F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 - 1940
Young F. Scott • Born September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota (Given name: Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald, after the writer of the American National Anthem to whom he was distantly related.) • Father was a failed aristocrat; mother came from an Irish immigrant family who became quite wealthy in America by owning General Stores. (Catholic) • 1908-1910 – Attended St. Paul Academy • First writing appeared in the school newspaper – a detective story • 1911-1913 – Newman School – Catholic Prep. School
A Life Begins • 1913-1917 – Attended Princeton University - joined the Triangle Dramatics Club - wrote for the Princeton Literary Magazines • 1917 – Placed on academic probation for flunking an entire semester, chances of graduating are dashed • 1917 – Entered the Army and was given a commissioning as a 2nd LT in the infantry (World War I). • 1918 – Stationed near Montgomery, Alabama - met Zelda Sayre (daughter of a state Supreme Court Justice) - became engaged, unable to marry because of financial restraints
A Writer Emerges • 1919 – Moves to New York to seek his fortune as a writer so he and Zelda could marry. • He fails; Zelda (with much encouragement from her father) breaks off the engagement. • Spring 1920 – Publishes This Side of Paradise – an instant financial success. • He and Zelda are married a week later. • The couple move to a NY apartment while Fitzgerald writes for The Saturday Evening Post where he was paid very well as a “Post Writer.” (Highest salary earned: $4,000/story)
A Family Started • 1921 – Zelda becomes pregnant, they travel to Europe briefly • October 1921 – daughter, Frances Scott Fitzgerald (Scottie), was born in St. Paul, Minnesota • 1923 – Wrote and produced a failure of a play, but was able to get out of debt by writing short stories - During this time Fitzgerald’s drinking begins to increase and affect his family and his career
Art Reflects Life • 1924-1926 – Seeking tranquility, the family moves to France • While in France, Zelda has an affair with a French aviator. • Fitzgerald meets Ernest Hemmingway (a well-known drinker/womanizer) and is brought into the fold of the expatriates, a group of American artists and writers living in Europe in the 1920’s. • Here, Fitzgerald writes The Great Gatsby, which is a financial disappointment. However, stag e movie rights made up for the low sales. • Zelda’s behavior becomes more erratic.
A Family Dissolves • 1927 –Family returns to America to seek solace from the “distractions” of Europe. • Zelda continues to become more and more unconventional – example: Zelda begins taking ballet lessons. • 1929 – While spending some more time in France, Zelda’s health is damaged by her intense ballet training. This adds to the couple’s estrangement. • 1930 – Back in America, Zelda suffers from her first breakdown. • She is treated in a hospital in Switzerland. Zelda will live in and out of hospitals for the rest of her life. • Fitzgerald once again resorts to selling short stories to pay debts and hospital bills.
“The Crack Up” Years • 1936-1937 – “The Crack Up” Years(named so for an essay he wrote at that time). • Zelda moved to a Baltimore hospital (sanitarium). • Fitzgerald was drinking heavily and living in and out of hotels. • Scottie is sent to boarding school because of the unstable home situation. • 1937 – Fitzgerald gets a writing contract with MGM studios for $1,000 a week. Salary increased to $1,250 a week in 1938, which enabled him to pay off his debts. • 1939 – Contract with MGM cancelled – no savings.
The End of an Era • 1939 – Fitzgerald begins dating and living with Sarah Graham (a wardrobe artist for MGM); he does not divorce Zelda who is still living in the hospital in Baltimore. • December 21, 1940 – Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack a girlfriend’s house. • 1948 – Zelda dies in a fire at the Highland Hospital in Baltimore.