“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940), known professionally as F. Scott Fitzgerald, was an American novelist and short story writer, whose works illustrate the Jazz Age.
- While he achieved limited success in his lifetime, he is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.
- Fitzgerald is considered a member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s.
- He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night.
- A fifth, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, was published posthumously.
- Fitzgerald also authored 4 collections of short stories, as well as 164 short stories in magazines during his lifetime.
Fitzgerald was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and assigned to Camp Sheridan outside of Montgomery, Alabama.
- While at a country club, Fitzgerald met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre (1900–1948), the daughter of Alabama Supreme Court justice Anthony D. Sayre and the “golden girl,” in Fitzgerald’s terms, of Montgomery youth society.
- The war ended in 1918, before Fitzgerald was ever deployed. Upon his discharge he moved to New York City hoping to launch a career in advertising that would be lucrative enough to convince Zelda to marry him.
- He worked for the Barron Collier advertising agency, living in a single room at 200 Claremont Avenue in the Morningside Heights neighborhood on Manhattan’s west side.
Zelda accepted his marriage proposal, but after some time and despite working at an advertising firm and writing short stories, he was unable to convince her that he would be able to support her, leading her to break off the engagement.
- Fitzgerald returned to his parents’ house at 599 Summit Avenue, on Cathedral Hill, in St. Paul, to revise The Romantic Egoist, recast as This Side of Paradise, a semi-autobiographical account of Fitzgerald’s undergraduate years at Princeton.
- Fitzgerald was so short of money that he took up a job repairing car roofs.
- His revised novel was accepted by Scribner’s in the fall of 1919 and was published on March 26, 1920 and became an instant success, selling 41,075 copies in the first year.
It launched Fitzgerald’s career as a writer and provided a steady income suitable to Zelda’s needs. They resumed their engagement and were married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Their daughter and only child, Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald, was born on October 26, 1921.
Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in the late 1930s. After the first, in Schwab’s Drug Store, he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Avenue, one block east of Fitzgerald’s apartment on North Laurel Avenue.
- Fitzgerald had two flights of stairs to climb to his apartment; Graham’s was on the ground floor. On the night of December 20, 1940, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of This Thing Called Love starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas.
- As the two were leaving the Pantages Theater, Fitzgerald experienced a dizzy spell and had trouble leaving the theater; upset, he said to Graham, “They think I am drunk, don’t they?”
- The following day, as Fitzgerald ate a candy bar and made notes in his newly arrived Princeton Alumni Weekly, Graham saw him jump from his armchair, grab the mantelpiece, gasp, and fall to the floor.
- She ran to the manager of the building, Harry Culver, founder of Culver City. Upon entering the apartment to assist Fitzgerald, he stated, “I’m afraid he’s dead.”
- Fitzgerald had died of a heart attack.