He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.
I wonder if there were any other stars from the silent era who could have played Gatsby. Rudolph Valentino? No. Gatsby may have been quite the lover, but as he was really James Gatz from North Dakota, you can forget the Latin part. Douglas Fairbanks? It would be kind of cool to see Jay Gatsby swing from the chandelier of his mansion and onto the grand staircase, where he engages Tom Buchanan to a sword duel, defeating him just in time to deliver the antidote to Daisy, locked in the wine cellar and slowly dying from pink champagne poisoning. OK, I'm joking around here, but it does show the difficulties that must be involved in finding the right actor to play Gatsby, who has a movie star aura about him, but can't resolve his problems in a typical movie star fashion.
Now, I should be a little more objective when reviewing a trailer, shouldn't I? First off, that didn't sound like 1920s-era music on the that little bit of soundtrack we heard, did it? Maybe the producers should have asked Woody Allen if he could lend them something from his collection. Also, I understand this movie is in 3D. Now we'll all be afforded the opportunity to get run over by Daisy Buchanan. Speaking of which, in an ill-fated post I had up for about a half hour Monday night (6/4/2012), I extolled the choice of Nicole Kidman in the role of Daisy. Turns out she's not in the movie, as I was sidetracked by a phony, fan-made trailer. Someone by the name of Carey Mulligan plays Daisy instead. I know, "someone" sounds like a bit of a put-down. In fact, I found out that she's a highly regarded actress. I've just never seen her in anything, as out of touch as I am with current cinema (watching 50-year old movies has proven much more cost effective in these recessionary times.) Mulligan is certainly attractive enough, and much closer in age to Daisy than the 40-something Kidman, but I can't help but feel a bit disappointed. If there's any actress of the past two decades that could inspire all-consuming passion, it's Nicole Kidman. Just what is it about those downslope brows, small blue eyes, and that grin, anyway? But back to Carey Mulligan. In the "official" trailer, above, I see that she's billed third, behind Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire (whom I'm guessing plays Nick Carraway.) Perhaps that's as it should be. To paraphrase myself, Daisy is of equal billing only in Gatsby's eyes.
Jay Gatsby never scowled!
Well, now let me mull that over. While Fitzgerald is purposely vague about it in order to maintain the mystery of the character, Jay Gatsby seems to have made his fortune illegally. His business partners were crooks, including one who apparently fixed the 1919 World Series (that really happened, though in Fitzgerald's book the perpetrator is fictional.) Gatsby wouldn't have been beaming giddily like an Up With People performer around such lowlifes. No, he would have wanted to show them that he was just as tough as they were. Sometimes that toughness came out even when he was among the highlifes:
I glanced at Daisy, who was staring terrified between Gatsby and her husband, and at Jordan, who had begun to balance an invisible but absorbing object on the tip of her chin. Then I turned back to Gatsby — and was startled at his expression. He looked — and this is said in all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden — as if he had “killed a man.” For a moment the set of his face could be described in just that fantastic way.OK, so Gatsby would have occasionally scowled. But there's so much more to him than that. No doubt this is a man ruthless enough to swim with, and maybe even occasionally take a bite out of, the sharks. Yet does he do it for material gain? Sure, there's the mansion and silk shirts and Rolls Royce, but those are merely majestic means to an idealized end: the heart of a pretty rich girl he knew for a couple of weeks before going off to fight the Great War. And that's why Gatsby never lost his smile. So, can DiCaprio smile?