Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tova Cooper, Ph.D.


adaptation, Fitzgerald, Gatz, Hollywood


Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous character, has starred in a variety of stage and screen adaptations in the ninety years since he was first introduced in The Great Gatsby (1925). This dissertation explores the Gatsby character as depicted in six important adaptations of the novel, including two Broadway productions, Owen Davis’ 1926 drama and John Collins’ 2010s play, Gatz, and four major motion pictures: Herbert Brenon’s 1926 lost silent film (starring Warner Baxter); Elliott Nugent’s 1949 black and white film (starring Alan Ladd); Jack Clayton’s 1974 color film (starring Robert Redford); and Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 3-D film (starring Leonardo DiCaprio). Each adaptation culls a new portrait of the titular character from Fitzgerald’s text and shows how Jay Gatsby is really James Gatz, an enigmatic man whose ongoing performance renders him an impostor who is chasing an impossible dream and staging an elaborate production. The major adaptations underscore the elasticity of the Gatsby character, and demonstrate that he is nothing if not an actor. This dissertation interprets these six adaptations of the novel as supplemental biographies of Jay Gatsby that contribute to the evolving legacy of the character in American popular culture. Production teams, at least in some sense, become stewards of Gatsby’s reputation, and they are therefore partially responsible for (re)defining the character’s enduring role in contemporary society. Each feature-length film revives public and scholarly interest in Fitzgerald and his fiction, and because their releases coincided with peaks in sales of the novel, their relationship with literary studies cannot be underestimated.