kids encyclopedia robot

F. Scott Fitzgerald facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Nickolas Muray. Fitzgerald is bent over a desk and is examining a sheaf of papers. He is wearing a light suit and a polka-dot tie. A white handkerchief is in his breast pocket.
Fitzgerald in 1929
Born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
(1896-09-24)September 24, 1896
Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Died December 21, 1940(1940-12-21) (aged 44)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Saint Mary's Cemetery
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
Alma mater Princeton University (no degree)
Years active 1920–1940
Zelda Sayre
(m. 1920)
Children Frances Scott Fitzgerald


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age—a term he created and popularized in his short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age. During his lifetime, he published four novels, four story collections, and 164 short stories. Although he achieved temporary popular success and fortune in the 1920s, Fitzgerald received critical acclaim only after his death and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.


Childhood and early years

Black-and-white photographic portrait of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald as an unbreeched infant with his mother in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Fitzgerald is standing on a city sidewalk with his mother nearby on the grass. In the distance behind them is a steepled building, likely a church, and several leafless trees.
Photograph of the Fitzgeralds' Buffalo residence. The photo is taken during winter, and there are patches of snow on the ground. The two-story house is painted white with black trim. Its front features an Italianate portico with a triangular pediment crowning a segmental arch.
Fitzgerald (left), unbreeched as a child in St. Paul, Minnesota. After his birth, his parents moved to a two-story home (right) in Buffalo, New York. His family did not own a house; they only ever rented.

Born on September 24, 1896, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to a middle-class Catholic family, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was named after his distant cousin, Francis Scott Key, who wrote in 1814 the lyrics for the American national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner". His mother was Mary "Molly" McQuillan Fitzgerald, the daughter of an Irish immigrant who became wealthy as a wholesale grocer. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, descended from Irish and English ancestry, and had moved to Minnesota from Maryland after the American Civil War to open a wicker-furniture manufacturing business. Edward's first cousin twice removed, Mary Surratt, was hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

One year after Fitzgerald's birth, his father's wicker-furniture manufacturing business failed, and the family moved to Buffalo, New York where his father joined Procter & Gamble as a salesman. Fitzgerald spent the first decade of his childhood primarily in Buffalo with a brief interlude in Syracuse between January 1901 and September 1903. His parents sent him to two Catholic schools on Buffalo's West Side—first Holy Angels Convent (1903–1904) and then Nardin Academy (1905–1908). As a boy, Fitzgerald was described by his peers as unusually intelligent with a keen interest in literature.

Procter & Gamble fired his father in March 1908, and the family returned to Saint Paul. Although his father was now destitute, his mother's inheritance supplemented the family income and allowed them to continue living a middle-class lifestyle. Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy from 1908 to 1911. At 13, Fitzgerald had his first piece of fiction published in the school newspaper. In 1911, Fitzgerald's parents sent him to the Newman School, a Catholic prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey. At Newman, Father Sigourney Fay recognized his literary potential and encouraged him to become a writer.

Princeton and Ginevra King

Photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald as a student at Princeton. The photo features only his head and shoulders. He is wearing a dark tie and a pin-striped suit.  His hair is parted in the middle and neatly coiffed.
Photographic portrait of Chicago heiress Ginevra King as a young woman. The black and white photo features her left profile, and she is wearing a white dress with ruffled sleeves. Her hair is dark, wavy, and bobbed.
F. Scott Fitzgerald circa 1917 and Chicago socialite Ginevra King circa 1918

After graduating from Newman in 1913, Fitzgerald enrolled at Princeton University and became one of the few Catholics in the student body. While at Princeton, Fitzgerald shared a room and became long time friends with John Biggs Jr, who later helped the author find a home in Delaware. As the semesters passed, he formed close friendships with classmates Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop, both of whom would later aid his literary career. Determined to be a successful writer, Fitzgerald wrote stories and poems for the Princeton Triangle Club, the Princeton Tiger, and the Nassau Lit.

During his sophomore year, an 18-year-old Fitzgerald returned home to Saint Paul during Christmas break where he met and fell in love with 16-year-old Chicago debutante Ginevra King. The couple began a romantic relationship spanning several years. She would become his literary model for the characters of Isabelle Borgé in This Side of Paradise, Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, and many others. While Fitzgerald attended Princeton, Ginevra attended Westover, a Connecticut women's school.

Despite the great distance separating them, Fitzgerald still attempted to pursue Ginevra, and he traveled across the country to visit her family's Lake Forest estate. Although Ginevra loved him, her upper-class family belittled Scott's courtship because of his lower-class status compared to her other wealthy suitors. Her imperious father Charles Garfield King purportedly told a young Fitzgerald that "poor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls."

Rejected by Ginevra as an unsuitable match, Fitzgerald enlisted in the United States Army amid World War I and received a commission as a second lieutenant. While awaiting deployment to the Western front where he hoped to die in combat, he was stationed in a training camp at Fort Leavenworth under the command of Captain Dwight Eisenhower, the future general of the Army and United States President. Fitzgerald purportedly chafed under Eisenhower's authority and disliked him intensely. Hoping to have a novel published before his anticipated death in Europe, Fitzgerald hastily wrote a 120,000-word manuscript entitled The Romantic Egotist in three months. When he submitted the manuscript to publishers, Scribner's rejected it, although the impressed reviewer, Max Perkins, praised Fitzgerald's writing and encouraged him to resubmit it after further revisions.

Army service and Zelda Sayre

Zelda Fitzgerald, 1922
A sketch of Zelda Sayre by artist Gordon Bryant published in Metropolitan Magazine

In June 1918, Fitzgerald was garrisoned with the 45th and 67th Infantry Regiments at Camp Sheridan near Montgomery, Alabama. Attempting to rebound from his rejection by Ginevra, a lonely Fitzgerald began dating a variety of young Montgomery women. At a country club, Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre, a 17-year-old Southern belle and the affluent granddaughter of a Confederate senator whose extended family owned the White House of the Confederacy. Zelda was one of the most celebrated debutantes of Montgomery's exclusive country club set. A romance soon blossomed, although he continued writing Ginevra, asking in vain if there was any chance of resuming their former relationship. Three days after Ginevra married a wealthy Chicago businessman, Fitzgerald professed his affections for Zelda in September 1918.

Fitzgerald's Montgomery sojourn was interrupted briefly in November 1918 when he was transferred northward to Camp Mills, Long Island. While stationed there, the Allied Powers signed an armistice with Germany, and the war ended.

Upon his discharge on February 14, 1919, he moved to New York City, where he unsuccessfully begged the editors of various newspapers for a job. He then turned to writing advertising copy to sustain himself while seeking a breakthrough as an author of fiction. Fitzgerald wrote to Zelda frequently, and by March 1920, he had sent Zelda his mother's ring, and the two became officially engaged. Several of Fitzgerald's friends opposed the match, as they deemed Zelda ill-suited for him. Likewise, Zelda's Episcopalian family was wary of Scott because of his Catholic background and precarious finances.

Seeking his fortune in New York, Fitzgerald worked for the Barron Collier advertising agency and lived in a single room in Manhattan's West Side. Aspiring to a lucrative career in literature, he wrote several short stories and satires in his spare time. Rejected over 120 times, he sold only one story, "Babes in the Woods", and received a pittance of $30.

Struggles and literary breakthrough

Photograph of Fitzgerald circa 1921. He looking at the camera while sitting at a desk with a pencil in his right hand. He is wearing a dark suit and a dark dotted tie.
Cover of The Saturday Evening Post's May 1, 1920, issue by illustrator Norman Rockwell. The cover features a white background with a couple framed by a red circular outline. A young woman with short red hair is sitting opposite a young man in a suit. They are both using a ouji board. The young man is guiding the woman's hands on the board, presumably to influence the outcome to her question. F. Scott Fitzgerald's name and several other writers appear at the bottom of the cover.
Fitzgerald at his desk circa 1920. His debut novel, This Side of Paradise became a cultural sensation in the United States. Soon after, The Saturday Evening Post published his short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" (right).

With dreams of a lucrative career in New York City dashed, Fitzgerald could not convince Zelda that he would be able to support her, and she broke off the engagement in June 1919. In the wake of Fitzgerald's rejection by Ginevra two years prior, his subsequent rejection by Zelda dispirited him. While Prohibition-era New York City was experiencing the burgeoning Jazz Age, Fitzgerald felt defeated and rudderless: two women had rejected him in succession; he detested his advertising job; his stories failed to sell; he could not afford new clothes, and his future seemed bleak.

In July, Fitzgerald quit his advertising job and returned to St. Paul. Having returned to his hometown as a failure, Fitzgerald became a social recluse and lived on the top floor of his parents' home at 599 Summit Avenue, on Cathedral Hill. He decided to make one last attempt to become a novelist and to stake everything on the success or failure of a book. He worked day and night to revise The Romantic Egotist as This Side of Paradise—an autobiographical account of his Princeton years and his romances with Ginevra, Zelda, and others.

While revising his novel, Fitzgerald took a job repairing car roofs at the Northern Pacific Shops in St. Paul. One evening in the fall of 1919, after an exhausted Fitzgerald had returned home from work, the postman rang and delivered a telegram from Scribner's announcing that his revised manuscript had been accepted for publication. Upon reading the telegram, an ecstatic Fitzgerald ran down the streets of St. Paul and flagged down random automobiles to share the news.

Fitzgerald's debut novel appeared in bookstores on March 26, 1920 and became an instant success. This Side of Paradise sold approximately 40,000 copies in the first year. Within months of its publication, his debut novel became a cultural sensation in the United States, and F. Scott Fitzgerald became a household name. Critics such as H. L. Mencken hailed the work as the best American novel of the year, and newspaper columnists described the work as the first realistic American college novel. The work catapulted Fitzgerald's career as a writer. Magazines now accepted his previously rejected stories, and The Saturday Evening Post published his story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" with his name on its May 1920 cover.

Fitzgerald's new fame enabled him to earn much higher rates for his short stories, and Zelda resumed their engagement as Fitzgerald could now pay for her accustomed lifestyle. Although they were re-engaged, Fitzgerald's feelings for Zelda were at an all-time low, and he remarked to a friend, "I wouldn't care if she died, but I couldn't stand to have anybody else marry her." Despite mutual reservations, they married in a simple ceremony on April 3, 1920, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York. At the time of their wedding, Fitzgerald claimed neither he nor Zelda still loved each other, and the early years of their marriage were more akin to a friendship.

New York City and the Jazz Age

Living in luxury at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City, the newlywed couple became national celebrities, as much for their wild behavior as for the success of Fitzgerald's novel.

As Fitzgerald was one of the most celebrated novelists during the Jazz Age, many admirers sought his acquaintanceship. He met sports columnist Ring Lardner, journalist Rebecca West, cartoonist Rube Goldberg, actress Laurette Taylor, actor Lew Fields, comedian Ed Wynn, and many others. He became close friends with critics George Jean Nathan and H. L. Mencken, the influential co-editors of The Smart Set magazine who led an ongoing cultural war against puritanism in American arts. At the peak of his commercial success and cultural salience, Fitzgerald recalled traveling in a taxi one afternoon in New York City and weeping when he realized that he would never be as happy again.

F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald (1923 portrait by Alfred Cheney Johnston)
Portrait of Scott and Zelda by Alfred Cheney Johnston, 1923

Fitzgerald's ephemeral happiness mirrored the societal giddiness of the Jazz Age, a term which he popularized in his essays and stories. He described the era as racing "along under its own power, served by great filling stations full of money." In Fitzgerald's eyes, the era represented a morally permissive time when Americans became disillusioned with prevailing social norms and obsessed with self-gratification.

In Winter 1921, Zelda became pregnant as Fitzgerald worked on his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, and the couple traveled to his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, to have the child. On October 26, 1921, Zelda gave birth to their daughter and only child Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald.

Long Island and second novel

The Vegetable Cover 1923 Retouched
Fitzgerald's 1923 play, The Vegetable, was an unmitigated disaster and hurt his finances.

After his daughter's birth, Fitzgerald returned to drafting The Beautiful and Damned. The novel's plot follows a young artist and his wife who become dissipated and bankrupt while partying in New York City. He modeled the characters of Anthony Patch on himself and Gloria Patch on—in his words—the chill-mindedness and selfishness of Zelda. Metropolitan Magazine serialized the manuscript in late 1921, and Scribner's published the book in March 1922. Scribner's prepared an initial print run of 20,000 copies. It sold well enough to warrant additional print runs reaching 50,000 copies. That year, Fitzgerald released an anthology of eleven stories entitled Tales of the Jazz Age. He had written all but two of the stories before 1920.

Following Fitzgerald's adaptation of his story "The Vegetable" into a play, in October 1922, he and Zelda moved to Great Neck, Long Island, to be near Broadway. Although he hoped The Vegetable would inaugurate a lucrative career as a playwright, the play's November 1923 premiere was an unmitigated disaster. The bored audience walked out during the second act. Fitzgerald wished to halt the show and disavow the production. During an intermission, Fitzgerald asked lead actor Ernest Truex if he planned to finish the performance. When Truex replied in the affirmative, Fitzgerald fled to the nearest bar. Mired in debt by the play's failure, Fitzgerald wrote short stories to restore his finances. Fitzgerald viewed his stories as worthless except for "Winter Dreams", which he described as his first attempt at the Gatsby idea. When not writing, Fitzgerald and his wife continued to socialize at Long Island parties.

Despite enjoying the Long Island milieu, Fitzgerald disapproved of the extravagant parties, and the wealthy people he encountered often disappointed him. While striving to emulate the rich, he found their privileged lifestyle morally disquieting. Although Fitzgerald admired the rich, he possessed a smoldering resentment towards them. While the couple were living on Long Island, one of Fitzgerald's wealthier neighbors was Max Gerlach. Purportedly born in America to a German immigrant family, Gerlach had been a major in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I and became a gentleman bootlegger who lived like a millionaire in New York. Flaunting his new wealth, Gerlach threw lavish parties, never wore the same shirt twice, used the phrase "old sport", and fostered myths about himself, including that he was a relation of the German Kaiser. These details would inspire Fitzgerald in creating his next work, The Great Gatsby.

Europe and The Great Gatsby

French identity card photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He is facing the camera, and the picture has been stamped in the lower left corner. Fitzgerald is wearing a white suite and black tie. His hair is parted in the middle.
French identity card photo of Zelda Fitzgerald. She is facing the camera, and the picture has been stamped in the lower left corner. Zelda is wearing a mink coat and has uncharacteristically dark hair.
The Fitzgeralds' French identity card photos, 1929. While abroad in Europe, Fitzgerald wrote and published The Great Gatsby (1925), now viewed by many as his magnum opus.

In May 1924, Fitzgerald and his family moved abroad to Europe. He continued writing his third novel, which would eventually become his magnum opus The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald had been planning the novel since 1923, when he told his publisher Maxwell Perkins of his plans to embark upon a work of art that would be beautiful and intricately patterned. He had already written 18,000 words for his novel by mid-1923 but discarded most of his new story as a false start. Initially titled Trimalchio—an allusion to the Latin work Satyricon—the plot followed the rise of a parvenu who seeks wealth to win the woman he loves. For source material, Fitzgerald drew heavily on his experiences on Long Island and once again on his lifelong obsession with his first love Ginevra King. "The whole idea of Gatsby", he later explained, "is the unfairness of a poor young man not being able to marry a girl with money. This theme comes up again and again because I lived it."

Following a marital crisis, the Fitzgeralds relocated to Rome. There Fitzgerald made revisions to the Gatsby manuscript throughout the winter and submitted the final version in February 1925. Fitzgerald declined a $10,000 offer for the serial rights, as it would delay the book's publication. Upon its release on April 10, 1925, Willa Cather, T. S. Eliot, and Edith Wharton praised Fitzgerald's work, and the novel received generally favorable reviews from contemporary literary critics. Despite this reception, Gatsby became a commercial failure compared to his previous efforts, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922). By the end of the year, the book had sold fewer than 23,000 copies. For the rest of his life, The Great Gatsby experienced tepid sales. It would take decades for the novel to gain its present acclaim and popularity.

Hemingway and the Lost Generation

Ernest Hemingway's passport photograph. He is facing the camera with a neutral expession on his face and has short dark hair. He is wearing a dark suit, black tie, and white shirt.
Photographic portrait of writer Gertrude Stein by Carl Van Vechten. Stein is facing the camera. She is wearing a black patterned dress and a white mesh scarf with an ornate brooch as a clasp. A large American flag is draped behind her.
In France, Fitzgerald became close friends with writers Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

After wintering in Italy, the Fitzgeralds returned to France, where they alternated between Paris and the French Riviera until 1926. During this period, he became friends with writer Gertrude Stein, bookseller Sylvia Beach, novelist James Joyce, poet Ezra Pound and other members of the American expatriate community in Paris, some of whom would later be identified with the Lost Generation. Most notable among them was a relatively unknown Ernest Hemingway, whom Fitzgerald first met in May 1925 and grew to admire. Hemingway later recalled that, during this early period of their relationship, Fitzgerald became his most loyal friend.

In contrast to his friendship with Scott, Hemingway disliked Zelda and described her as "insane" in his memoir, A Moveable Feast. Hemingway claimed that Zelda preferred her husband to write lucrative short stories as opposed to novels in order to support her accustomed lifestyle. "I always felt a story in the [Saturday Evening] Post was tops", Zelda later recalled, "But Scott couldn't stand to write them." To supplement their income, Fitzgerald often wrote stories for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly, and Esquire. He would first write his stories in an 'authentic' manner, then rewrite them to add plot twists which increased their salability as magazine stories.

In December 1926, after two unpleasant years in Europe which considerably strained their marriage, the Fitzgeralds returned to America.

Sojourn in Hollywood and Lois Moran

Glamor photograph of actress Lois Moran taken in 1927. She is facing the camera, but her eyes are staring to the left. Her hair is wavy, bobbed, and highly coiffed. She is wearing facial makeup and large earrings. A white fox or ermine coat is wrapped stylishly around her neck.
Photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald in profile circa 1927. His back is towards the camera, and his face is in left profile. He is wearing a dark suit and white shirt. His face has a serious expression as if staring intensely at someone off-camera.
Fitzgerald's relations with actress Lois Moran in 1927 further strained his relationship with Zelda.

In 1926, film producer John W. Considine Jr. invited Fitzgerald to Hollywood during its golden age to write a flapper comedy for United Artists. He agreed and moved into a studio-owned bungalow with Zelda in January 1927.

While attending a lavish party at the Pickfair estate, Fitzgerald met 17-year-old Lois Moran, a starlet who had gained widespread fame for her role in Stella Dallas (1925). Desperate for intellectual conversation, Moran and Fitzgerald discussed literature and philosophy for hours while sitting on a staircase. Fitzgerald was 31 years old and past his prime, but the smitten Moran regarded him as a sophisticated, handsome, and gifted writer. Consequently, she pursued a relationship with him. The starlet became a muse for the author, and he wrote her into a short story called "Magnetism". Fitzgerald later rewrote Rosemary Hoyt—one of the central characters in Tender is the Night—to mirror Moran.

Fitzgerald's relations with Moran further exacerbated the Fitzgeralds' marital difficulties and, after merely two months in Jazz Age Hollywood, the unhappy couple departed for Delaware in March 1927.

Zelda's illness and final novel

The Fitzgeralds rented "Ellerslie", a mansion near Wilmington, Delaware, until 1929. Fitzgerald returned to his fourth novel but proved unable to make any progress due to his poor work ethic. In Spring 1929, the couple returned to Europe. That winter, Zelda's behavior grew increasingly erratic and violent. Doctors diagnosed Zelda with schizophrenia in June 1930. The couple traveled to Switzerland, where she underwent treatment at a clinic. They returned to America in September 1931. In February 1932, she underwent hospitalization at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

H. L. Mencken believed that Fitzgerald's career as a novelist was in jeopardy because of his wife's mental illness.

In April 1932, when the psychiatric clinic allowed Zelda to travel with her husband, Fitzgerald took her to lunch with critic H. L. Mencken, by then the literary editor of The American Mercury. In his private diary, Mencken noted Zelda "went insane in Paris a year or so ago, and is still plainly more or less off her base." Throughout the luncheon, she manifested signs of mental distress. A year later, when Mencken met Zelda for the last time, he described her mental illness as immediately evident to any onlooker and her mind as "only half sane." He regretted Fitzgerald could not write novels, as he had to write magazine stories to pay for Zelda's psychiatric treatment.

During this time, Fitzgerald rented the "La Paix" estate in the suburb of Towson, Maryland, and worked on his next novel, which drew heavily on recent experiences. The story concerned a promising young American named Dick Diver who marries a mentally ill young woman; their marriage deteriorates while they are abroad in Europe. While Fitzgerald labored on his novel, Zelda wrote—and sent to Scribner's—her own fictionalized version of these same autobiographical events in Save Me the Waltz (1932). Piqued by what he saw as theft of his novel's plot material, Fitzgerald would later describe Zelda as a plagiarist and a third-rate writer. Despite his annoyance, he insisted upon few revisions to the work, and he persuaded Perkins to publish Zelda's novel. Scribner's published Zelda's novel in October 1932, but it was a commercial and critical failure.

Fitzgerald's own novel debuted in April 1934 as Tender Is the Night and received mixed reviews. Its structure threw off many critics who felt Fitzgerald had not lived up to their expectations. Hemingway and others argued that such criticism stemmed from superficial readings of the material and from Depression-era America's reaction to Fitzgerald's status as a symbol of Jazz Age excess. The novel did not sell well upon publication, with approximately 12,000 sold in the first three months, but, like The Great Gatsby, the book's reputation has since grown significantly.

Great Depression and decline

With his popularity decreased, Fitzgerald began to suffer financially and, by 1936, his book royalties amounted to $80. The cost of his opulent lifestyle and Zelda's medical bills quickly caught up, placing him in constant debt. He relied on loans from his agent, Harold Ober, and publisher Perkins. When Ober ceased advancing money, an ashamed Fitzgerald severed ties with his agent.

By the late 1930s, Fitzgerald's deteriorating health and financial woes made for difficult years in Baltimore. By 1935, alcoholism disrupted Fitzgerald's writing and limited his mental acuity. From 1933 to 1937, he was hospitalized eight times.

By that same year, Zelda's declining mental health necessitated her extended confinement at the Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Nearly bankrupt, Fitzgerald spent most of 1936 and 1937 living in cheap hotels near Asheville. His attempts to write and sell more short stories faltered. The sudden death of Fitzgerald's mother and Zelda's mental deterioration led to his marriage further disintegrating. He saw Zelda for the last time on a 1939 trip to Cuba. He returned to the United States and his ill-health exacerbated.

Return to Hollywood

Francis Scott Fitzgerald 1937 June 4 (2) (photo by Carl van Vechten)
A middle-aged Fitzgerald in 1937, three years before his death

Fitzgerald's dire financial straits compelled him to accept a lucrative contract as a screenwriter with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1937 that necessitated his relocation to Hollywood. Despite earning his highest annual income up to that point ($29,757.87, equivalent to $605,766 in 2022), Fitzgerald spent the bulk of his income on Zelda's psychiatric treatment and his daughter Scottie's school expenses. During the next two years, Fitzgerald rented a cheap room at the Garden of Allah bungalow on Sunset Boulevard.

Estranged from Zelda, Fitzgerald attempted to reunite with his first love Ginevra King when the wealthy Chicago heiress visited Hollywood in 1938. "She was the first girl I ever loved and I have faithfully avoided seeing her up to this moment to keep the illusion perfect," Fitzgerald informed his daughter Scottie, shortly before the planned meeting. The reunion proved a disaster, and a disappointed Ginevra returned east to Chicago.

Soon after, a lonely Fitzgerald began a relationship with nationally syndicated gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, his final companion before his death. After having a heart-attack at Schwab's Pharmacy, Fitzgerald was advised by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. Fitzgerald had to climb two flights of stairs to his apartment, while Graham lived on the ground floor. Consequently, he moved in with Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Avenue, one block east of Fitzgerald's apartment on North Laurel Avenue.

Throughout their relationship, Graham claimed Fitzgerald felt constant guilt over Zelda's mental illness and confinement.

During this last phase of his career, Fitzgerald's screenwriting tasks included revisions on Madame Curie (1943) and an unused dialogue polish for Gone with the Wind (1939)—a book which Fitzgerald disparaged as unoriginal and an "old wives' tale". Both assignments went uncredited. His work on Three Comrades (1938) became his sole screenplay credit. To the studio's annoyance, Fitzgerald ignored scriptwriting rules and included descriptions more fitting for a novel. In his spare time, he worked on his fifth novel, The Last Tycoon, based on film executive Irving Thalberg. In 1939, MGM terminated his contract, and Fitzgerald became a freelance screenwriter.

Director Billy Wilder described Fitzgerald's foray into Hollywood as like that of "a great sculptor who is hired to do a plumbing job". Edmund Wilson and Aaron Latham suggested Hollywood sucked Fitzgerald's creativity like a vampire. His failure in Hollywood pushed him to return to drinking.

Final year and death

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald grave
The Fitzgeralds' current grave at St. Mary's in Maryland, inscribed with the final sentence of The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald died of occlusive coronary arteriosclerosis at 44 years old. Only thirty people attended his funeral. Among the attendees were his only child, Scottie, his agent Harold Ober, and his lifelong editor Maxwell Perkins.

Zelda eulogized Fitzgerald in a letter to a friend: "He was as spiritually generous a soul as ever was... It seems as if he was always planning happiness for Scottie and for me. Books to read—places to go. Life seemed so promising always when he was around. ... Scott was the best friend a person could have to me". At the time of his death, the Roman Catholic Church denied the family's request that Fitzgerald, a non-practicing Catholic, be buried in the family plot in the Catholic Saint Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. Fitzgerald was buried instead with a simple Protestant service at Rockville Union Cemetery. When Zelda died in a fire at the Highland Hospital in 1948, she was buried next to him at Rockville Union. In 1975, Scottie successfully petitioned to have the earlier decision revisited, and her parents' remains were moved to the family plot in Saint Mary's.

Posthumous renown

2013 F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald grave 02.JPG

The Great Gatsby's popularity led to widespread interest in Fitzgerald himself. By the 1950s, he had become a cult figure in American culture and was more widely known than at any period during his lifetime.

Decades after his death, Fitzgerald's childhood Summit Terrace home in St. Paul became a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Fitzgerald detested the house and deemed it an architectural monstrosity. In 1990, Hofstra University established the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, which later became an affiliate of the American Literature Association. In 1994, the World Theater in St. Paul—home of the radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion—was renamed the Fitzgerald Theater.

Influence and legacy

Literary influence

Portrait of writer Charles R. Jackson by photographer Carl Van Vechten. Jackson is facing the camera. He is partly bald and has a pencil moustache. He is wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, a white handkerchief, and a polka-dot bow-tie. In the background is a dark brick wall with white art glyphs.
Black and white photograph of writer John O'Hara. He is sitting on a chair and leaning forward, his face partly in shadow. He is wearing a dark suit with a plaid vest, white shirt, and black tie. His hands are clasped in front of him.
Writer Charles R. Jackson hailed Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as the only flawless novel in the history of American literature, and writer John O'Hara stated that Fitzgerald influenced his work.

As one of the leading authorial voices of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's literary style influenced a number of contemporary and future writers. As early as 1922, critic John V. A. Weaver noted that Fitzgerald's literary influence was already "so great that it cannot be estimated."

Similar to Edith Wharton and Henry James, Fitzgerald's style often used a series of disconnected scenes to convey plot developments. His lifelong editor Max Perkins described this particular technique as creating the impression for the reader of a railroad journey in which the vividness of passing scenes blaze with life. In the style of Joseph Conrad, Fitzgerald often employed a narrator's device to unify these passing scenes and imbue them with deeper meaning.

Gatsby remains Fitzgerald's most influential literary work as an author. The publication of The Great Gatsby prompted poet T. S. Eliot to opine that the novel was the most significant evolution in American fiction since the works of Henry James. Charles Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend, wrote that Gatsby was the only flawless novel in the history of American literature. Later authors Budd Schulberg and Edward Newhouse were deeply affected by it, and John O'Hara acknowledged its influence on his work. Richard Yates, a writer often compared to Fitzgerald, hailed The Great Gatsby as showcasing Fitzgerald's miraculous talent and triumphal literary technique. An editorial in The New York Times summarized the considerable influence of Fitzgerald upon contemporary writers and Americans in general during the Jazz Age: "In the literary sense he invented a 'generation' ... He might have interpreted them, and even guided them, as in their middle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction."

Selected works


  • 1920 – This Side of Paradise
  • 1922 – The Beautiful and Damned
  • 1922 – The Diamond as Big as the Ritz (Novella)
  • 1925 – The Great Gatsby
  • 1934 – Tender Is the Night
  • 1941 – The Last Tycoon (unfinished)

Short stories

  • 1920 – "The Ice Palace"
  • 1920 – "Bernice Bobs Her Hair"
  • 1920 – "May Day"
  • 1922 – "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
  • 1922 – "Winter Dreams"
  • 1924 – "Absolution"
  • 1926 – "The Rich Boy"
  • 1931 – "Babylon Revisited"

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: F. Scott Fitzgerald para niños

kids search engine
F. Scott Fitzgerald Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.