One thing I especially love about the film is its soundtrack. Setting the story to a backdrop of current music (Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Jack White) is true to Fitzgerald’s own inclusion of pop culture in his work. That’s why this week’s playlists—that’s right, two—for Fitzgerald’s novel, Tender is the Night, cover both the author’s own musical choices and a more modern soundtrack of my own making.
But first a little more about Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s most popular novel.
Raise your hand if the book was assigned to you in high school.
Now raise your hand if your Junior-year English class watched this 1974 film adaptation after reading the book:
I’m guessing not many people were assigned this Gatsby film:
As far as I can tell, the above 1926 silent film footage is part of the oldest film adaptation of Gatsby. If you’ve found something older, or found a more complete version of this film, do me a favor and pretty please scroll to the bottom of the page and leave the link in the comments. It would make me happy like this:
Because of our Fantasy Blog Draft, it’s probably no secret that I’m a fan of Mr. Fitzgerald (and his editor, Max Perkins). If I was Owen-Wilson’d into the past ala Midnight In Paris, I’d probably have this reaction:
But Gatsby is a far cry from being the only solid work of fiction Ol’ Fitzy put together.
This is my roundabout way of telling you that Tender is the Night is also awesome.
It even has a movie, too (and a title song by Tony Bennett, included in the playlist):
(You can also watch the full film for free here, if you’re lucky enough to understand the language it’s dubbed in [i.e. if you’re not me].)
Tender is the Night was Fitzgerald’s first post-Gatsby—and final completed—novel. I think Fitzgerald himself said it best when he said of Tender is the Night, “If you liked The Great Gatsby, for God’s sake read this. Gatsby was a tour de force but this is a confession of faith.”
This is the book that Fitzgerald toiled over for nearly a decade. It is, as Scribner says, a look into “the author’s soul.”
This scene from the 1994 musical Zelda touches on the semi-autobiographical nature of the novel:
In some ways Tender is the Night follows a similar plot arc to Gatsby. It goes something like this [SPOILER ALERT!]:
Beginning: Happy boozy funtimes! In the sun! On the beach!
End: Everything falls apart. Marriage. Career. Self.
And through it all, beginning to end, Fitzgerald references music.
Because Tender is the Night is chock-full of specific song titles, in creating this playlist I initially wanted to stitch together the musical landscape Fitzgerald created. But Spotify is limited (boo, technology! boohiss!). So, while I did manage to find a couple of Fitz’s chosen songs on Spotify (“Poor Butterfly” and Franz Shubert’s piano piece), this still means you get a double playlist of sorts: a YouTube playlist of some of Fitzgerald’s own musical choices for his characters; and, because it’s clear that Fitzgerald surrounded his characters with current popular music, a somewhat updated version of the novel’s soundscape.
Tender is the Night, and its playlist(s), is summery and lusty (beach read, anyone?), brooding and heart-broken. The novel explores the power struggles inherent in any relationship, but exposes Fitzgerald’s gooey, hopelessly romantic core. If you love The Great Gatsby, you have to read Tender is the Night. I insist.