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10 Facts About ‘The Great Gatsby’ Movie on Its 50th Anniversary

Learn who almost played Jay Gatsby in the movie, and many more behind-the-scenes secrets


“That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world — a beautiful little fool,” was one of the most memorable lines from Daisy Buchanan, the unforgettable femme fatale who destroys lovesick Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, the movie version of which turns 50 this month.

Based on the beloved 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Gatsby story captures the essence of the idle rich, the proverbial keeping up with the Joneses, the hopelessness of unrequited and obsessive love and the tragedy that can result from blind loyalty and betrayal.

Perhaps most of all, the Gatsby story — set in the Roaring ‘20s on New York’s Long Island, with “old money” people in East Egg, and the nouveau riche on West Egg — reminds us of the truth that, indeed, all that glitters is not gold.

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man looking ; the great gatsby
Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974)Screen Archives / Contributor / Getty

Leading man Robert Redford plays the hopelessly smitten, insecure, and newly wealthy Gatsby in the 1974 movie, while Mia Farrow plays the vain, superficial lady lead Daisy, whose affections he spends the movie trying to win back, with tragic results.

While the half-century-old movie is naturally dated in many ways — a character fills the gas tank for 40 cents, and women wear flapper-style outfits — the underlying themes of The Great Gatsby are timeless and apply to our world today.

Here are 10 fun facts about this classic movie, which is available to stream now on Netflix, Paramount+, and Pluto TV.

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1. Truman Capote was originally hired to write the script

Truman Capote; Great Gatsby
Truman Capote (1966) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

Truman Capote initially was hired to adapt Fitzgerald’s novel into a screenplay, but he wrote a not-so-great Gatsby. Journalist Peter Bart, formerly the vice president of production at Paramount, shared on Deadline that Capote simply transcribed some chapters of the book word-for-word. Bart recalled an intense meeting with Capote in 1973 at a Beverly Hills restaurant, where Capote complained to strangers at the next table.

“I wrote a brilliant screenplay and this man from Paramount is telling me that I didn’t write it; I simply typed it!” an angry Capote told Bart with an edge to his high-pitched voice. “What should I do to him?”

Capote got fired and Francis Ford Coppola picked up the project, finishing his script in three weeks.

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2. The two leads struggled to connect on-screen: The Great Gatsby

Woman and man sitting looking away from each other
Mia Farrow and Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974) Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty

Mia Farrow said she struggled to connect with co-star Robert Redford and create on-screen chemistry, because he was completely absorbed in following the Watergate scandal that was unraveling the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Redford had a good reason to spend most of his free time in his trailer on The Great Gatsby set watching televised Watergate coverage, though: Two years later, he would star as reporter Bob Woodward in the movie All the President’s Men.

3. This classic didn’t receive the best reviews from critics

Woman and man standing together
Mia Farrow and Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974) Paramount Pictures / Handout / Getty

Although The Great Gatsby became a classic, the majority of movie critics seemed to overlook its potential and value. Bernard Drew of Gannett News Service wrote: “It’s all very glittering, but where’s the gold, the true gold?” Jack Cocks of Time Magazine had this to say: “The film is faithful to the letter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, but entirely misses its spirit.”

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4. Mia Farrow got the most criticism: The Great Gatsby

Woman looking right into camera
Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (1974) Bettmann / Contributor / Getty

Of the cast, Farrow got the brunt of the criticism for her portrayal of fickle socialite Daisy Buchanan, which some critics called shrill and hysterical. The panning seemed to harm Farrow’s career, as she didn’t appear on the big screen again until 1977, as the lead in The Haunting of Julia. Farrow won back her critical acclaim in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with roles in hit movies including The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Hannah and Her Sisters.

5. But she had a happy behind-the-scenes secret

Woman and her son
Mia Farrow and son, Fletcher Previn (2013) Jennifer Graylock / Contributor / Getty

A happier fact about Farrow and this film: She was pregnant during the filming, and producers camouflaged the baby bump with loose-fitting garments. That baby was Fletcher Previn — third biological son of Farrow and Andre Previn, her second husband — and he was born in 1974. Farrow went on to parent 14 children in total, four of whom were biological. Fletcher today is the chief digital officer at Cisco Systems.

6. The Newport mansions were used in the film: The Great Gatsby

View of a house; The Great Gatsby
Marble House, Newport, Rhode Island (1971) Angelo Hornak / Contributor / Getty

A few opulent houses were used as filming sites for Jay Gatsby’s West Egg mansion, including Rosecliff, an estate built in 1902 in Newport, Rhode Island. Architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at the Palace of Versailles in France. The ballroom where Jay dons his old Army uniform to dance with Daisy, is at another mansion in Newport: Marble House, which was built for the Vanderbilt family.

7. Someone else almost played Jay Gatsby

Man looking away
Marlon Brando (1955) Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty

Marlon Brando got an offer to play the role of Jay Gatsby, but he turned down Paramount Studios because the money they offered wasn’t good enough for him. But Redford was a better fit for the role, at age 38 — compared to Brando, who was about a decade older. In the novel, Jay Gatsby was in his 30s. Redford reportedly commented: “Didn’t anyone at Paramount bother to read the novel?”

8. The guests at Gatsby’s parties weren’t all actors: The Great Gatsby

Remember all those handsome, well-dressed men in the party scenes? Movie producers recruited many of them from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., because they had the clean-cut hairstyles that was characteristic of men in the 1920s.

9. This version of the film was not the first

Man and woman dancing
Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby (2013)

While the 1974 movie may be the best-known, The Great Gatsby has been adapted five times, the first a silent film that came out in 1926, but that movie is lost, with only a trailer remaining. The second was released in 1949, and the 1974 movie was the third screen incarnation. A TV movie aired in 2000, and then, a big-screen remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby arrived in 2013.

10. You might recognize the actor who played Nick Carraway: The Great Gatsby

Man smiling; The Great Gatsby
Sam Waterston at Law & Order Press Junket (2022) Dia Dipasupil / Staff / Getty

Sam Waterston, who nailed the role of humble narrator Nick Carraway, earned his greatest acting credit two decades later, when he began the long-lasting role of prosecutor Jack McCoy on Law & Order.

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