Editor's note: The following book chapter was rekeyed and reprinted on July 11, 2003 in Resource Library Magazine with permission of Arcade Publishing, New York. The chapter was previously included in a book titled Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise. The book was first published in 2002 by John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, England, and the ISBN number is 1-55970-688-0. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or wish to obtain a copy of the volume, please contact the Arcade Publishing at 212-475-2633.



 

Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise

Part IV, Creative Voices, January 1927-1929, Chapter 13

a book by Sally Cline

 

After Zelda had restarted dancing, Sara Haardt visited her. Sara had followed the Fitzgeralds to Hollywood on her first stint as a screenwriter. While there, Sara had spent several hours defending the Fitzgeralds from the bad reputation they had left behind. To one Hollywood writer who criticized Scott's insulting manner, Sara loyally protested: 'Scott's basically a sweet, nice person.' When that critic called Scott arrogant, Sara stood up for him: his arrogance, she said, was 'a kind of defense mechanism... He's trying to cover up a feeling of social inferiority he's always had. Underneath it, he's a nice, sensitive boy, who's pathetically eager to have people like him.'[64]

On Sara's return to Baltimore in late 1927, healthier and more financially secure, she resumed her relationship with Mencken, who moved her into a new apartment;[65] they spent most evenings together there, while Sara wrote The Diary of an Old Maid.

In Ellerslie, Zelda and Sara discussed Zelda's articles and Sara's projected series on wives of famous men. Then Zelda talked about ballet. The room they sat in, with its tall ceilings, wide windows and pier glasses, reminded Sara of the last place she had seen Zelda dance: 'The walls of this old house in Wilmington ... fell away, and I was back in the ball-room of the Old Exchange Hotel in Montgomery.' Zelda told Sara she took four lessons a day. 'I thought Scottie had more time to do the work than I had,' Zelda said, 'and that I had better get it in!' She described the work as 'a highly artificial and enormously exacting science... so rigid and with such an elaborate technique that the artist is lost'. Zelda had already confessed she felt 'whatever women do is certain to be lost. They remind me of the Japanese beetle in their slow tedious processes - their endless exploitation of little instead of big things.' Yet Sara noticed that, despite this attitude, Zelda was now studying ballet with absolute absorption. 'She [Zelda] says... ballet dancers have the sensitivity of musicians and the savagery of acrobats, but... that kind of dancing is to self-expression in woman what violin and piano playing is to man.' Sara believed the dancing had given Zelda new self-esteem. Zelda had sounded confident: 'Of course, it requires youth, especially the resilience of youth - but I feel much younger than I did at sixteen, or any other age.' Sara saw them as brave words. 'With her bronze-gold hair and rose and ivory coloring, it seemed to me she looked as young too. She has changed... since 1918, of course; she is charming rather than glamorous, with all the deep sense of tragedy and beauty of the aristocratic South to which she was born - together with that fine ruthlessness the South has always had for the things it loved.'

Being with a Southern friend relaxed Zelda, and, before Sara left, she said dreamily: 'I'd like to have a pink villa high on a hill full of mirrors and done in black and white.'

Later, Sara wrote: 'Who but Zelda Fitzgerald could be so sure of her youth - so oblivious of a time when she would look fearfully and sadly past the haunting gleam of mirrors. '[66]

Zelda was in fact less sure than she sounded of her youth and less certain she had sufficient resilience for her belated ambitions. She told Amy Thomas, who remembers her in Wilmington as 'serious and cautious', that she already felt 'old' in her late twenties. [67]

What Zelda did was to pin her hopes on acquiring the two skills Scott had berated her for lacking: effort, mighty effort, and self-discipline, monumental self-discipline. Confident of her talent, now she determined to anchor it. No matter what the cost.

 

Notes:

1 ZSF, 'A Millionaire's Girl', Collected Writings, pp. 331-2.

2 ZSF, 'Show Mr. and Mrs. F. To Number -', Collected Writings, p. 424.

3 'Boo Boo' was Zelda's new name for Scottie. All these letters are from Ambassadors Hotel, Los Angeles, co183, Box 4, Folders 4-13, PUL.

4 ZSF, 'Show Mr. and Mrs. F. To Number -', p. 424.

5 Lois Moran joined the Paris Opera as a ballerina aged only fourteen. At fifteen she acted in her first (French) film. She made her U.S. debut in 1925 in Goldwyn's Stella Dallas.

6 ZSF, 'Autobiographical Sketch', 16 Mar. 1932, written at Phipps Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, for her psychiatrists, in particular Dr. Mildred T. Squires.

7 As an expert seamstress, she had designed her own clothes for years following Manhattan fashions.

8 Radie Harris, 'Movie Monotypes', reproduced in Bruccoli et al., eds., Romantic Egoists,

p. 150.

9 This is the version given by Bruccoli (Epic Grandeur, pp. 300-1) and Milford (Zelda, p. 131). There are other versions. In Fitzgerald's Ledger he makes the enigmatic note 'The watch' in January, when they were in fact still in Hollywood, and in July: 'Rows. New watch'. These sparse notations suggest there was a watch incident two months earlier than the train journey, and a loss that involved a renewal purchase, though no indication as to whether the loss was accidental or deliberate. Zelda's friend Livye Hart recalled: 'Zelda was very careless with her personal effects, clothes, jewelry etc. and so very thoughtlessly she laid the watch on the commode in the bathroom, from where it was accidentally brushed and flushed. Zelda caring very little for jewelry, most casually informed me of what had happened' (Livye Hart Ridgeway, 'A Profile of Zelda', Sara Mayfield Collection, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa). This version is adopted by Koula Hartnett (Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 123). Livye also told Mayfield she never knew Zelda to deny any story about herself no matter how absurd or damaging, so Zelda may have given credence to the train window disposal story (Mayfield, Exiles, p. 122). It may even have been true. Certainly the deliberate disposal of the watch is psychologically in line with Zelda's other 1926-28 destructive actions against things she considered of value. That it was her wristwatch Zelda threw away may have much to do with the fact that Moran's hobby was collecting wristwatches because she kept breaking them (Radie Harris, 'Movie Monotypes').

10 'Jacob's Ladder', Saturday Evening Post, 20 Aug. 1927; 'Magnetism', ibid., 3 Mar. 1928. In Tender Is the Night many of the words and much of the content from 'Jacob's Ladder' are repeated. For instance lines relating to the 'grand scale' and to the older man 'chilled by the innocence of her kiss' are repeated almost verbatim. Tender Is the Night (first published 1934), Penguin, 1986 (first edition with emendations), p. 74.

11 FSF, 'Jacob's Ladder', Bits of Paradise, Penguin Books, 1982, pp. 145, 147, 149, 153.

12 The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. with introduction by Malcolm Cowley, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1952, p. 226.

13 ZSF, 'A Millionaire's Girl', Collected Writings, p. 336.

14 Scottie had sent Zelda a cross and in Hollywood Zelda had begun obsessively kissing it.

15 Mayfield, Exiles, p. 119.

16 Ann Henley, 'Sara Haardt and "The Sweet Flowering South", Alabama Heritage 31, Winter 1994, p. 16.

17 John had married Anna Rupert, a childhood neighbour and the daughter of a successful manufacturer, in 1925.

18 ZSF, 'Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number -', Collected Writings, p. 425.

19 Frances Fitzgerald Smith in Carolyn Shafer, 'To Spread a Human Aspiration', p. 36.

20 ZSF, 'Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number -', Collected Writings, p. 425.

21 ZSF, 'Autobiographical Sketch', 16 Mar. 1932.

22 Cecilia Taylor to Milford, 10 Aug. 1965, Milford, Zelda, pp. 136-7.

23 ZSF, 'Autobiographical Sketch', 16 Mar. 1932.

24 ZSF to Van Vechten, 6 Sep. 1927, Beinecke Library, Yale Collection of American Literature.

25 Cecilia Taylor to Milford, 10 Aug. 1965, Milford, Zelda, p. 137.

26 In Montgomery, where 'paper dolls.. . were homemade and a tradition', Zelda as a child had made and designed them for other children. Catalogue, Retrospective Exhibition, Montgomery, 1974, p. 7.

27 Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, Foreword to Bits of Paradise, pp. 8-9.

28 I am indebted to Rebecca Stott's suggestion that Zelda's dancing and doll-making are reminiscent of Sylvia Plath's feminization of her childhood: ballet, piano, sewing women's accomplishments.

29 Zelda eventually left these books to Scottie, who handed them on to her painter daughter Eleanor Lanahan, who still owns them.

30 Jane S. Livingston has a full discussion of this point, Zelda: An Illustrated Life, ed. Eleanor Lanahan, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1996, p. 84.

31 Winzola McLendon, 'Scott and Zelda', Ladies Home Journal 91, Nov. 1974, p. 60. 32 Kendall Taylor suggests that it is Amy Thomas on the goose. This author however feels it is unlikely that Amy wore a butcher's apron, trousers or mustache.

33 ZSF to Carl Van Vechten, 6 Sep. 1927.

34 Carolyn Shafer to the author, Mar. 2001.

35 Amy Thomas to Koula Hartnett, 23 Dec. 1981, Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 148.

36 ZSF, 'Autobiographical Sketch'.

37 ZSF to Van Vechten, 27 May 1927.

38 ZSF to Van Vechten, 29 May 1927.

39 ZSF to Van Vechten, 14 June 1927.

40 ZSF, 'Autobiographical Sketch'.

41 Sara Murphy to ZSF, 28 June 1927, co183, Box 5, Folder 17, vui.

42 'Stoppies' mentioned in Ledger for August and September in the context of rows and little writing.

43 ZSF, 'The Changing Beauty of Park Avenue', Collected Writings, pp. 403-5.

44 ZSF, 'Looking Back Eight Years', Collected Writings, p. 409.

45 ZSF, 'Who Can Fall in Love After Thirty?', Collected Writings, pp. 412-13.

46 Scott's alleged reason was that in order to get Photoplay magazine to pay up he wrote to Paul Reynolds at the Reynolds agency claiming that Zelda's article was his. He further claimed that the reason he hadn't asked his agent to handle it for him was it was too small a matter. When Harold Ober later placed the article, he too did not want to reveal Zelda was the author.

47 Bruccoli, Epic Grandeur, p. 304.

48 Ibid.

49 FSF to Ober, received 2 Feb. 1928, As Ever, p. 94.

50 Quoted in Donaldson, Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald, p. 111.

51 Ibid., p. 112.

52 Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 122. John and Anna Biggs, Ernest Boyd, Edmund Wilson, Thornton Wilder, Gilbert Seldes, Zoe Atkins, Joseph Hergesheimer were among regular visitors in 1927.

53 Mayfield, Exiles, p. 119.

54 James Thurber, Credos and Curios, Harper & Row, New York, 1962, p. 154.

55 Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 148.

56 Mellow, Invented Lives, p. 305.

57 ZSF 'Autobiographical Sketch'.

58 FSF to Gilbert Seldes, fall 1927. In New York they saw George Jean Nathan, Teddy Chanler, Charles Angoff, Tommy Hitchcock and H. L. Mencken.

59 FSF, Ledger, Sep. 1927.

60 Calvin Tomkins, Living Well, pp. 25-6.

61 In a later letter to one of Zelda's doctors, Scott wrote: 'Began dancing at age 27 and had two severe attacks of facial eczema cured by electric ray treatment' (FSF to Dr. Oscar Ford, 29 Jan. 1931, Life in Letters, p. 204). There is no corroboration for this statement, but if Zelda's skin was her vulnerable feature, there was already sufficient trauma in her life to produce a skin disease without locating the cause in her ballet classes.

62 Quoted in Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 123.

63 ZSF to Van Vechten, 14 Oct. 1927.

64 Mayfield, Exiles, p. 120.

65 16 West Read Street, Baltimore.

66 Conversation between ZSF and Sara Haardt at Ellerslie which Sara turned into an article, submitted in 1928 to Good Housekeeping which bought but never published it.

67 Amy Thomas to Koula Hartnett, Hartnett, Zelda Fitzgerald, p. 164.

 

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