In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Like Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby, Graham has meticulously constructed a life far removed from the poverty of her childhood in London’s slums. And like Gatsby, the onetime guttersnipe learned early how to use her charms to become a hardworking success; she is feted and feared by both the movie studios and their luminaries.
A notorious drunk famously married to the doomed Zelda, Fitzgerald fell hard for his “Shielah” (he never learned to spell her name), a shrewd yet softhearted woman—both a fool for love and nobody’s fool—who would stay with him and help revive his career until his tragic death three years later. Working from Sheilah’s memoirs, interviews, and letters, Sally Koslow revisits their scandalous love affair and Graham’s dramatic transformation in London, bringing Graham and Fitzgerald gloriously to life with the color, glitter, magic, and passion of 1930s Hollywood.
Koslow (The Widow Waltz) takes on the tumultuous affair of ambitious Hollywood gossip columnist Sheilah Graham and literary lion F. Scott Fitzgerald in this dishy interpretation of Graham's memoir, Beloved Infidel. Here, Koslow plays off the "weakness and self-deception" of British expat Graham, who reinvents herself in America to hide a poverty-stricken childhood in a London Jewish orphanage and a sexless first marriage to a salesman. Fitzgerald, who comes to Hollywood to reignite his writing career while battling alcoholism, is preoccupied with thoughts about his mentally ill wife, Zelda, and his own fading fame. Though generously peppered with the big names and gossip of the 1930s, the narrative is driven by the tortured relationship between Graham and Fitzgerald in which both succumb to the worst in each other. This version aims to excuse and soften Graham's unrepentant opportunism "telling lies" is "no harder than breathing," she says. And it plays up a version of Fitzgerald as a diligent craftsman and mentor rather than as a mean and abusive drunk. Koslow may be rewriting a feel-good version of the Graham-Fitzgerald romance, but it's an intoxicating one.