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The Great Gatsby is a 1974 American romantic drama film distributed by Newdon Productions and Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Jack Clayton and produced by David Merrick, from a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name.
The film stars Robert Redford in the title role of Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Scott Wilson, and Lois Chiles with Howard Da Silva, Roberts Blossom, and Edward Herrmann.
The film is the third filmed version of the novel. The previous two, also made by Paramount, were:
The Great Gatsby (1926), a silent film, directed by Herbert Brenon and starring Warner Baxter as Gatsby, Lois Wilson as Daisy, and William Powell. This film is considered “lost.”
The Great Gatsby (1949), directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Alan Ladd as Gatsby, Betty Field as Daisy, Shelley Winters, Macdonald Carey, Barry Sullivan, and Howard Da Silva.
The rights to the novel were purchased in 1971 by Robert Evans so that his wife Ali MacGraw could play Daisy. After MacGraw left Evans for Steve McQueen, he considered other actresses for the role, including Faye Dunaway, Candice Bergen, Natalie Wood, Katharine Ross, Lois Chiles, Cybill Shepherd, and Mia Farrow. Eventually Farrow was cast as Daisy and Chiles was given the role of Jordan. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Steve McQueen were considered for the role of Gatsby but they were rejected or declined the offer. Beatty wanted to direct producer Evans as Gatsby and Nicholson didn’t think that MacGraw was right for the role of Daisy, who was still attached when he was approached. Farrow was pregnant during the shooting and the movie was filmed with her wearing loose, flowing dresses and in tight close-ups.
Truman Capote was the original screenwriter but he was replaced by Francis Ford Coppola. On his commentary track for the DVD release of The Godfather, Coppola makes reference to writing the Gatsby script at the time, though he comments: “Not that the director paid any attention to it. The script that I wrote did not get made.”
The Rosecliff and Marble House mansions in Newport, Rhode Island were used for Gatsby’s house while scenes at the Buchanans’ home were filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. One driving scene was shot in Windsor Great Park, UK. Other scenes were filmed in New York City and Uxbridge, Massachusetts.
Variety’s review was likewise split: “Paramount’s third pass at The Great Gatsby is by far the most concerted attempt to probe the peculiar ethos of the Beautiful People of the 1920s. The fascinating physical beauty of the $6 million-plus film complements the utter shallowness of most principal characters from the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Robert Redford is excellent in the title role, the mysterious gentleman of humble origins and bootlegging connections. The Francis Ford Coppola script and Jack Clayton’s direction paint a savagely genteel portrait of an upper class generation that deserved in spades what it received circa 1929 and after.”