Great Gatsby, The (1974): Jack Clayton’s Version Starring Redford and Mia Farrow

Paramount (David Merrick Production)
Inferior to Hollywood’s first screen version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, which was made in 1949 and had starred Alan Ladd and Betty Field, this new version, faithfully adapted to the screen by Francis Ford Coppola, is misconceived and misdirected by Jack Clayton, better known as a cinematographer.
At the peak of his popularity as a star (after “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Way We Were,” and “The Sting”), the handsomer Robert Redford stars as Jay Gatsby, a rich guy who befriends his neighbor Nick Carraway (well played by Sam Waterston).
Carraway is mesmerized by Gatsby’s glitzy lifestyle, and social entourage, which includes his old flame and now mistress Daisy (Mia Farrow, miscast), married to Bruce Dern. For his part, Dern has a mistress, Karen Black, who herself is married to a jealous husband (played by Scott Wilson).
On paper, the casting of most individual performers sounds right, though there is no chemistry between the two leads, and so the romantic-erotic angle is lost.
The opulent production values, with lush cinematography by Douglas Slocombe and sumptuous costumes by Theoni Aldredge help to camouflage up to a point a vapid narrative that’s never engaging dramatically or emotionally. Overly episodic and with a tempo that leaves much to be desired, the film goes through its motions, scene by scene, incident by incident, without accumulating any power.
Prior to its release, “The Great Gatsby” movie was hyped as a social and fashion event, with publicity going to its glamorous cast and skillful crew behind the cameras. However, dismissed by most critics, the movie was a box-office flop.
Oscar Alert
Oscar Nominations: 2
Scoring (Original or Adapted Score): Nelson Riddle
Costume Design: Theoni V. Aldredge
Oscar Awards: 2
Oscar Context
The big winner at the Oscars in 1974 was Coppola’s “The Godfather, Part II.”