F. Scott Fitzgerald Hopes a Hollywood Studio Will Soon Employ Him, Even as He Pleads with His Landlord for a Reduction in Rent

Cash strapped near the end of his life, he writes: “Things look a little brighter. My health is better and I really think I am going to work at the studios within a week. All this illness has, however, put me in debt and it may be some months before I am straightened out.”

  • Currency:
  • USD
  • GBP
  • JPY
  • EUR
  • CNY
  • Info IconThis currency selector is for viewing only.
    The Raab Collection only accepts USD payments at checkout.
    Exchange rates are updated hourly. Rates may be inaccurate.
Purchase $6,000

Fitzgerald letters are increasingly uncommon. This is our first in a decade.

Once read by every American collegian, short-story writer and novelist Fitzgerald made a spectacular debut with his first book, “This Side of Paradise,” a fictionalized account of his tenure as an undergraduate at Princeton University and a revelation of the...

Read More

F. Scott Fitzgerald Hopes a Hollywood Studio Will Soon Employ Him, Even as He Pleads with His Landlord for a Reduction in Rent

Cash strapped near the end of his life, he writes: “Things look a little brighter. My health is better and I really think I am going to work at the studios within a week. All this illness has, however, put me in debt and it may be some months before I am straightened out.”

Fitzgerald letters are increasingly uncommon. This is our first in a decade.

Once read by every American collegian, short-story writer and novelist Fitzgerald made a spectacular debut with his first book, “This Side of Paradise,” a fictionalized account of his tenure as an undergraduate at Princeton University and a revelation of the new morality of the young, published in 1920. That book is little read now but was wildly popular in its day. Fitzgerald is most famous for what came next – his depictions of the Jazz Age (the Roaring Twenties), his most brilliant novel being “The Great Gatsby”, the most profoundly American novel of its time. His private life, with his wife Zelda, became almost as celebrated as his novels. This period of success and fame lasted until the end of the ‘20s.

The next decade of the Fitzgeralds’ lives was disorderly and unhappy. Fitzgerald began to drink too much, and in 1930 Zelda had a mental breakdown. Another followed in 1932, from which she never fully recovered. Through the 1930s they fought to save their life together, and, when the battle was lost, Fitzgerald said, “I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium.” He did not finish his next novel, “Tender Is the Night”, until 1934. It is the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, who, as she slowly recovers, exhausts his vitality until he is, in Fitzgerald’s words, “un homme épuisé” (a man used up). This is Fitzgerald’s most moving book, though it was commercially unsuccessful. Fitzgerald was not among the highest-paid writers of his time; his novels earned comparatively little, and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories.

With his despair over Zelda, Fitzgerald was close to becoming an incurable alcoholic. By 1937, however, he had come back far enough to become a scriptwriter in Hollywood and to try and collect himself after a series of troubled times. He got a six-month Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer screenwriting contract at $1,000 a week. He received his only screen credit for adapting Three Comrades (1938), and his contract was renewed for a year at $1,250 a week. The $91,000 he earned from MGM was a great deal of money during the late Depression years when a new Chevrolet coupe cost $619; but although Fitzgerald paid off most of his debts, he was unable to save and seemed to always need money. MGM dropped his option at the end of 1938, putting him in fiscal trouble.

Fitzgerald then worked as a freelance script writer and wrote short-short stories for Esquire. He began his Hollywood novel, “The Love of the Last Tycoon”, in October 1939 and had written more than half of a working draft when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940. He was 44 years old. At that time his books were not selling the way they do today. The last royalty check Fitzgerald lived to see was for $13.13. People now buy more than 350,000 copies of his books annually. Zelda, tormented by mental illness, died in a hospital fire in 1948.

For a year and a half toward the end of his life, starting in October 1938, Fitzgerald lived in a two-story house on 5521 Amestoy Ave., Encino, California, called Belly Acres, the estate owned by actor Edward Everett Horton. Horton’s wife Isabel acted as the landlord. Always scrambling for money in those days, Fitzgerald paid a manageable $200 a month for rent. The Encino years were quiet ones for Fitzgerald, who had once been a Jazz Age icon, as famous for drinking too much champagne and dancing in fountains as for his books. In Encino, Fitzgerald did rewrites on the MGM epic “Gone With the Wind.” He wrote long letters to his beloved daughter, Scottie, back East at Vassar, telling her what courses to take at painful length. Once he had fellow writer John O’Hara to lunch. But mostly he sat on his bed with a pen, fitting word after well-chosen word, making a start on his unfinished Hollywood novel, “The Last Tycoon.”

In November 1939, Fitzgerald was very cash strapped and he wrote to Isabel Horton to ask her for forbearance. “…Things are still difficult here and you are very kind to let me pay this month’s rent by degrees. The check enclosed makes 3/4 of the month’s rent…Am making a deal for a serial novel in the East which I hope will shortly lift my worries from off my somewhat bowed shoulders…”

This was soon followed by another letter to Isabel, a mixture of hopefulness that he will soon be employed by a studio and pleading poverty to gain better terms for paying his rent. Typed letter signed, Encino, December 26, 1939, to Isabel Horton. “Things look a little brighter. My health is better and I really think I am going to work at the studios within a week. All this illness has, however, put me in debt and it may be some months before I am straightened out. In our conversation several weeks ago you mentioned the possibility of temporarily reducing the rent to $150. I believe that at this rental I could carry on here. Is the offer still open? I hate to ask it in this winter season when the valley is at its most attractive, but Miss Kroll [Frances Kroll, his secretary] and I have figured that in order to get straight with the world we will have to cut down on about everything. On the assumption that this offer is open I am enclosing a draft for $150, to cover the rent from December 19th to January 19th. Ever yours, sincerely and gratefully, Scott Fitzgerald” He adds in holograph, “Very best to Eddie if you’re with him.” Thus did Fitzgerald live near the end of his life.

Fitzgerald letters are increasingly uncommon. This is our first in a decade.

Purchase $6,000

Frame, Display, Preserve

Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.

Learn more about our Framing Services