This post is reblogged from the fab Realweegiemidget Reviews, and it was originally published on October 19, 2022. When Gill suggested a blog post “swap”, we (yours truly) jumped at the chance to share her review of The Great Gatsby (1974).
The eyes of
God Realweegiemidget saw it all again once more… and no this isn’t the long awaited Main Feature review of my favourite, Agatha Christie adaptation, Endless Night(1972). But that Endless Night, Main Features review, is one that I promise is coming soon… but first, another film where God apparently sees all in a post on the 1974 film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. And you will get this reference if you have seen a combination of those novels and movies.
The Great Gatsby (1974) is very much like Masquerade (1988) as a film where I remember seeing it as a kid, but only seeing the final scenes towards the end… and then hoping and longing to see it in full. When I was wee, my parents also had a copy of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book that I admittedly – and regretfully – never read. But like our copy of the Agatha Christie book, Murder on the Orient Express, it had a film-related cover that I adored.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, Gatsby lovers, but so far there have been five film and TV versions of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby novel… and this Gatsby movie under scrutiny today is from 1974. Dare I say it, but without sounding too fickle, it was a truly much better film than the now more bombastic DiCaprio version from 2013, although I still have apparently three to watch.
The first film was a silent movie made in 1926 and is now believed to be a lost movie, although a clip-filled trailer exists. This version was followed by an Alan Ladd one in 1949 also starring Shelley Winters. The 1974 movie was the second of the “talkies” versions, which was then followed up by a TV version. Then came the most recent one with Di Caprio from 2013. This novel now is in the public domain which means that anyone and everyone can make their own version… so watch this space for the inevitable casting of your nightmares / dreams.
Back to the 1974 film, I didn’t know the stars from this film version that adorned the tie-in book cover in a soft focus shot. Back then this photograph seemed of two lovers of yesteryear, and now I know them as the film leads, Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. I luckily picked up a pristine copy of this book edition here over here in Finland so one day, this wrong will be righted.
Until recently, I didn’t realise these two rather too photogenic leads were supported by a cast of 1970s talents including Sam Waterston, Scott Wilson, Karen Black and Bruce Dern. This film was made two years before Dern and Black made Family Plot (1976) with the director, Alfred Hitchcock. Patsy Kensit also stars in this film in her child actress days… and da da dah, Dallas (1978-91) star and Bond Girl, Lois Chiles is Daisy’s best friend and confidante, Jordan. Chiles’ best friend in another Agatha Christie adaptation, Death on the Nile (1978) played by Mia Farrow.
The 1974 film is set in the 1920s and starts with Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) telling how he came to rent a cheap cottage on West Egg next to the nouveau riche, Jay Gatsby. Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern), Nick’s old college friend Tom meets him from his boat at East Egg. Nick is then taken to their palatial home, where he meets Tom’s wife and Nick’s second cousin, Daisy, and her friend and constant companion, Jordan (Lois Chiles).
Tom is a boorish, ignorant and very rich man, and Dern fantastically shows these faults in his credible performance. Daisy seems self-absorbed, and she always seems to speak with a touch of the dramatic adding that she is now “paralysed with happiness” seeing Nick. And she then asks her cousin if she was missed, and it’s not the only time it’s all about her. Until she hears Nick’s neighbour’s name is Jay Gatsby… and she is lost in her own wee world.
Jordan reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress in the city and that Daisy barely tolerates this relationship. This is because she’s Catholic and won’t divorce him. We meet Tom’s other woman, the vampily dressed Myrtle (Karen Black), after Tom and Nick stop at a grimy garage in a slum area, on the way to New York. It feels like this garage is watched over by a billboard with a giant pair of spectacles.
The garage owner and Myrtle’s husband, George Wilson (Scott Wilson) is strapped for cash and hopes to buy a car from Tom to revamp and resell. Wilson is blindly oblivious to his wife’s amorous attention towards Tom. Myrtle later meets Tom in the city for a party, and he buys her a puppy. At this party, she talks lovingly about how she met Tom, and it’s clear that she loves both him and the expensive things he treats her to. They have a volatile relationship, yet he seems to love her, too.
It seems that Nick’s neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) is an enigmatic man with a past – with rumours circulating about just who he is, his background and just how he got his money – living alone in a huge house. Gatsby’s mansion is complete with a harbour and has a view of the green light on the pier at the Buchanans. Gatsby invites Nick to one of his many parties, where people come by boat to dance the night away and be fed by caterers and quaff champagne by the bucket load.
Gatsby summons Nick to meet with him and after Nick is taken to his host by his servant, Gatsby says he hates parties and it’s then awkward man-to-man small talk… The next day, Gatsby invites Nick and Daisy for tea. It’s clear that he wants to impress Daisy for some reason, as he arranges for Nick’s lawn to be mowed and orders her favourite flowers to decorate the house. Daisy’s late, Gatsby’s tetchy, and when the pair finally meet it’s clear to Nick that they have had a past wartime romance. It’s a mutual look of longing, a past romance and love – and, in Gatsby’s case, a hopeful reunion – for what feels like an eternity…
This cast gave spellbinding and honest performances, however, I still dislike Daisy Buchanan as a character immensely. This latter fact will prove to at least one of you that it wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio motivated in my review of the 2013 film, HERE! Robert Redford has the smouldering looks, and so is a lovelorn and hopeful Gatsby to a tee. He gives a heartfelt and genuine performance when he’s not posing by meaningfully gazing in the direction of the Buchanan’s home and the green light for the camera. Redford’s Gatsby is at his most endearing and vulnerable and you long for his love to be returned in a real and authentic way.
Gatsby was understandably angry that his old love Daisy had married, and moved on and loved again and seemed shocked she had a child. It seems this now-nouveau rich character was a poor soldier on meeting Daisy many years ago during wartime. He fell in love with her and then planned to get rich quick and win her hand in marriage one day. As Daisy said “rich girls don’t marry poor boys”, he hoped to impress her by becoming rich and believed this was the only obstacle to their happiness. Gatsby, obviously, was obsessed with Daisy and had collected cuttings of her life over the years.
Mia Farrow as Daisy looked at her most elf-like. She played a much more convincing shrill, neurotic, self-absorbed, money-motivated, fickle, mercenary and narcissistic Daisy than the doe-eyed Carey Mulligan from the 2013 film. This 1974 version of Daisy wept to see and touch Gatsby’s expensive shirts and was overly impressed by his expensive house and celebrity friends. She also never seemed genuine with anyone apart from her young daughter and only at times with Nick and Gatsby.
In Daisy’s romance with Gatsby, she did appear to love him back in some scenes particularly after they reunited. Yet, when she was confronted about making a choice between Gatsby and Tom, she clearly didn’t want to lose her current affluent lifestyle and, at first, became dithery and confused. Her marriage to Tom seemed to be because of his money, and he had impressed her with this after she had rejected her true love, Gatsby, who then came from a poor background. I did feel sorry for poor Gatsby in those later scenes when he still seemed blind to these faults and still wanted a hopeful romantic happy ever after.
These photogenic leads are supported admirably. Bruce Dern and Karen Black had great romantic chemistry. However this time round I felt more sympathy for Black’s character. Black as Myrtle appeared more tragic, vulnerable, and loved up with the man she was having a fling with in a tender performance. As Myrtle talked about Tom, it seemed more a genuine love – perhaps more for his standing and money – than with her impoverished husband, Wilson. She later chided him as he had borrowed a suit for their wedding. She now clearly felt trapped in her marriage with a man she didn’t love, but who loved her.
Scott Wilson as George Wilson also gave a convincingly heartrending performance and he seemed more distraught about his wife’s infidelity. In scenes showing this character, you felt this pain immensely. I also adored Waterston as Nick Carraway, who seemed like Maguire’s 2013 portrayal as a genuine man who saw the best in Gatsby and was more understanding of the ugly traits of his then peers. Yet, he seemed oddly oblivious to Jordan’s flirtations.
The screenplay for this film was written by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s beautifully filmed with soft-focus shots of Redford and Farrow as you lose yourself in the inspired cinematography. There are wonderfully set up scenes with lots of lovely shots of picnics in meadows with these lead actors looking terribly photogenic. These scenes contrast greatly with the shots of a gaudy Karen Black and Tom in their tacky flat and with her on-screen husband Wilson in the grimy garage.
The empathetic ambience was added to with phenomenal Oscar-winning costumes and a 1920-themed jazzy score. Dance scenes were superbly well choreographed. And there are even a few cameos to look out for, including Edward Herrmann, and did I see Charles Durning???
The film follows much the same pattern as the later film, yet with this cast it’s now my favourite retelling of this novel. I now would easily watch the 1974 version again and again with this film, now boasting the greater and possibly greatest Gatsby… I now know a rewatch is in the cards and exactly “what will I do, when you (Darlin Husband) are far away, and I am blue…”.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: 0 /10
The Take Two Blogathon 2022, No 21 – This post was added as Gill’s entry for Hometowns to Hollywood‘s Take Two Blogathon.
About Realweegiemidget Reviews:
Gill Jacob is a wee (5 ft.) Scottish lass living in Finland with the love of her life, Darlin Husband, her Dallas TV soap boxsets, and more. Prone to gittering (i.e. rambling on purpose) about films TV, books, and all things entertainment on Realweegiemidget Reviews Films, TV, Books and more… You can visit her wonderful blog HERE.