movie Hollywood distilled from it: Beloved Infidel (1959), available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. Plushly mounted, cast with glamorous and skilled stars – Gregory Peck as Fitzgerald and Deborah Kerr as Graham – and produced and directed by proven hands at CinemaScope melodrama (Jerry Wald and Henry King), it’s not the screen biography one would expect of an iconic literary figure; Fitzgerald’s renown and influence had already faded when the film begins. Like many great movie romances, it intermingles personality clashes, family dysfunction, class prejudice, physical abuse and other human frailties as struggles the lovers must overcome in order to approach redemption. Fitzgerald and Graham didn’t get there in his foreshortened lifetime. But this movie got there during Graham’s life, and if her adoration and subsequent writings contributed to keeping Fitzgerald in our collective conscience, redemption was achieved. This Thing Called Love (1940) was romantic farce. Beloved Infidel is romantic melancholy.