Last Tycoon (Fitzgerald) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
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1. How would you describe Monroe Stahr as a film producer? Is he someone to admire? Do you consider him ruthless, corrupt, a bully, fair minded, obsessed with power, concerned about those who work for him?

2. At one point we are told that, early on, Stahr had to learn, as if he were learning a lesson, "tolerance, kindness, forbearance, and even affection." Can you learn those qualities...or are they innate? We learn politeness, for instance, but do we "learn" kindness or tolerance?

3. What do you think of Kathleen Moore? Why is she so mysterious? Why does she hide her engagement from Stahr?

4. Why, when Stahr can have his pick of Hollywood beauties, is he irrevocably drawn to Moore? What is the attraction, and why is it so powerful? Is it mutual...or is Stahr more besotted that she? Does he truly love her...or is he infatuated with her as a replica of Minna Davis? What about his illness? If it seems unfair for Moore to hide her impending marriage, is it fair for him to hide his illness?

5. What do you think of Stahr's behavior (his performance?) in Chapter 4, as he watches the daily rushes with his directors and cameramen? Are you impressed by the breadth of technical knowledge or his aesthetic insight? Or are you disturbed by the way he uses (or abuses) his power over those who work for him? Is he a compulsive micro-manager? Does it matter that his judgment is "always—almost always—right"?

6. What do you think of this book...and in it's present day incarnation? Have you come away after reading Tycoon understanding a little more about movie making, all that goes into the production process—"months of buying, planning, writing and rewriting, casting, constructing, lighting, rehearsing and shooting"? Was there anything that surprised you...or jumped out at you?

7. Fitzgerald finds ways to satirize Hollywood, especially through his well known wit—there's the director, who when fired knew "that he could not have a third wife just now as he had planned." What other humor do you find in the book?

8. Follow-up to Question 7: Besides his use of humor, how else...or at what else... does Fitzgerald take aim in Hollywood? What about the faded star at the table during the charity ball in Chapter 5? Can you discern Fitzgerald's attitude toward Hollywood? Does he portray Hollywood as corrupt, cruel, shallow, funny?

9. Consider Stahr's statement toward the end of Chapter 5 when he talks with Boxley. Stahr tells the frustrated writer that "we have to take people's own favorite folklore and dress it up and give it back to them." Is he saying that the wider public is what cheapens Hollywood's artistic vision—that Hollywood creates what public taste demands? Or his he talking about making peoples' dreams come to life?

10. Talk about Cecilia Brady as a narrator—and as a character. How would you describe her narrative voice? Why would Fitzgerald have used her point of view—what does she bring to the story? What about the sections she does not narrate directly. How does she know about what happened? Did you find this back and forth confusing...or unconvincing? What happens to her by the end, based on Fitzgerald's notes.

11. Reinmund, one of the filming supervisors, is described as once "a man of some character, [but] he was daily forced...into devious ways of acting and thinking. He was a bad man now." Of what other character might the same be said? Is it inevitable that any of us would be corrupted by a corrupt system, in any profession?

12. Find out what you can about Fitzgerald's time in Hollywood as a writer. Could he have been referring to himself in the numerous comments about screenplay writers—those who "can't write," who are blocked...or find themselves double-teamed behind their backs? Is he, perhaps, Boxley?

13. What is Stahr so disturbed by the black fisherman he and Kathleen meet on the shoreline? Why does he care what the man thinks of films?

14. In Fitgerald's notes we learn that Stahr will be betrayed by his colleagues, especially by his former mentor, Brady? Why were the men determined to bring him down?

15. How does Kathleen Moore explain to Stahr that she got married immediately after spending the day with him? Is her explanation convincing? Fitzgerald's notes tell us that Stahr picks up with her again after her marriage. Were you surprised?

16. Where do you think Fitzgerald's sympathies lie—with the kind of Hollywood system that Stahr created...or with its dissolution because of its inherent corruption? The speculation is that Monroe Stahr is based on Irving Thalberg. Do a little research on Thalberg, and see if you can identify the parallels between the real-life producer and Fitzgerald's fictional one.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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