F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams
Written by DeWitt Sage

The screen is black, for just a beat, and then the sound of faint outdoor presence as white letters form against the screen’ solid black. . .The sound of pencil on paper dominates, and the handwriting is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s:

It is very quiet out here now. I went to your room this afternoon
and lay on your bed awhile to see if you had left anything of yourself. . .

Now a man’s voice (FSF), fills in behind the writing, reading the rest:

I want to die, Sheilah, and in my own way. I used to have my
daughter and my poor lost Zelda. Now. . . your image is everywhere.
Let me remember you up to the end, which is very close.

A woman, 75, looks just beyond us, thinking for a moment, and then:

Peaches Finney
Thank God his work is selling so well. . .Thank God! Because at the
end of his life there was nothing left. You couldn’t find a book by
F. Scott Fitzgerald in any store. He tried so hard to keep Zelda in
the best private hospitals...That’s what bled him financially. . .and
he felt guilty about her illness. And of course he had to keep their
daughter Scottie in the best schools. He wanted only the best for
Scottie...and from Scottie.

(She pauses.)

Peaches Finney (cont.)
He called me “Peacherino” and he was “Big Scott” or “Mr. Fitz”,
We hit it off right from the word go. I was never intimidated.
And his daughter Scottie was my best friend . .

A title card. . .The Dream

Music fades in under, and continues. Gershwin: “Someone To Watch Over Me,”
the introduction:

There’s a saying old,
Says that love is blind,
Still we’re often told,
Seek and ye shall find. . .

Through the lowest branches of a tree we see the torso of a man, standing alone in a city park. We are directly behind him and he stands absolutely still. (Music continues).

We see downtown St. Paul, deserted. The old movie theater is there, its enormous marquee, faded and empty. The clean glass curve of the admission booth reflects a deserted sidewalk.
(Music continues)

Looking everywhere,
Haven’t found him yet. . .
He’s the big affair
I cannot forget. . .

Only leaves and paper spiral in a slight wind.

I’d like to add his initials
To my monogram
Tell me, where is the shepherd
For this lost lamb?

There are a series of enormous mansions on a tree-lined avenue. We move slowly by them.

There’s a somebody I’m longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone to watch over me. . .

The man’s back reappears. Then, as we begin to move smoothly around him, we see his profile, a silhouette. There is the shape of an overcoat slung over his right arm, a briefcase in his left hand. . . Over this sculpture of F. Scott Fitzgerald, lifelike, its feet directly on the ground. . .

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
It was nothing but a nursery book, but it filled me
with the saddest and most yearning emotion
. . .I have never been able to trace it since.

A formal photograph of a fourth grade class, boys in suits and ties, girls in white frock dresses, many with outsized bows in their hair.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
It was about a fight that the large animals, like the elephant, had with
the small animals, like the fox.

Despite the formal circumstance, these children’s faces are confident, not quite suppressing the grins they have just been ordered to wipe off. We move slowly across their faces toward the right, where the smallest boys are standing.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
The author was prejudiced in favor of the larger animals, but my
sentiment was all with the smaller ones. (We are moving in now,
toward the most impish of all the boys, the nine-ear-old FSF.)
I wonder even then if I had a sense of the wearing down power of big
respectable people.

We move in on the sculpture. Fitzgerald’s expression is wistful, his eyes look just beyond the horizon. Over him. . .

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
I can almost weep now when I think of that poor fox, the leader.
That fox has somehow typified innocence to me ever since. —The
Romantic Egoist

The largest of the mansions (the James J. Hill House) is a red stone fortress, rectangular, graceless, unforgiving. The mansion looms large, overwhelming the frame, and then the camera pans slightly to the left. The basilica of the Cathedral of St. Paul dwarfs it.

The interior front hall of the Hill Mansion is deep, waxed mahogany, as warm as the exterior is cold, and a wide double staircase terraces down into it. As we explore the burnished ledges of this surprising space. . .

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
A suspicion that he was not the son of his parents, that he was a
foundling of royal lineage, developed when he was nine. He imagined
that he had been left on the Fitzgerald doorstep wrapped in a blanket
with the Stuart coat of arms...

A black and white still of an even younger Scott, dressed to the teeth, riding crop in hand, other hand grandly on hip, imperially posed in front of his rocking horse.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
. . . a fantasy that may have been fueled by a growing
recognition of his father’s shortcomings.

Tucked behind carriage houses on the other side of Summit Avenue, there is a line of brick row houses. As we move in on the apartment farthest to the right. . .

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
I am half-Irish and half old American stock, with the
usual exaggerated ancestral pretensions. The black Irish
half of the family had the money and looked down
on the Maryland side. . .

There is a photo-studio portrait of Edward Fitzgerald, in fine tweed suit, a bowler resting on one knee, and young Scott leaning against the other. . .

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
. . .who really had that series of reticence and obligations
that go under the poor old shattered word “breeding.”

We see a page entitled “Progressive Record of Autographs,” and we see the distinctly self-conscious evolution of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “autograph” from age seven to twenty-one.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
. . .So being born in that atmosphere of wise-crack,
and counter-crack, I developed a two cylinder
inferiority complex.

—There is a translucent structure, an articulated castle of ice. It is backlit by the sun, and as we explore its edges, we realize that it is melting. It is here, and not here.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
One afternoon—I was ten or eleven—he phone rang
and my mother answered it. I didn’t understand what
she said but I felt disaster had come to us. My mother,
a little while before, had given me a quarter to go
swimming. I gave the money back to her. . .Then I
began to pray. ‘Dear God....please don’t let us go to
the poorhouse; please don’t let us go to the poorhouse’.

Children are playing on the front lawn of a glorious (Summit Avenue) Victorian mansion. They pause, suddenly self-conscious..looking directly at us.

FSF (voice-over, cont.)
A little later, my father came home. I had been right.
He had lost his job. . .He came home that evening
an old man, a completely broken man. He had
lost his essential drive, his immaculateness of purpose.
He was a failure the rest of his days.

* * *