Have you seen both Gatsby movies? What a shocker! After watching the 2013 Gatsby, I knew I was going to have to watch the older version and re-read the book, just to get a handle on the differences. I remember seeing the 1974 version and liking it, but that was a long time ago. So if you’ve seen both, maybe you’ll agree with me, and maybe you will prefer one over the other.
The Great Gatsby (2013) in 3D, was directed by Baz Luhrmann. Luhrmann is an Australian film director who has also directed Australia (2008), Strictly Ballroom (1992), Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Romeo + Juliet (1996). Luhrmann and Craig Pearce co-wrote the screenplay. This movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Toby Maguire as Nick Carraway.
This film is very different. It’s shiny, glitzy, loud, manic, surreal and a little bit campy. The party scenes are insane, and the background music is rap and hip hop, with just a little bit of jazz. That threw me off balance. Luhrmann uses a film technique that quickly zooms in on characters and places, with a “whoosh” kind of sound effect. What’s surprising, however, is how true this film is to the plot and dialogue and the scenes, while crisp and modern and almost “in your face,” are very similar to the 1974 Gatsby and to the book itself.
The earlier version of the The Great Gatsby was released in 1974 and was directed by Jack Clayton. Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay. This movie stars Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway.
When I watched this one again, after just having watched Baz Luhrmann’s version, I was shocked at s-l-o-w-l-y this version moved, how quietly the characters spoke and how very tame their antics were compared to the 2013 Gatsby. A great example is the party at Myrtle’s New York apartment. In Luhrmann’s movie, everyone there is going crazy. It’s like a super wound-up frat party – adults gone wild! But in the 1974 movie, you’d hardly know it was the same party. Gatsby’s house parties are also much calmer in the older film, but the contrast isn’t as strong.
Something else that struck me was how drippy and sweaty everyone is in the 1974 movie. I can’t imagine being a man back then and wearing all that gear – three-piece suits, buttoned up and ties knotted tightly. Sweat is just pouring out of those guys! The women had it much better clothes-wise back then, but the heavy make-up and its smudgy drippy-ness makes me thankful for air conditioning (and less make-up!). Everyone is still good-looking though and it doesn’t take away from the film. I actually think it’s a good depiction of the time. There isn’t nearly as much sweat in the 2013 film – everyone looks pretty and fresh, except for George Wilson, who always looks sweaty.
This movie also follows the book’s plot and dialogue very closely, with just a few changes. And the casting is very similar. Leonardo DiCaprio looks a lot like Robert Redford and there is a strong likeness between all the characters. I thought it was interesting how two very different films could have nearly the same foundation in plot and casting.
One of the characters that seemed especially different, however, was Meyer Wolfsheim, who is based on the real Arnold Rothstein, a Jewish gangster and the man responsible for fixing the World Series in 1919. He looks like a deceivingly nice man in the 1974 movie, but the 2013 Wolfsheim is just plain scary, and much younger.
And, while Toby Maguire looks a lot like Sam Waterston’s Nick Carraway, the new Nick is much goofier than the old one, and I think that takes away from the film.
I think I prefer the 1974 movie overall, for nostalgic reasons and because it wasn’t so exhausting to watch. Maybe a younger set prefers a slick, modern adaptation. There is one scene I think is much more powerful in the 2013 movie – the confrontation between Daisy, Tom and Gatsby at The Plaza in New York. Leonardo DiCaprio explodes with anger in that scene, revealing his defeated self. It’s very realistic. In the 1974 movie, Robert Redford simply clenches, then un-clenches his fist, a little too tame, even for me!
I’m glad I watched both, and re-read the book. It’s a great story and worth the time.
I had a little fun comparing the looks of each character from both movies. See how much they look alike?
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