All in the Name of Research
I have often said that the best part of writing is the research, but research doesn’t always take place in the basement of a subdued library or somber museum. Sometimes it actually can take you to the movies, in this case an authentic 1927 silent movie.
My next book will be another historical novel, this one revolving around the time F. Scott Fitzgerald spent in western North Carolina in 1935, including in rooms 441 and 443 at the Grove Park Inn, where he became embroiled in yet another of his messy love affairs (will be in chapter 17).
Fitzgerald spent a good deal of time in Tryon, a small town forty-five miles south of Asheville, straddling the border with South Carolina. Tryon had gained a reputation years earlier as an artists and Arts and Crafts colony, attracting such notables as silversmith Madeline Wynne, and woodcarvers Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale.
Fitzgerald, however, came to spend time with his friends Nora and Lefty Flynn, who had previously led lives every bit as tumultuous as that of Scott and Zelda. In 1914, after becoming an All-American football star at Yale, Lefty got kicked out of school his senior year for getting drunk and marrying a Broadway dancer (it only lasted 11 days, but they made it to Italy). He soon met Nora Langhorne Phipps and began a two-week affair. Afterwards, they never saw each other again until 1930, sixteen years later, when they picked up where they left off, even though in both instances Nora had the same husband (besides numerous other lovers, but that will be in chapter four).
Between affairs with Nora, the tall, beefy and handsome Lefty had gone to Hollywood, where between 1919 and 1928 he starred in more than forty silent movies — and reportedly slept with that many more starlets. Unfortunately, Lefty had an even longer love affair with alcohol. He was literally banned from the movie industry after he requested permission to leave a set to go to the bathroom, only to turn up five days later in an Oklahoma hotel room — naked, painted blue, and tied to a metal bed.
By 1934 he and Nora had reformed their ways and moved to Tryon, where they lived sedate lives for several years before Lefty’s wanderlust eventually got the better of him. It was there they often entertained Fitzgerald, and where Nora, a recent convert to Christian Science, attempted to wean Scott off the bottle, with only limited success.
This fall the Tryon Fine Arts Center is sponsoring a number of Tryon-related films, so last week Leigh Ann and I drove down to see Lefty at his finest in “The Golden Stallion.” Despite it being forty minutes of cheesy, black-and-white footage with sub-titles, black-hatted villains, and Lefty saving the beautiful young daughter by finding her dead father’s lost gold mine, there were nearly a hundred people in the audience, and we laughed and hooted and occasionally booed the bad guys, and had a fine time.
All in the name of research.
And in case you hadn’t noticed, at next February’s Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference we are continuing our practice of showing a Saturday night movie relating to the Arts and Crafts movement. This year’s selection will be “The Mystery of George Masa,” directed and produced by Paul Bonesteel, who did the same for last year’s selection “The Day Carl Sandburg Died.”
George Masa (lower photo) was a fine art photographer of the Arts and Crafts era who is best known for his work in convincing politicians and the American public of the value in saving what we know today as the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Filmed in what is known as the Ken Burns’ documentary style, “The Mystery of George Masa” is expertly crafted and will provide viewers with special insight into the art of fine art photography during the Arts and Crafts era.
Come see it — in the name of research.
Until next Monday,
Have a great week!
For Arts and Crafts Conference information, please click onto http://www.arts-craftsconference.com.
For information on my previous historical novel, please click onto http://www.AnUnexpectedGuest.com.
Top two photos courtesy of www.WesternClippings.com.