The protracted and stormy Sheilah Graham-F. Scott Fitzgerald romance in the 1930s is brought to the screen taking Graham’s autobiographical book [co-written with Gerold Frank] as the jumping-off point. Judging by the book, Fitzgerald, despite his drinking and his eccentricities, was a fascinating personality, a tortured genius from Princeton who ran aground in Hollywood. Graham didn’t paint herself in quite so favorable a light.
In the picture, the tables have been turned. It is the columnist, played by Deborah Kerr, who suffers nobly and ‘serves’ sympathetically. It is Fitzgerald who is portrayed as a weak, moody, spoiled child with little more to his credit than the attractive looks of Gregory Peck.
This is primarily a film about a sharp, aggressive film columnist who falls in love with a man who is her intellectual superior by miles and who, through association with him, attains a new human stature. It is also a film in which the characters go mostly unexplained and this makes for a superficiality which deprives them of sympathy. What’s more, the acting, while excellent and persuasive in parts, is shallow and artificial in others.
Problem is primarily with Peck, who brings to Fitzgerald the kind of cleancut looks and youthful appearance that conflict with the image of a has-been novelist, whacking away at a studio typewriter to make a living and to meet his family obligations. Kerr can’t overcome the artificiality of the part or the situation, and after a while the affair just peters out and becomes dull.