Tender is the Night: Biography
Known primarily for his depiction of 1920s Jazz Age America, American short-story writer and novelist Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota, to businessman Edward Fitzgerald and Irish-American heiress Mary McQuillan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was named after his famous relative Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Brought up as a Roman Catholic, Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy (1908-10) and Newman School (1911-13) and Princeton University (1913-1917) where poor grades forced him to take a commission in the U.S. Army, in which he served until 1919.
In 1920& he married Zelda Sayre in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral and embarked on the high life of wild parties depicted in his novels The Beautiful And Damned (1922), and the book which is considered Fitzgerald’s finest, The Great Gatsby (1925), a story about the connection between love and money that is also portrayed in Tender is the Night. In 1920, Fitzgerald also published his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920) which drew heavily on his Princeton experiences. In 1921 his daughter Frances was born.
In 1924 the Fitzgeralds moved to Europe, where they associated with Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald and became part of the expatriate French Riviera community depicted in Tender is the Night. In the 1930s Zelda suffered a mental breakdown and spent the rest of her life in mental institutions.
The Fitzgeralds’ lifestyle was lavish, and the author, much in need of income, wrote short stories for publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s Magazine, and Esquire. In all, he wrote over 150 short stories published in three collections: Flappers and Philosophers (1920), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) and All the Sad Young Men (1926). In addition to writing novels Fitzgerald also worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists where, although he contributed to Winter Carnival, The Women, and Gone With the Wind, he only completed one screenplay, Three Comrades (1938), before he was fired for drinking.
Overall, it took Fitzgerald almost ten years to complete his fourth novel, Tender is the Night (1934) which failed to sell well. In 1937, he met Hollywood journalist Sheilah Graham with whom he lived for the rest of his life. At the time of his death from a heart attack on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, California, Fitzgerald was working on The Last Tycoon (1941), a novel based upon his experiences in Hollywood. Many critics agree that had he completed it, it would have been his greatest novel.
Sadly, at the time of his death, not one of Fitzgerald’s books remained in print. However, the end of World War II saw a resurgence of interest in his work and by the 1960s, he and Zelda had gained iconic status as the epitome of the youthful exuberance of the 1920s. Today, F. Scott Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest twentieth century writers. He is buried in Rockville, Maryland. Zelda Fitzgerald died in a tragic hospital fire on March 10, 1948.