I’m a big fan of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, their writing alone makes them an incredibly intriguing couple. However, look behind their work and you’ll discover a world even more fascinating. Both were a huge part of the modern world of the late 1910s to the 1930s and F. Scott in particular blazed his way through the literary world of the time. I will not spoil the story, or explain why Zelda was never as successful, because of a particular tv show Amazon Prime may be producing for the future.
I say ‘may’ because Amazon have recently released a series of pilots on their Prime Videos section and it’s up to the public to watch them and give their feedback before they decide which ones to go forward with. And what’s even better, you don’t need a Prime account to watch them, just a box standard Amazon account. I discovered this over the weekend and had a quick look through them, discovering not one, but two Fitzgerald based dramas.
Z, The Beginning of Everything
The first is Z, The Beginning of Everything starring Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre, later to become Zelda Fitzgerald. The name of the show is taken from the quote “I love her, and that’s the beginning and end of everything”, which F. Scott wrote in a letter to a friend when explaining how he felt about Zelda. I think this says everything about their relationship, it was incredibly passionate, both in a good way and in a bad. They consumed each other, the sort of love teenage girls dream of but wouldn’t probably choose if they knew the flip side of it.
The story is focused around Zelda’s life, something I’m really glad about because so often her husband takes the centre stage. It’s very much based on the biography ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ by Therese Anne Fowler, which I’m yet to read but is in my big pile of books waiting to be devoured. I have read the odd comment that the Amazon pilot deviates a little bit from the truth but don’t they always? At the end of the day the producers need to create something that is watchable.
Christina Ricci, despite being a lot older than the 18 year old Zelda, brings the character to life as a thrill-seeking, rebellious and very modern young woman. She loves nothing more than going out dancing and flirting with boys and is desperate to leave her very conservative upbringing and sleepy town. It’s a classic ‘small town girl sets off for a better life’ story that’s been told time and time again by Hollywood but this time the girl isn’t fictional. Zelda was real and had real dreams of making something of herself, but at 18 she had no idea what that was.
Zelda is intelligent, well read and longs for a companion who she can share her thoughts and ideas with. Enter F. Scott Fitzgerald, played by Gavin Stenhouse. He doesn’t make an appearance until later on in the 30 minutes pilot but he certainly makes an impact when he does. All of the other young men are depicted as only being interested in one thing, getting the girl, but Fitzgerald is different. He’s calm and collected and is engrossed in a book whilst all around him are drinking and flirting.
The chemistry between the couple is immediate from the moment they meet and I cannot wait to see what’s to come, assuming Amazon do produce it as a series. As you can imagine, the late 1910s costumes are gorgeous. I love this period, just before the hems went higher and the necklines crept lower, because you can see how the stiffness of the Victorian style is slowly disappearing.
I personally loved this pilot, despite it being so short, but I know there are others who aren’t so sure. The southern American accents have been widely criticised but this doesn’t bother me as I have no idea how it should sound anyway. The occasional deviation from the true story has also received a few raised eyebrows. However, this is a beautiful and very enjoyful beginning of everything.
The Last Tycoon
The second Amazon TV show is The Last Tycoon, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel of the same name. It’s set in a 1930s Hollywood studio and focuses on the career and love life of Monroe Stahr, played by Matt Bomer. Stahr, a top Hollywood producer, is believed to be based on Irving Thalberg, Norma Shearer’s husband. His rival and boss, Pat Brady is played by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, with Lily Collins playing his daughter Cecelia.
This show feels bigger than Z, which makes me believe Amazon are probably much more serious about this one. The sets are more lavish and the production is much more thought out. It has a real feeling of the time period it’s set in, with little nods to the production of films made during this era. The colours are sumptuous and create the perfect atmosphere for each scene.
The costumes are quite breathtaking and I swear I’ve seen the crochet dress above before. Oh yes, that’s right, I own the pattern!! (It’s available on Etsy). Seriously, if anything is going to inspire me to really knuckle down and conquer crocheting then it has to be this. I actually sat up straight, right on the edge of my seat, when Lily Collins walked in wearing it!
The only thing that irks me about the women’s costumes, especially Lily Collins’, is the shape of most of the skirts. They are much more clingy and curve inwards more towards the knee. This is much more reminiscent of 1950s wiggle skirts than the classic 1930s shape. I know Lily Collins is super skinny but a more authentic silhouette would just make these clothes that extra bit special.
The men, on the other hand, have some really fabulous suits. I particularly fell in love with a light coloured one Kelsey Grammer wore towards the end. It was so typical of the time, double breasted, super wide shoulders and wide leg, turn up trousers. I just wish I could’ve found a photo of it to include here.
Matt Bomer plays Monroe Stahr with a real 1930s suave, very reminiscent of stars like Cary Grant. There’s also a humour in him that reminds me of William Powell. And he certainly looks the part too, and great eye candy!
The Last Tycoon is actually one of the few Fitzgerald books I haven’t read, so I knew nothing about the story. So far it’s very intriguing and the ending certainly left me wanting so much more. It weaves in very poignant issues of the time, such as the Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany. It shows a side of the German power that I’d not considered before, how they affected Hollywood.
It’s also really great to see people who had lost everything during the Depression depicted in something so big. I think the last time that happened was in the Doctor Who episode ‘Daleks Take Manhattan’. The Last Tycoon, just like Doctor Who, shows a Hooverville full of desolate families who would do anything just for something to eat. The one in this is built adjacent to the Hollywood tycoon’s movie lot, so you can just imagine how that goes down with the big boss.
The Last Tycoon is an hour long and it keeps you gripped the whole time. Z, The Beginning of Everything is definitely slower, which suits the late 1910s. However, I would hope, as they progress in the more fervent 1920s, the pace will be upped to match the mood of the time.
I honestly loved both of these shows and would love for Amazon to produce them both into their own series. And I’ve already left my feedback saying so! I don’t currently have an Amazon Prime account but I’d certainly consider signing up for their monthly package just to watch these while they’re on. I have no idea how long either pilots are available for, so if you do want to watch them, then be quick before they become unavailable to the non-Prime customers.
If any of you have seen either of these I’d love to know what you thought of them.