F(rancis) Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. He was educated at Princeton University and served in the U.S. Army from 1917 to 1919, attaining the rank of second lieutenant. In 1920 Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre, a young woman of the upper class, and they had a daughter, Frances. Fitzgerald is perhaps best known for his short stories and novels, but his many contributions to American literature also include plays, poetry, music, and letters. He is now highly regarded as an American writer. Ernest Hemingway, who was greatly influenced by Fitzgerald's short stories, wrote that Fitzgerald's talent was "as fine as the dust on a butterfly's wing." Yet during his lifetime Fitzgerald never had a best-selling novel and, toward the end of his life, he worked sporadically as a screenwriter at motion picture studios in Los Angeles. There he contributed to scripts for such popular films as Winter Carnival and Gone with the Wind. Fitzgerald's work is inseparable from the Roaring 20s. Berenice Bobs Her Hair and A Diamond As Big As The Ritz, are two short stories included in his collections, Tales of the Jazz Age and Flappers and Philosophers. His first novel The Beautiful and Damned was flawed but set up Fitzgerald's major themes of the fleeting nature of youthfulness and innocence, unattainable love, and middle-class aspiration for wealth and respectability, derived from his own courtship of Zelda. This Side of Paradise (1920) was Fitzgerald's first unqualified success. The Great Gatsby (1925) is considered by many to be the greatest American novel. Tender Is the Night, a mature look at the excesses of the exuberant 20s, was published in 1934. Much of Fitzgerald's work has been adapted for film, including Babylon Revisited, adapted as The Last Time I Saw Paris by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1954. The Last Tycoon, adapted by Paramount in 1976, was a work in progress when Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, California. Fitzgerald is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.
Alan Margolies is Professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY.