In thinking of the Roaring Twenties, many people look immediately to F. Scott Fitzgerald as their window into the decade. Between over 150 short stories, four phenomenally captivating novels, and his own scandalous lifestyle with his wife Zelda by his side, perhaps we can coin a new term for him as “The Roaring Man,” – an updated version of “The Renaissance Man.”
Many readers are familiar with his connection to Long Island, especially after the sale of his and Zelda’s home in Great Neck for over $3.5 million in 2015. They lived in the house between 1922 and 1924 and it is where F. Scott Fitzgerald began writing The Great Gatsby before he and Zelda moved to Paris. However, what if I told you that F. Scott Fitzgerald might have actually taken his inspiration for Gatsby from his time in Westport, Connecticut instead? Writer Barbara Probst Solomon first posed this question in her own article for The New Yorker in 1996, which would go on to be studied further in the new documentary, Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story, available on Amazon to rent or buy.
As a Westport native, Solomon said she was young when she found herself sitting on a dock there, knowing another Fitzgerald home was nearby, suddenly realizing that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s inspiration could have easily been taken from that same view at which she was looking. This led her to do more research on the chances of this being true and then writing her New Yorker article. This article would eventually make its way into the hands of Robert Steven Williams, prompting him to collaborate with Richard (Deej) Webb in the creation of the documentary, Gatsby in Connecticut. The two also recruited Sam Waterston, who played Nick Carraway in the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby, to be featured in the documentary.
Williams and Webb dive into the literary investigation surrounding Gatsby and the Fitzgeralds’ time in Connecticut versus their time in New York. Williams and Webb then silo the proof they uncover into various segments, including the geography of the region, the history of F. Scott Fitzgerald, an analysis of his relationship with Zelda Fitzgerald, references to quotes in his and her novels, quotes from correspondents of the couple, etc. The documentary transitions between these segments with a perfect reference to the time – the insertion of a silent film title card.
In addition to a study of the lives and works of the Fitzgeralds, the documentary performs an examination of Matthew J. Bruccoli, the leading Fitzgerald scholar and writer of the most-referenced F. Scott Fitzgerald biography. Bruccoli turned away from Solomon’s research and article, asserting she was entirely incorrect. Sadly, Bruccoli passed away in 2008, so he couldn’t be interviewed for the documentary. As other scholars were informed of various pieces of evidence, though, all admitted that the case for Connecticut was a strong one. Therefore, Bruccoli may have been biased to rejecting Solomon’s findings, due to his position in the world of Fitzgerald and perhaps a valid fear in defense of his life’s work.
Released on the one-year anniversary of Barbara Probst Solomon’s passing and in memory of her, Gatsby in Connecticut is a very fascinating take on the lives of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Whether you’re new to the work of Fitzgerald or a serial Fitzgerald reader like I am, the documentary easily ignites a sense of intrigue through its canon-like portfolio of photography and journal excerpts. You may easily find yourself wanting to read more of his work or even to make your first leap into the portfolio of Zelda Fitzgerald as well.
“Westport deserves its history… and you got it” – Barbara Probst Solomon in Gatsby in Connecticut: The Untold Story