Time--2017 A to Z Theme

My theme for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge was "Time". The posts are of a more philosophical, contemplative, and even autobiographical bent. No time management tips in this theme, but stuff intended to make you think.

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Great Gatsby (Remakes Blogfest)


   It's been said that you can't repeat the past...though of course you can when you remake a movie.  Then you can repeat the past as many times as you remake the movie...



Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner.----
blog about your favorite remake: movie (or television show into movie and vice versa), song, or book – or all three! Post a YouTube video and links where we can find these treasures. Tell us why THIS remake doesn’t suck!   You can find the list of other participants at either of the hosting sites.





The Great Gatsby

        Surprisingly, for one who had been an English major with a focus on literature when I was in college the first time around, I had never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby until 2013 when the most recent remake was released.   I had no particular intention on seeing the film--the novel didn't strike me as interesting nor did the movie.   Later, after the film's release, my wife and I were visiting our daughter in Houston and as I was looking for something to read during my stay there I spied a copy of Gatsby in their bookshelves.  It was a relatively short book so I decided to read the thing that I had thus far avoided for my entire life.  

        Well, I was blown away--one of the best novels I have read.  Upon finishing it was clear to me why The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be one of "The Great American Novels."   In a sense it is the truest American story, a rags to riches parable for the modern age.  The novel captures the spirit of an era and the essence of the romantic longings for the unobtainable that so many of us may have experienced in our own lives at some time or other.  The tragedy is beautifully told by Fitzgerald and begs for cinematic treatment.  After reading the book, I was convinced that I needed to see this celebrated new film version.
         
        In some future post I'll go into what made me so apprehensive about seeing the 2013 version of Gatsby, but I'll add in passing here that it was directed by Baz Luhrmann who also directed the 2001 film Moulin Rouge--yeah, I hated that film, but more on that in a few weeks in a future post.  Despite my feelings about Moulin Rouge, I was set on viewing his interpretation of The Great Gatsby.   At the time I was not aware that it had been interpreted by earlier directors.

The Great Gatsby 1926.jpg
The Great Gatsby (1926)


        
      






         Luhrmann's version blew me away thus luring me to explore whether other versions had been filmed.  I discovered there had been four movie versions over the decades (not counting a made-for-TV version that I have yet to see).   The first was a silent film of which no copies are known to exist any longer so other than viewing the trailer I have not seen that one.   Another version was released in 1949 with Alan Ladd in the role as Gatsby.  In 1974 Robert Redford played the lead in a much bigger production than its predecessors.  Then came the Luhrmann spectacle.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (1949)
     















         If the 1949 version were the only one to have been made it would have been a highly credible interpretation and worth a viewing by Gatsby fans.  The acting is fine though the story has been pared down to ninety minutes which does not allow for enough exposition and character development.  This film is more like a summary of the story with a feel that much is missing--and it is.  Nevertheless, Ladd plays the Gatsby role well.   This film is satisfactory, but probably wouldn't be fulfilling enough for modern audiences.  For one thing, it's in black and white and comes across as more of a film noirish experience than the story that it is meant to be.  This version is pretty good, but a bit flat.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (1974)


          My wife prefers the sweeping epic version from 1974.  The acting is outstanding and everything about the production is top rate.  Robert Redford does a fine job with his portrayal of the title character.  I've only seen this version once so far, but I would say that it is well worth watching.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (2013)


          My favorite is the 2013 version.   All of the acting works well for me.  The sets, the effects, and even the soundtrack are all big, brash, and a lot of fun.  Toby Maguire delivers the most effective portrayal of Nick Carraway (the narrator) of all of the films in my opinion and for me he really made the film.  However, I'd put Leonardo DiCaprio's performance up against any of the Gatsby's who came before him.  Where this version really captures the essence of the book is in its depiction of the decadence of the Jazz Age and the craziness of the world surrounding Gatsby and his elite neighbors.  For repeated viewings Luhrmann's version is the one for me.   It's good stuff that sticks pretty close to the story and spirit of Fitzgerald's novel.   I think Zelda Fitzgerald might have preferred this version as well.

          Now for any Moulin Rouge fans who might take offense at my negative stance on that film,  stay tuned to this blog for my post regarding that Luhrmann nightmare.  I will have some opinionated thoughts to share about it.  That post will come on November 29th directly preceding a related Battle of the Bands of December 1st.   My next Battle of the Bands post will be this Wednesday when I'll be pairing a song from Luhrmann's Gatsby soundtrack with an earlier version of the song.  Hope you'll join me for that.

         And by the way, regarding the versions of The Great Gatsby that I've discussed in this post, they are all relatively widely available so finding them would likely be little problem.   I bought the 1949 and 1974 versions through Amazon while I found the 2013 version with lots of bonus features at my local Walmart for something like seven bucks--a real steal.

         Would you consider The Great Gatsby to be one of America's greatest novels?     If you've seen any of the Gatsby films which was your favorite (if you liked any of them)?   What are some of your favorite film remakes?  







        

65 comments:

  1. Lee,

    Literature and me never mixed well in my early years and now...well, my brain won't allow me time to sit still long enough to read anything longer than page. I really wanted to see Leonardo DiCaprio's in this film production. We began watching it on HBO while we had a free trial but failed to finish it before our subscription ended. Maybe, it'll pop up on Netflix for us to try again. I do enjoy period pieces and it great fun to look into the past. I know Hollyweird make it more romantic and sensational that it actual was but it's still a lot of fun. I appreciate your review on each movie production and am looking forward to your BoTB on Wednesday. See ya then if not before, my friend. Have a good day!

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    1. Cathy, the 2013 Gatsby is a strange period piece with modern elements--primarily the soundtrack--thrown into the mix. I wouldn't consider Gatsby a romanticized piece in the book or the movie versions--it takes a harsh cold look at the lives of the characters. But I guess not everyone might appreciate the story. I do highly recommend the book as it is short and it reads quickly.

      Lee

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  2. I've not seen the latest version - not fond of the director. Didn't like Moulin Rouge either. I did see the Robert Redford version and thought it was quite tragic.
    Thanks for participating in the blogfest!

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    1. Alex, the story is a tragic one so this is what I would expect of any movie version. Thanks for hosting this blogfest.

      Lee

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  3. I read The Great Gatsby in high school, but I've never seen the movies. I was so into horror at the time, I don't think I liked it that much. I would probably appreciate it more now.

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    1. Tamara, I do thing Gatsby would generally be more appreciated by older readers. I probably wouldn't have cared much for it when I was in high school since aside from required reading I would mostly read science fiction. Gatsby was recommended in my classes, but not required.

      Lee

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  4. I had to read the book in high school, too. Plus we watched the 1974 movie. I'd probably appreciate them both more now as I thought they were a little boring. (But far better than Grapes of Wrath.)

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    1. L.Diane, oh, I love Grapes of Wrath both the movie and the book. I do think our tastes often change as we grow older and begin to understand more about life. I probably wouldn't have much related to Gatsby when I was in high school.

      Lee

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  5. I love Baz Luhrman but can't stand Leonardo DiCaprio, so I haven't been able to bring myself to watch Gatsby yet. I will get to it one of these days.

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    1. CD, Luhrmann definitely has his own unique style which is likely an acquired taste for those willing to stick with his films. I won't say he's a bad director, but he can get overly artsy at times.

      I've enjoyed most of DiCaprio's performances though he kind of bugs me in his real life.

      Lee

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  6. Like Tamara and Diane, I read the book in high school, but I can't remember too much about it. Though I'm finding that as I go through the classics again as an adult, I'm enjoying them much more.

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    1. Christine, I'd recommend that you revisit the book. It's a very quick read and not at all long.

      Lee

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  7. Great book - and a great depiction of the myth of America. I didn't want to see the latest one with de Caprio ... but perhaps I still will.

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    1. Susan S, the version with DiCaprio is somewhat of an assault on the senses, but if you can get past that then you might enjoy it. I was also a bit taken aback by the use of modern music in the soundtrack, but once I got past the initial shock the songs began to work for me in the context of the film.

      Lee

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  8. Not a fan of Moulin Rouge. Have read The Great Gatsby but not watched it as a film. Your post makes me want to, especially the Robert Redford remake.

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    1. Nilanjana, I'll have some things to say about Moulin Rouge in a couple of weeks so I'll leave that film alone for now. The Redford version of Gatsby is a more traditional old-school take on the novel. Probably more to your liking if you don't care for the flash and modernization of Luhrmann's approach.

      Lee

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  9. I read The Great Gatsby when I was about 24, and wasn't particularly blown away by it. It kind of underwhelmed me, and I felt like the plot twists towards the end were resolved too quickly. I might have a slightly different impression if I reread it now. A lot of books, films, and albums have these massive, decades-long (or centuries-long, for books) reputations, and that can lead to someone going in expecting to be blown away and then being disappointed it wasn't exactly what the hype had seemed to suggest.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, I do like going into something with no preconceived notions so I can better judge for myself rather than my opinion be colored by any previous acclamations of worth. Some things I read or saw in my younger days I much better appreciate having more life experience and learning knowledge behind me. I'm not sure how I would have responded to Fitzgerald's book when I was younger, but at the time hearing the synopsis did not make me excited to seek out the book to read it.

      Lee

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  10. I'm a real Fitzgerald fan, so I've seen Gatsby in all of its movie splendor. I did enjoy the Di Caprio version, and while I like Redford, I didn't care much for his Gatsby. Great choice of movies. Much better than mine. :-(

    My link didn't work on the Linky. I think it's because I screwed up the path with the switch to my new blog. www.cleemckenziebooks.com

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    1. C.Lee, Redford did a more traditional Hollywood take on the Gatsby character so I can see how this version would appeal more to some viewers. For me, Tobey Maguire really stole the show and made the movie more special.

      Three Things so far. I didn't realize that was such a well loved movie. But I liked both versions of that one too.

      Lee

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  11. i never read The Great Gatsby or saw any of the movies. maybe i'll try the latest one. i'm an action movie and chick flick girl. that being said, two of my favorite remakes are Edge of Tomorrow (kind of a sci-fi re-do of Groundhog Day), and the newest BBC version of Sense and Sensibility.

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    1. Michelle, my wife is also more of an action fan, but she did enjoy Gatsby. I don't remember if I've seen Edge of Tomorrow but I think I did. It fits into my favorite genre of stories that toy with time.

      Lee

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  12. I totally agree with your wife. The 1974 version is my preference. The 2013 remake is really good too, but I guess I'm just stuck on the first one I've seen.

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    1. Jay, there is a lot of dazzle and effects in the 2013 version and that's not to everyone's liking. It took me a bit to adapt to it and I liked it better on the second viewing. The 1974 is traditional Hollywood which is mighty fine as well. I can certainly appreciate either one. I can understand that concept of first loves. Some films grab our hearts and the remakes don't take that place.

      Lee

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  13. Sixgun McItchyfingerNovember 13, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    I read Gatsby in high school and thought it was a total waste of time. I found the characters unlikable and the story boring. One might think that it was the immature mind of youth that kept me from liking the tale, but I re-read it later and liked it only a little more the second time. The plot involves essentially senseless tragedy; and not like a Greek tragedy, where some fatal flaw brings down a basically good person. Gatsby (to me) has few redeeming features and a definite lack of certain ethics. His downfall therefore becomes... well, "just fine by me."

    I've seen the Redford version, and (I'm pretty sure) the Ladd version. NO WAY was I going to spend good money on seeing a new film of a so-so book filled with new music by Jay-Z, Beyonce', and Will.I.Am.

    "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

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    1. sixgun, if I had read the book in high school I might have had a similar reaction to yours. I think you may have been blinded by your reaction to the characters and story and missed the point the story was making. I think of some of the quotes from the book such as:

      “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”

      “It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.”

      or from the 1949 version and not in the book:

      There is a way that appears to be right,
      but in the end it leads to death.
      Proverbs 14:12

      I would disagree about your assessment of Gatsby. A war hero who came from an unassuming background, his fatal flaw was believing that money could bring him anything he wanted in life and wealth was the solution to all problems in life. Gatsby lived a fantasy as a result of living in his own fantasies and when the truth bore out his world collapsed. There are the other side issues as well such as Daisy, the decadence of the age, the relationship between the Wilsons, and the all-seeing eyes on the billboard which seems to in part represent the eyes of God.

      But the differences of who likes what is part of the fun as well as the mystery of these little blog posts about preferences and so on. You probably like things that I or others might not. Value is most often personally determined.

      Lee

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    2. WARNING TO READERS: SPOILERS AHEAD.
      (Also: apologies to your readers for the length of this one. Not trying to hijack the blog… just explain in more detail my reasoning to Lee. Feel free to just skip my comment!)

      I think you are right that these differences of opinion are part of the fun of your blogging.

      But I'll disagree with you if you think I missed the point of the story. I knew the point, as we went over it thoroughly in HS and I even had to write an essay about it for my AP lit class. Also, as one of the most praised novels in American literature and one that has influenced modern thinking (and not for the better, in my opinion,) the point of Gatsby is mentioned often.

      But I searched online for a summary to paste here that would state the point succinctly:

      "The message is that the American dream is illusory. It makes men do extraordinary and unethical things (Gatsby's reinvention and obscene wealth) but however much they chase the green light, it is forever out of reach."

      Perhaps one reason I don't like the book is that I profoundly disagree with the premise it is pushing. A) I think that this assessment contains the bias of those who think that attaining great wealth IS the American dream. Perhaps that is the dream of some; but I think that most people would simply like to attain enough wealth to experience financial freedom. My concept of the American dream fits more with why my grandmother came from Norway in 1913 to the U.S.: to experience freedom, to earn a decent wage, and to eventually own her own home. The millions of people that have sneaked into the U.S. in the last 30 years didn’t think they would become Bill Gates. They just wanted to start their own business/earn a wage and live a life in safety.

      B) Whatever it is exactly, WHY is the American dream forever out of reach? Many have attained it, and many more will attain it in the future… unless the acolytes of socialism - fueled by anti-capitalist philosophy partially inspired by tomes dissing "the American Dream" - eventually win.

      C) Gatsby wanted wealth specifically to (in his mind) win the affections of Daisy.

      D) He did advance to rank of Major in his brief stint WWI, but was he a hero? That's a reach.

      E) But I will agree that perhaps the book has something in common with Greek tragedies, if you can manage to view Gatsby himself a good person with one fatal flaw. (Sadly, his war service was the ONLY real positive I can think of about him… though it has been quite a while since I’ve read the book.) Is the flaw his obsession with Daisy? Even though she is now married he goes after her anyway. Would that be what a “good” person would do? Or is his flaw that he thinks obscene wealth will win her affections… so pursuit of money is the flaw?

      Any way you cut it, it shouldn’t surprise you that - since my favorite author and philosopher at the time was (and still is) Ayn Rand - Gatsby is not going to be a personal favorite. But, you are in the majority of folks that DO like the book (and movie), and it was fun to reading your blog and your readers’ comments. I just wanted to give you my two cents (which turned out to be more like two bits in volume.)

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    3. Six, I do see what you're saying. I see Gatsby as a cautionary tale to remind us that our obsessions can misguide us and lead us to ruin and failure--and in Gatsby's case death. I don't think we are to like Gatsby in the sense of someone to emulate, but to use him as a lesson in life. What we need most in life are not what others will give us or make us feel nor accumulated wealth or stuff. We all die and leave our stuff behind, but was there a true quality in our lives and in the ideals which we strove to attain.

      I think appreciation of any story depends on our personal tastes and philosophies of life. In Gatsby what I like most is the way Carraway, the narrator, dissects the elements of the story and sorts them out.

      Now Ayn Rand gets us into another realm. Atlas Shrugged is a book that I disliked when I read it at age 25, but it stuck in my craw unlike many books that I've read and forgotten. Over the years I gained a greater appreciation for that novel as I understood more about the philosophy in relation to my personal outlook on life. That's the only Rand book I've read though I've read some essays, watched documentaries, and saw the film version of The Fountainhead. Then I also watched the film trilogy based on Atlas which I like though found not as much as I would have like to have seen it been.

      Interesting contrast between Fitzgerald and Rand. They kind of represent a dichotomy of modern American society from the standpoint of economic and life philosophies.

      Great explanations--thanks!

      Lee

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  14. Wow. I had no idea there were so many versions. I'm glad you finally found the one you liked the most, but I'm a little surprised its the newest one!

    Thank you for joining our blogfest today!!!
    Heather

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    1. Heather, I was also surprised (pleasantly) about the number of versions. I was also kind of surprised that I'd prefer the version by Luhrmann.

      Lee

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  15. I'm not going to lie, I was tempted to see the latest remake of the Great Gatsby because one of the characters was in an episode of Doctor Who. LOL

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    1. Patricia. I've watched many movies because of one actor in it who I had seen elsewhere and liked. Makes sense to me.

      Lee

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  16. The book was required reading in one of my high school English classes. I loved it. And the movie w/ Robert Redford is the only one I've seen and I love it. It's got such a great cast!

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    1. JoJo, the 1974 version does have an excellent cast and the film holds its own very well.

      Lee

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  17. They made us watch part of the 1974 version in high school when we read the book. I much prefer the newer version! And I love the book!

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    1. M, the 1974 version probably holds more appeal to those of a particular age group. Luhrmann was obviously trying to cash in on a newer generation while attempting to retain the essence of the original story.

      Lee

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  18. I read Gatsby, a LONG time ago...

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  19. I've seen the 1974 version and read the book. I enjoyed them, but didn't want to watch the new one just to see the same story over again.

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    1. Pat, the story is essentially the same, but the delivery style is maybe worth the visit. Check out some of the music videos on YouTube.

      Lee

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  20. Never saw any version except the 2013 one which I enjoyed. I could not get through the book.

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    1. Juneta, the book does start off with a lot of names and society connections. But I got into the story pretty quickly. Maybe I just somehow connected with it better.

      Lee

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  21. Like you, I managed to get through an English major without reading Gatsby. Missed the version with Redford. I thought the 2013 movie was a bore. Sorry. I guess it just wasn't my thing.

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    1. Diane, there are a lot of literary classics that I still haven't read but one day mean to. So many books and so little time!

      Maybe having read the book first I was more captivated by the film. Who knows why people see things different ways, but there are likely many different reasons that they do.

      Lee

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  22. I have to admit Gatsby is an interesting character. All for the love of Daisey who I've concluded is torn between two suitors but she marries into money, all planned and respectable which for the 20's was essential. I haven't read the book nor watched the movie in ages so I'll have to note a stardate in my log.

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    1. Spacer Guy, "stardate in my log"! You've given me a big smile. Gatsby could have had plenty of other women. She was married with a child so he should have left well enough alone. But then we wouldn't have the same story.

      Lee

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  23. A big, brash movie captures the spirit of the 20s perfectly!

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    1. Sandra, watching the 2013 version I got more of the spirit of everything I picture the Twenties to be like.

      Lee

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  24. I didn't care for the 1949 version, though I saw it when I was a kid going through a black and white phase. I'd need to see it again to really know if I like it or not. I like the Redford version a lot. Until the latest release, it was the version to watch. While I did like the 2013 version and agree that Maguire has been the best Nick Carraway so far, I had issues with the "fun" soundtrack. There were a few times when I felt like it was a little too over the top. It felt like "they" were try too hard to be cool sometimes. Still, a great movie and fun to watch.

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    1. Toi, I didn't like the 1949 version very much the first time I watched it a year ago, but I watched it over the weekend and appreciated it much more. You might want to give it another chance. Anyway it's pretty short.

      I agree that in the 2013 version the soundtrack can be rather off-putting. I started getting into it after a while though. In subsequent viewings it wasn't so starting so I've accepted it much better.

      Lee

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  25. I liked the Robert Redford version of Great Gatsby, but I should give the others a view. Not sure I've seen any. I did read the novel and enjoyed it enormously and went on to read a lot of Fitzgerald's work. Really took hold of me for a time. Awesome writer!

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    1. Sharon, I think the Redford version would have the most general appeal. My DVD version of the Luhrmann film also includes some neat documentaries about Scott and Zelda.

      Lee

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  26. Wow, funny you should write about this one I just bought Leonardo DiCaprio's one at Walmart Five bucks because I never seen it. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Dolly, that is funny because that's where I found a copy. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This version has a lot of music in it.

      Lee

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  27. I saw a version many years ago but don't expect to see the newer one. I recall enjoying the one I have seen,
    A great informative post Lee. good to read.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, since the 2013 version was the first one that I had seen then it probably made a far different impression than if I had seen it after seeing the others first. The other versions are more what one might expect in a film like this.

      Lee

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  28. I tried watching the new Gatsby film, but was bored by it. I may have to give it another go. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood.

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    1. Shannon, mood can certainly affect how we see things. Sometimes I've hated a film the first time only to be wowed by it later--and vice versa.

      Lee

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  29. I am culturally deficient. I have somehow managed to not read the book or see any of the movies. How did that happen? I am a bit ashamed to admit that.

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    1. Elizabeth, no need to be ashamed. There are so many books considered "great" that I have yet to read. I see very few recent films.

      Lee

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  30. I have to admit I really disliked Gatsby when I read it back in university. I don't remember much except thinking the main character was a whiny pompous ass... now you've got me wondering!! One of these days I'll have to pick it up again :)

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    1. Jemi, maybe we judge literary characters in the same ways we judge real people. It's interesting to think about why we like certain people while others don't like them.

      Lee

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  31. I have only seen the version with Redford and the one with Leonardo. Both very good. Don't know that I prefer one over the other.
    Drop by and visit me in Caneyhead!

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    1. Barbara, both versions have something to offer and I think are worth viewing.

      Lee

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  32. Hi Lee, I have not read or seen any of the movies. I heard the book is a classic I should put it on my TBR list.

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Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

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Lee