Remarkable Adaptation of the Scott Fitzgerald Classic
Originally broadcast live in June 1958, David Shaw's adaptation of the Fitzgerald classic is perhaps the most intriguing version of the novel around. It not only reshapes the plot, but adds a considerable amount of background material that tells us a lot about the relationship between Gatsby (Robert Ryan) and Daisy (Jeanne Crain).
The story opens in 1917 with a chance meeting between the two of them at a party. Unlike all the other eligible bachelors, Gatsby doesn't want to kiss Daisy, so Daisy has to take the initiative herself. Daisy's mother Mrs. Fay (Doris Lloyd), doesn't know who Gatsby is, but is quite happy to let him go up to her bedroom in the belief that he will go off to war and the relationship will end.
She is proved wrong, however, when in a scene strongly reminiscent of the love-scene in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), Gatsby and Daisy embrace after having swum in the sea. The two of them vow eternal love before Gatsby goes off to fight in the army.
The action subsequently cuts to a wedding-scene, where Daisy is forced to marry Tom Buchanan (Philip Reed) against her will. She tries in vain to cross her mother; but eventually has to submit. Daisy walks down the aisle with an impassive expression on her face; she has clearly been forced into something she doesn't want. This sequence sets the tone for the rest of the adaptation, in which Daisy pines to recover Gatsby's love, but finds that the passage of time has changed things too much.
Franklin Schaffner's production makes other changes to the source- text, but retains the novel's moral concerns about the sheer self- interest of many of the characters. Nick Carraway (Rod Taylor) is morally quite shocked by their indifference, and his final scene where he parts from Daisy is exceptionally powerful. Robert Ryan makes a dashing Gatsby, whose body throbs with passion when alone with Daisy, but at the same time he finds it difficult to maintain the facade of being a great host at many of his parties.
This adaptation evokes the carefree spirit of the 1920s, while at the same time criticizing the period for its hedonism and lack of humanity. Definitely worth a look.
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