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Syracuse apartment building where author F. Scott Fitzgerald lived reopens

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of "The Great Gatsby," briefly lived at Kasson Place Apartments on James Street in Syracuse when he was a child. The 115-year-old apartment building reopened this week after a $9 million renovation. (Rick Moriarty | rmoriarty@syracuse.com) 
Syracuse, NY -- The historic Syracuse apartment building where author F. Scott Fitzgerald briefly lived as a child has reopened after an extensive renovation.
Kasson Place Apartments at 622 James St. reopened this week with 28 two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom units.
Built in 1898, the seven-story building is one of the oldest apartment buildings in Syracuse. Its most famous tenant was Fitzgerald, considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.
"The Great Gatsby" author was 5 years old when his family moved from Buffalo to Syracuse in January 1901. The family lived in Apartment 201 at Kasson and later moved to East Willow Street. The Fitzgeralds moved back to Buffalo in September 1903.
Conifer Realty LLC, of Rochester, bought Kasson Place from the city of Syracuse for $1 in 2011, the same year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Conifer, which specializes in restoring distressed apartment buildings, began renovating the building last year. The city acquired the building from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which foreclosed on a previous owner and declared the building unfit for tenants.
Sandra Gorie, marketing director for Conifer, said the company preserved the historic character of the building during the year-long restoration.
The bathrooms, kitchens and appliances are all new. But most of the original doors (including door knobs), hardwood floors, woodwork and windows were saved. The building's arched entrance still sports its original ornamental ceiling, tiled floor and marble walls.
"It has so much character," said Gorie. "You get that old, cool charm."
One-bedroom units have 553 square feet of space and rent for $870 a month. The two-bedroom units have from 757 to 1,087 square feet of space and rent from $1,030 a month.
Though the 115-year-old building's historic status has its appeal, Gorie said its proximity to the city's medical centers, including nearby St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, and to Syracuse University make it an attractive location.
Leases have already been signed for 19 of the 30 apartments, and one tenant has already moved in, she said. Many of the new tenants are resident physicians and other employees of local hospitals, she said.
"This is close to everything," she said. "Syracuse isn't a big city, so you don't have to go far to get to anything."
Conifer also is renovating Leavenworth Apartments directly across the street at 615 James St. Built in 1912, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, too.
Gorie said the Leavenworth will open by mid-October with 53 apartments. Monthly rents will start at $660 for studio units, $870 for one-bedroom units and $1,015 for two-bedroom units.
Conifer is spending a total of $9 million renovating the two apartment buildings.

What Did F. Scott Fitzgerald Think of The Great Gatsby, the Movie, in 1926? He Walked Out

What did F. Scott Fitzgerald think of the first movie of version of The Great Gatsby? Not much. He didn't stay in the theater to see the end of the only version of the novel made during his lifetime.
Hollywood, January 1927: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were in Los Angeles for the first time. He was excited to be setting to work on an original screenplay for Lipstick, a collegiate fantasy for the actress Constance Talmadge. As soon as there were movies and stars to admire, Fitzgerald's longtime love of the stage had translated quickly to screen -- and, after his last attempt at a play, The Vegetable, had failed so miserably in 1923, perhaps a screenplay would be just the modern thing to redeem his beloved writing of dialogue. Zelda came with him, but they paused on the way to drop their daughter Scottie, who had turned 6 that past autumn, with Zelda's parents in Montgomery, Ala.
Scott figured his screenplay would take only a few weeks to write, but he and Zelda stayed in Los Angeles for two months. Old actor friends they had met in Manhattan, like John Barrymore, were living in the same corridors at the Ambassador Hotel -- and some, like Barrymore, had their children with them. The young Fitzgeralds enjoyed the company and the parties, but missed their daughter. In Zelda's letters to Scottie comes the most complete story of their time in Hollywood -- and lets us know what Fitzgerald thought of the first movie version, and only one made during his lifetime, of The Great Gatsby (1926).
Most of Zelda's letters are full of little stories to Scottie, reassuring her daughter how much both parents love and miss her. They also deal with Scott working -- or trying to. Lady Diana Manners was to come to supper on a Saturday, "if Daddy ever ever ever finishes his work." The hotel bungalows were a swirl of society: "We all know each other and visit around from one room to another all the time, which Daddy does not like as he is working. He says he will never write another picture because it is too hard, but I do not think writers mean what they say about work." The handsome Fitzgerald might have been a movie star instead of a screenwriter, in 1927: "Daddy was offered a job to be a leading man. ... But he wouldn't do it." Fitzgerald did, however, go with Zelda to see The Great Gatsby one evening in L.A.
This movie of Gatsby is lost; all that remains is the trailer. A Paramount Pictures release, it starred Warner Baxter, with Lois Wilson as Daisy and William Powell as George Wilson. The New York Times reviewed the movie middlingly on Nov. 22, 1926, noting that neither the director "nor the players have succeeded in fully developing the characters." Daisy was evidently most memorable for "drinking absinthe. She takes enough of this beverage to render the average person unconscious."
When the movie opened in America, the Fitzgeralds were in France. They saw the movie in Hollywood soon after they arrived -- as we now know from an undated letter of Zelda's to Scottie. Their reaction isn't open to any debate: "We saw 'The Great Gatsby' in the movies. It's ROTTEN and awful and terrible and we left." The full capitals of "ROTTEN" are Zelda's.
She and Scott walked out of the first movie made of Gatsby. What might they have thought of the dragging 1949 Gatsby, with Alan Ladd manfully mysterious, and the magnificent Ruth Hussey and Shelley Winters wasted as, respectively, a shallow Jordan Baker and a strident Myrtle Wilson? Or of the 1974 Gatsby, with a gleaming golden Robert Redford, gorgeous Hamptons sets, and an excellent performance by Karen Black as Myrtle? Or of the 2000 made-for-television Gatsby, with a handsome, cross Toby Stephen, accompanied by a shiny-faced Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway and an uncomfortable Mira Sorvino as Daisy?
We don't know. I can only have my own opinions on those film versions, and I think they all fail for the same reason: Fitzgerald's language has already done all the cinematic work for the actors, directors, set designers and producers. The Great Gatsby is an interior book, little concerned with externals. Fitzgerald conjures what he wants to say by way of description with only a few delicate strokes of words: five crates of oranges and lemons turned into pulpless halves; ashes growing like wheat in the valley; silver pepper of stars; "shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue." We use our imaginations to fill out the pictures for ourselves, where a camera cannot.
Baz Luhrmann's new movie may well supersede the earlier film Gatsbys, but can it supersede the novel? If it doesn't try to, but manages to revel in Fitzgerald's language instead, it'll be a winner. The trailers for the new Gatsby, all that have been released to date, are bold and loud, full of action and primary colors, beauty and violence. DiCaprio's Gatsby isn't a passive cipher; he acts out the dangerous qualities of Gatsby deeply suppressed in the novel in Nick Carraway's telling. Tobey Maguire looks as if he will be a more lively, less passive Nick -- the Nick who spent the late nineteen-teens in the trenches of World War I and won't talk about it, even to us; the Nick who kisses a girl in a horse-drawn victoria in Central Park. Carey Mulligan carries with her gracefully the Daisy from Louisville days, making the past seem truly present, young and frail still, with the "dark shining hair" Gatsby first kissed now clearly dyed blonde (a perfect touch). Will the movie be vivid and fresh, culturally contemporary and resonant with the past, well-acted and realized? Or not?
We'll all decide for ourselves next month, but how grand it would be to be able to have Scott and Zelda's reaction, this time, if only we could. I do know this, though: Both Fitzgeralds would be thrilled by the thought of a film version of The Great Gatsby opening the Festival de Cannes, on that sunburned coast where he wrote and revised much of the novel in 1924.

'Going for Baroque': The Great Gatsby 88 Years Later

Eighty-eighty years ago today, on April 10, 1925 in New York City, Charles Scribner’s Sons, i.e., Scribner, published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.
The film world is, of course, abuzz over Baz Luhrmann’s film version, premiering May 10—the fourth attempt since the silent film era to portray Fitzgerald’s classic on the Silver Screen.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald famously walked out on Famous Players-Lasky Corporation’s 1926 version, co-starring Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson, and William Powell playing the
Charles Scribner III, great-grandson of Fitzgerald’s publisher, who knew great talent when he saw it, noted the glaring contrast between Paramount’s 1974 version directed by Jack Clayton, and written by Francis Ford Coppola—and Luhrmann’s extravaganza 39 years later. That film, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, Scribner said, “was faithful and with impeccable performances, but too stately, like a coronation staged by Ralph Lauren.”
Based on the official trailers he’s seen, including the main one released last week, he liked the “Zeffirellian vision and energy,” quipping, “Can’t wait for summer—go for baroque!”
Another thing in its favor, he said, is, “DiCaprio never disappoints.” Indeed!
Asked about the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby, which the trailer suggests goes further than the book, where it’s largely in Gatsby’s head, Scribner said, “It may be taking some liberties, filling in blanks, but at least it’s not a direct violation of the plot, and the point, as in the film of ‘The End of the Affair’… stay tuned!”
Ah, but it’s impossible to compete with Fitzgerald’s artfully woven story, and the wounding real-life romance that underlies it: “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys,” the father of Ginevra King, who dumped Fitzgerald at age 21 to marry a ‘rich boy,’ said. Scott never quite recovered, as reflected in all his novels.
And, who better to shed light on Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby than the publisher’s great-grandson, who spoke eloquently to these topics last May at The Morgan Library and Museum, as recounted in “Charles Scribner Illuminates F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby,” published last June 7, the 90th anniversary of Gatsby’s opening scene:
“Just as his life bridged two centuries,” he said, “so his work has a Janus-like aspect, looking back to the romantic lyricism and expansive dreams of the 19th century, and forward to the syncopated Jazz strains of the 20th.”…
“My whole theory of writing,” Fitzgerald said, “I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
—“Charles Scribner Illuminates F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby,” by Mary Claire Kendall, Forbes, June 7, 2012
And, he might have added all those Hollywood directors who thrill to Fitzgerald’s classic beats.
So, yes, “stay tuned!”