Originally posted on Goodreads.com.
Scott Fitzgerald’s last and unfinished work, The Last Tycoon begins the story of movie producer Monroe Stahr trying to maintain his integrity in an industry that has passed its peak and is tending towards decadence. Told from the perspective of his business partner/rival’s daughter, Cecilia Brady, who is in love with the producer, Stahr must apply his expertise and standards to the works that come out of his company in spite of pressures from unions, writers, and his own business partner, all while dealing with an increasingly dangerous heart condition. Meanwhile, in a flood caused by an earthquake, Stahr meets a woman who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, actress Minna Davis, and his Spartan lifestyle is threatened.
Unfortunately left unfinished, The Last Tycoon shows Fitzgerald’s writing process at its most mature. Though many ideas and plot points are left unfinished and unvarnished, it has many of the themes and motifs present in Fitzgerald’s other works—the 20th century and its continuity/contrast with the 19th century American ideals (hence the title), a lone character surrounded by those who, despite their higher status, are his inferiors in ability, an admiring narrator reflecting on the romantic hero, and unrequited love in every direction.
However, there are also elements lacking in Fitzgerald’s early works. Stahr is not an upper class debutante, but a dynamo who knows his craft (he reminded me many times, in character dynamic and situation, of Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, though Fitzgerald’s). The plot shows meticulous research on Fitzgerald’s part, and he presents and utilizes the Hollywood industry for excellent characterization and dramatic potential.
The edition I read had a synopsis after the manuscript cutoff of what Fitzgerald intended for the end, as well as copies of his notes and outline. My wife and I (we read it together) had already watched the miniseries starring Kelsey Grammer and Matt Bomer, and the two ended very differently (though the shows, itself, was unfinished, its second season being canceled due to production costs, so that’s debatable). Nonetheless, there were interesting differences between the two, and it was great to read and watch them for comparison. More importantly, there were many moments, phrases, and insights in the draft that showed Fitzgerald’s excellence as a writer. It was an excellent read, unfinished draft though it is.