F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota, of Southern and Irish Catholic descent, to Edward Fitzgerald and Mary (Mollie) McQuillan Fitzgerald. He was given the three names in honor of his distant relative Francis Scott Key, the writer of the National Anthem. His father, Edward, was a salesmen for Proctor and Gamble, whos first business, making wicker furniture had failed. His mother, Mary McQuillan, known as Mollie to her family and close friends, was the daughter of a wholesale grocer and completely devoted to her only son. The family moved about regularly, with two of the places they lived being New York and settling permanently in New Jersey in 1918.
The young Fitzgerald went to school at St. Paul Academy, where he wrote his first published story entitled The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage, which appeared in the 1909 issue of Now and Then. Fitzgerald entered Princeton University in 1913, where he played football, but didnt do very well in it. He did, however, write scripts and lyrics for the Princeton Triangle Club musicals and was a contributor to the Princeton Tiger Humor magazine and the Nassau Literary Magazine. He left his studies in 1917 because of a poor academic record and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became a second Lieutenant in the infantry. His experiences in World War 1 were very peaceful and he never had to be sent overseas, so he never saw action and did not have to go to France.
In 1918, Fitzgerald was assigned to Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, Alabama. While there, he fell in love with eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre, the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court Judge, and an aspiring writer.
In 1919, Fitzgerald, smitten with love for Zelda but not wanting to marry her until he could support her monetarily, moved to New York City to seek his fortune in the advertisement business. Zelda was not very keen on the idea of waiting for them, so she broke their engagement, and they went their separate ways for a little while. Feeling discouraged, Fitzgerald quit his job in July of 1919 and returned to St. Paul and rewrote his novel This Side of Paradise, which was accepted by Maxwell Perkins of Scribners that September.
During the fall and winter of 1919, Fitzgerald continued writing short stories for mass-circulation magazines, and wrote for the Saturday Evening Post, which became his best story market. Some of the writings for those magazines were, The Offshore Pirate, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, May Day, and The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. For the Smart Set magazine.
Having had a change of heart, Zelda and Fitzgerald married in 1920, the same year in which is first novel This Side of Paradise, which was published on March 26, 1920. After the novel was published, it became a colossal hit, turning the Fitzgeralds into celebrities almost overnight. Though he was making a good amount of money from the book sales, the Fitzgeralds spent money as fast as it came in, which, overtime, put them into debt. During this time, Zelda realized she was pregnant, and Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, the couples only child, a daughter, was born in October of 1921. The Fitzgeralds then moved to New York City, where Fitzgerald wrote his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned. After the release of that novel, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neck, Long Island, to be near to Broadway where one of Fitzgeralds writings, The Vegetable and From President to Postman, a political satire. Both failed miserably, which left them in great debt, leaving Fitzgerald having to write short stories again, just to get by.
Because of the distractions of living where they did, so close to New York City, Fitzgerald began to change. One of the biggest problems that occurred was his considerable drinking habits. He became an alcoholic, while Zelda, who wasnt an alcoholic, started to drink heavily which caused many uproarious fights between the couple. As this continued, so did the tarnishing of Fitzgeralds reputation, and people began to think him irresponsible not only as a person, but as a writer.
Seeking tranquility, and needing to get away from the city, the Fitzgeralds moved to France in the spring of 1924. While there, Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, during the summer and fall in Valescure, near St. Raphael. Though the time in France was supposed to help the family and bring them closer together, it ended up tearing them farther apart when it was realized that Zelda was having an affair with a French naval aviator.
The Fitzgeralds stayed in Europe, but not in France, spending the winter of 1924-1925 in Rome. The Great Gatsby was published, after a revision, in April of 1925. It received critical praise, but the sales were disappointing.
During his stay in Europe, Fitzgerald met and became friends with many authors, one being Ernest Hemingway, who Fitzgerald admired for his personality and genius.
The family stayed in Rome until the end of 1926, when they alternated their time between Paris and the Riviera. Fitzgerald made little progress on his 4th novel, provisionally titled The Boy who Killed His Mother, Our Type, and The Worlds Fair. During this time, it was noticed that Zeldas behavior was becoming more and more eccentric, much to Fitzgeralds dismay.
The family moved back to America to escape the distractions in France in the spring of 1927, where after a short and unsuccessful stint as a screenwriter in Hollywood, they rented Ellerslie, a home near Wilmington, Delaware. The remained there for two years, but Fitzgerald still couldnt make progress with the same novel he was having trouble with in France. While Fitzgerald was having his troubles, Zelda decided to start living one of her dreams by studying Ballet dancing, intending to become a professional dancer. They returned to France the spring of 1929 where Zelda continued her intense ballet training. Because of her stressful and intense training, she became ill and her health problems just contributed to the couples estrangement.
In April of 1920 she suffered her first nervous breakdown. She was treated at Pragins clinic in Switzerland until September of 1921, while Fitzgerald lived in Swiss hotels. He stopped his work on his novel to again, resort to writing short stories to pay the psychiatric bills.
They returned to America in the fall of 1921 and rented a house in Montgomery, Alabama, where Zelda had a relapse in February 1932 and was admitted to Johns Hopkins hospital near Baltimore, Maryland. She spent the rest of her life as a resident or outpatient of sanitariums.
In 1932, while in Johns Hopkins, Zelda wrote her autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, which generated much bitterness between the couple. He took it to be pre-empting the material he was using in his novel-in-progress. Through their struggles, he rented yet another home, La Paix, outside of Baltimore, where he could be near Zelda and still, finally, finish his 4th novel Tender is the Night, which was published in 1934. Though the novel was his most ambitious, it was a commercial failure.
In 1936-1937, during the period which came to be known as The Crack-Up, after one of his short stories, Fitzgerald was a low as he had ever been. Drunk, ill, in debt, and unable to write commercial stories, he lived in Hotels and Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda was now living in the Highland Hospital. Fitzgerald hadnt maintained a home for their daughter Scottie since their home in Baltimore, so at age 14, she was sent to a boarding school where a family, the Obers, became her surrogate family. Fitzgerald did keep in contact to keep up with her studies, but that was about all the contact they had.
In 1937m Fitzgerald went to Hollywood again, alone this time, with a six month Metro-Goldwynn-Mayer screenwriting contract, which gave him $1,000 a week. He received his only screen credit for adapting Three Comrades in 1938, and his contract was renewed for a year, paying him now $1,250 a week. Even though he was making now $91,000 a year, he still couldnt keep his finances in control. All of his trips east to visit Zelda, along with his frivolous way of life, proved disastrous.
While living in California, Fitzgerald met and fell in love with movie columnist Sheilah Graham. Their relationship endured despite his many blunders.
After MGM dropped him at the end of 1938, he worked as a freelance script writer and wrote short stories for Esquire magazine.
He began his Hollywood based novel The Love of the Last Tycoon in 1929 and had half of a working draft for his next novel, when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940 in Grahams apartment. Zelda later died in 1948 in a fire a Highland Hospital.
F. Scott Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure, and there for he was one. No matter his many accomplishments, that was never good enough for him, and it proved his fate. The obituaries were condescending and he seemed destined for literary obscurity, until 1945-1950 when his works became more popular and well known. By 1960, he had achieved a secure place among Americas writers. The Great Gatsby became and remains the defining American Novel.