The Great Gatsby | 1974
There was plenty of ballyhoo and product tie-ins (the Gatsby look dominated the media), but a slightly disappointing movie despite contributions from Truman Capote (who sued for $110,000 after his gay angles were junked from the script), Francis Ford Coppola (who complains his version wasn’t used) and the usually excellent Jack Clayton.
The novel is set on ‘Long Island’, centering on the uncrossable class divide between East Egg and West Egg, old and new money, separated by Long Island Sound. New money has won out, and encroaching urbanisation forced Paramount to look elsewhere for locations, settling for Rhode Island.
During the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20 Centuries, Newport became the summer social capital of east coast USA, and the new multimillionaires dotted its coastline with a string of mansions, coyly described as cottages.
The huge mansion, where Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) hosts his extravagant, jazz-age parties, is in Newport itself. It’s Rosecliff, 548 Bellevue Avenue, an imitation of the Petit Trianon at Versailles, built in 1909 by the Oelrich family (or by their builders, I presume).
Rosecliff also appears in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, in 2008 rom-com 27 Dresses, and in the 1978 Harold Robbins motor industry saga The Betsy. Its interior featured as the ‘Swiss chateau’ gatecrashed by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the opening of True Lies.
The overwhelming gilt ballroom, where Gatsby dons his old army uniform to dance with Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow) is the ballroom of Marble House, 596 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, built for the Vanderbilts, just south of Rosecliff.
The divide between Gatsby’s mansion and the Daisy’s home is a little wider than Long Island sound. It’s the Atlantic Ocean. The estate of the Buchanans is Heatherden Hall – the grand Victorian house round which Pinewood Studios were built in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire (the production was based at Pinewood, where studio interiors were filmed). The extensions to the house added for the film remained for many years but have finally been dismantled.
The temptingly convenient Heatherden has appeared in lots of movies, including From Russia With Love and several Carry On... films.
The Long Islanders’ jaunts into New York take them across the Queensboro Bridge, jam-packed with period cars. It”s just south of the bridge’s entrance, beneath the archway on 1st Avenue at East 59th Street that boorish racist Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern) indulges his mistress Myrtle (Karen Black) by buying her a puppy.