The new movie version of “The Great Gatsby”, about to be released on May 10th, promises to be both more closely hewn to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story-line and at the same time full of overscaled, digitally enhanced scenographics. But before we are swept away by director’s Baz Luhrmann’s bombastic interpretation, we might look back at the last big adaptation – the 1974 film directed by Jack Clayton.
While not exactly esteemed for its writing (by none other than Francis Ford Coppola) or its performances, (by Robert Redford and Mia Farrow as Gatsby & Daisy), at least the sets – (all of them “actual” rather than “virtual”) – stood up to the task of illustrating the spectacle of the Jazz Age lifestyles so memorably depicted in the novel.
While architect Stanford White’s Gilded Age 1902 Rosecliff Manor in Newport, Rhode Island, (standing in for Gatsby’s West Egg, Long Island estate), was originally built for the robber-barons of a different period, the sprawling, neoclassical pile served well as the overwrought settings for the “Me Generation’s” appetite for excess, and gave form to the early 1970s’ fascination with nouveau riches and male vanity.
For our own time, we’ll bet di Caprio & Luhrmann will do justice to the callow protagonist, and the delirious, if fleeting, mise-en-scene, that’s still, today, given meaning by the name, “Gatsby”.
For more clips of the 1974 film’s Art Direction by Robert W. Laing & Gene Rudolf, & Set Decoration by Peter Howitt & Herbert F. Mulligan, click here.