INTIMATE LIES: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham: Her Son's Story by Robert Westbrook

INTIMATE LIES: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham: Her Son's Story

Email this review


The romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham, as earnestly rendered by her novelist son (Rich Kids, 1992, etc.). In July of 1937, when 40-year-old Fitzgerald headed for his third stint in Hollywood, his novels were for the most part out of print, he was nearly $40,000 in debt, and his wife, Zelda, was institutionalized. Still, he was not drinking; he was filled with determination. At a party of Robert Benchley's, he spotted Sheilah Graham, a former chorus girl from London's East End who was working as a gossip columnist for a newspaper syndicate. She and Fitzgerald started an affair; she was initially nervous because he asked detailed questions about her childhood, and she'd invented aristocratic relatives and falsely described herself as a bored society girl who'd been slumming in the theater. But she finally spilled the truth, describing the poverty that had driven her mother to have her committed to an orphanage and the sexual maneuverings that had accompanied her life onstage. He was tender, drawn by her vulnerability and curious about her character (she became the model for the heroine of The Last Tycoon). Their romance was punctuated by his occasional, cataclysmic tumbles off the wagon. He steered her to great books; she tried to control his drinking. Periodically they would break up; always they would reconcile. He died at her home in December 1940. Despite Westbrook's family ties, it's Graham--the sex-charged, self-invented woman--who remains two-dimensional. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, mesmerizes as he self-destructs, compelling his lover with his fragility and generosity and trumpeting his pain and frustration via bludgeoning cruelty and extravagant gin binges. What lingers, though, is not the unsynchronized dance of the lovers' mutual demons, but the portrait--familiar but poignant nonetheless--of Hollywood running roughshod over literary talent, and of the grim ravages of alcoholism.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: HarperCollins