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biography


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1896. For the majority of the first twelve years of his life he lived with his family in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York. They later returned to Saint Paul. Fitzgerald’s writing first appeared in print when his story “The Mystery of the Raymond MortgageEwas published in his school newspaper in 1909. Fitzgerald went on to attend Princeton in 1913. He would be a student there, off and on, through 1917. Fitzgerald did poorly in his studies, and left Princeton without a degree but with the first draft of what would become his first novel, This Side of Paradise.

Fitzgerald was a member of The United States Army for a little under one year. In 1918, while stationed near Montgomery, Alabama, he met Zelda Sayre at a country club dance. Zelda was a popular, attractive, and undisciplined daughter of a wealthy family. They eventually became informally engaged. After being discharged from the Army in 1919, Fitzgerald moved to New York City to work in advertising and to write. He was determined to earn money, as he knew that Zelda would never marry anyone who could not properly support her. Many of his stories were published in such magazines as Smart Set and Scribner’s. Unable to become an immediate success in New York, Fitzgerald returned to Saint Paul to work on his novel. In 1920, This Side of Paradise was published, and was an immediate financial success. Fitzgerald married Zelda less than two weeks later. The following year the couple visited Europe and, in 1921, Frances Scott Fitzgerald, their only child, was born.

The Fitzgerald’s moved to New York City, where they became the center of a growing social scene. They became infamous for their wild excess, and symbolized what would be known as “The Jazz Age.EThe Fitzgerald’s were spending an immense amount of money on their extravagant lifestyle. Fitzgerald supported them by writing short stories for the popular magazines of the day, and published his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, in 1922. The sales were good on his second novel, but not excellent. The couple was having constant money troubles, and Fitzgerald was forced to produce a large amount of short stories to work them out of debt. Fitzgerald hoped that his play, The Vegetable, would provide them with some financial security. The play opened in 1923 to negative reviews and never made it to Broadway. His drinking was increasing during this time, preventing him from completing his third novel.

The Fitzgerald’s went to Europe in 1924, and the following year saw the publication of The Great Gatsby. Gatsby was his best reviewed novel, but sales were disappointing. To make more money, he sold the film and stage rights. Fitzgerald would not publish another novel for nine years. During that time, the Fitzgerald’s alternated their time between Europe and America. Fitzgerald, while trying to make progress on his next novel, continued to publish a substantial amount of short stories to support them. While in Paris, he developed a friendship with Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald’s drinking continued to increase, while Zelda’s mental health took turns for the worse. Eventually Zelda was institutionalized. She would spend the majority of her remaining years in hospitals. Their daughter was spending her time in boarding schools, while Fitzgerald continued to supervise her education by mail.

1934 saw the publication of Fitzgerald’s fourth novel, Tender Is the Night. The novel sold even fewer copies then The Great Gatsby. In debt, suffering from alcoholism, and of ill health, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood in 1937. He continued to publish short stories, and came under contract with MGM studios. He worked on a number of films, including a short stint working on Gone with the Wind, though nothing significant came from the relationship. Also during this time, Fitzgerald fell in love with movie columnist Sheilah Graham. In 1938, MGM did not renew their contract with Fitzgerald. He continued to write short stories, work as a freelance screenwriter, and started work on his fifth novel. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack in Sheilah’s apartment in 1940. At the time of his death all of his books were out of print, and he was generally regarded as a has-been. The Last Tycoon, his final and unfinished novel, was posthumously published the following year.