Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. He especially liked to drink vodka. In addition, Fitzgerald was likely bipolar, a condition exacerbated by drug abuse. According to Zelda's biographer, Nancy Milford, Scott claimed that he had contracted tuberculosis, but Milford dismisses it as a pretext to cover his drinking problems. However, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli contends that Fitzgerald did in fact have recurring tuberculosis, and Nancy Milford reports that Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener said that Scott suffered a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919, and in 1929 he had "what proved to be a tubercular hemorrhage". It has been said that the hemorrhage was caused by bleeding from esophageal varices.
Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in late 1940. After the first, in Schwab's Drug Store he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived at North Hayworth Ave In Hollywood; One block west of Fitzgerald's apartment on North Laurel Ave. Fitzgerald had two flights of stairs to get to his apartment, Graham's was a ground floor apartment. On the night of December 20, 1940, he had his second heart attack, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of "This Thing Called Love" starring Melvyn Douglas and Rosalind Russell. As the two were leaving the Pantages Theater, Fitzgerald experienced a dizzy spell and had trouble leaving the theater, upset he said to Ms. Graham "They think I am drunk, don't they?".
The following day, as Scott ate a candy bar and made notes in his newly arrived Princeton Alumni Weekly. Ms. Graham saw Scott jump from his armchair, grab the mantelpiece, gasp and fall to the floor. She ran to the manager of the building, Harry Culver, founder of Culver City, upon entering the apartment and assisting Scott, he stated "I'm afraid he's dead." Fitzgerald died of a massive heart attack. His body was removed to the Pierce Brothers Mortuary.
Zelda and Scott's grave in Rockville, Maryland, inscribed with the final sentence of The Great GatsbyAmong the attendants at a visitation held at a funeral home was Dorothy Parker, who reportedly cried and murmured "the poor son-of-a-bitch," a line from Jay Gatsby's funeral in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In a strange coincidence, the author Nathanael West, a friend and admirer of Fitzgerald, was killed along with his wife Eileen McKenney in El Centro, California, while driving back to Los Angeles to attend Fitzgerald's funeral service. The remains were shipped to Baltimore, Maryland, where his funeral was attended by twenty or thirty people in Bethesda; attending was his only child, Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith, his editor, Maxwell Perkins. Fitzgerald was originally buried in Rockville Union Cemetery. Zelda died in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1948. Ms. Frances Lanahan worked to overturn the Archdiocese of Baltimore ruling that Fitzgerald died a non practicing Catholic, that he should be at rest at the Roman Catholic cemetery where his father's family was laid. Both Scott and Zelda's remains were moved to the family plot in Saint Mary's Cemetery, in Rockville, Maryland. in 1975.
SHEILAH GRAHAM WESTBROOK
September 15, 1904 – November 17, 1988
Sheilah Graham Westbrook was an English-born nationally syndicated gossip columnist during Hollywood's "Golden Age," who with Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper wielded power to make or break careers prompting her to describe herself as "the Last of the unholy trio."
Graham was also known for her notorious relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald, which she played a part in immortalizing through her autobiographical account of that period, Beloved Infidel, a best-seller made into a movie. In her youth, she had been a showgirl, and a freelance writer for Fleet Street, and published a few short stories and two novels. These early experiences would converge in a career that spanned nearly four decades as a successful columnist and author.
She divorced from John Gillam in June 1937, to become engaged to the Marquess of Donegall. A month later, she was to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom she relates having immediately fallen in love, and the engagement was broken soon thereafter. Ruthe Stein quotes her as saying, "I'll only be remembered, if I'm remembered at all, because of Scott Fitzgerald."
They shared a home, were constant companions, and Fitzgerald was still married to his wife, Zelda, who was institutionalized in an asylum. Nonetheless, Graham protested her description as his "mistress" in her book, The Rest of the Story, on the basis that she was "a woman who loved Scott Fitzgerald for better or worse until he died." It was, in fact, she who found his body in their living room, where he died of a heart attack in 1940. They had been together only 3-1/2 years, but her daughter reports that Graham "never really got over him." During those three years, Scott outlined a "curriculum" for her, and guided her through it, which she later wrote about in detail in A College of One.