FRANCIS SCOTT KEY FITZGERALD
September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are evocative of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation" of the Twenties. He finished four novels, including This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and the Damned, Tender is the Night and his most famous, the celebrated novel, The Great Gatsby. A fifth novel, "The Last Tycoon" was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with despair and age.
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.