Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zelda Fitzgerald: the first flapper

Zelda Fitzgerald was a spoiled brat.

Her daddy was one of the most richest and prominent men in the South, so Zelda basically got away with doing whatever she wanted.

The teenage beauty smoke, drank, stayed out with boys all night, and spoke her mind freely, much to the shock of proper society.

When future literary superstar F. Scott Fitzgerald first saw her at a dance in Montgomery, Alabama, he was a goner. So was every other guy in the room.

The flirtatious southern belle fell madly in love with Scott, who was a soldier at the time. But being the snotty princess she was, she refused to marry him until his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was released in 1920.

Their rock star marriage shook the nation.

Whatever money came out of the success of Scott's novels was used towards designer clothes and outrageous, extravagant parties.

The two lovebirds splashed drunkenly in public fountains, rode on top of taxis, passed out in busy streets, and basically got kicked out of every single respectable establishment in New York City.

Their intoxicated shenanigans amidst prohibition were splashed all over the tabloids.

“Spinach and champagne. Going back to the kitchens at the old Waldorf. Dancing on the kitchen tables, wearing the chef’s headgear. Finally, a crash and being escorted out by the house detectives.”
-Zelda Fitzgerald, describing her life in the 1920s.

The 20-something beauty had short hair, wore short dresses, powdered makeup on her face, and carelessly flung long beads over her outfits. As a result, millions of young women around the world, desperate to be as cool, followed suit. The media deemed them "flappers."

Scott chronicled their adventures in his books, basing almost every female character on his dazzling wife.

Zelda even began writing stories herself, which were excellent. But in order to sell them, she had to put her husband's byline on them, revoking her credit. The smitten wife was not bitter, however, because in the 1920s, this was simply how the world worked.

Life for the wealthy young couple was far from perfect, however.

Scott's alcoholism was spiraling out of control. He became increasingly mean to Zelda and he began sleeping around.

His hero and close friend, Ernest Hemingway, publicly despised Zelda, and told anyone who would listen that she was the downfall of her husband's brilliant career.

Desperate to escape her wretched homelife, Zelda began pursuing ballet, a hobby she enjoyed as a child. Despite being told starting a dance career in her late 20s was absurd, Zelda practiced for hours every single day and enlisted the help of famous instructors.

But even though her talent was flourishing, her mind was not.

Perhaps due to her massive unhappiness and stressful life, Zelda began slipping into uncontrollable madness.

Zelda was finally admitted into a sanitarium in Paris for schizophrenia in 1930. Although she remained married, Scott had no intention of being faithful. He moved to Hollywood and the couple never got back together.

During her stay in the mental health facility, Zelda wrote autobiographical stories and painted ballerinas as a way to ease her suffering.

Sadly, she never regained enough sanity to be released.

In 1948, Zelda was locked in a room, awaiting electroshock therapy, when her mental health facility caught fire. It started in the kitchen and made its way to every single floor, at rapid speed.

Unable to escape the locked room, Zelda perished into the flames.


The Woven Moments said...

A brilliant, talented woman, plagued by the judgements of society and men dies in a fire.

Sound familiar? Like Salem perhaps?

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

The creative spirit is always a bit mad. Poor Zelda. I feel for Her. Such a talented spirit.xx

JUST ME said...

I love how you did this. It kept me reading until the end. You're a great writer girl. You can make history interesting which is definitely NOT easy.

I wonder what her mental "disorder" was?

Shybiker said...

Amazing story, lucidly told. Thanks for educating me.

Have you seen Woody Allen's last movie, "Midnight In Paris"? If not, you should. It covers some of this.

azu said...

What a horrible way to die! Poor Zelda. She was only having a little fun.

You wrote this very beautifully, by the way. It's also great the way you add pictures between the text. That way it feels like I'm watching an awesome documentary.

xoxo Azu

Josie said...

How tragic. She was so beautiful and talented.
xo Josie

Mannequins Dream said... always have really interesting peoples life stories on your blog & theyre all awesome!! :D Xx

Movies on my Mind said...

Zelda's not dead. I'm sure I saw her in a Woody Allen movie last summer.

Arielle said...

Ah! I love this feature of yours. That was such a crazy story! What a wild life.


SassyUptownChic said...

Omg'd the ending is so tragic!!! I would've been freaking out. She gave new meaning to LIFE IS A PARTY! Jennifer I love these stories. Please continue doing them. It's great to learn about people's lives.
Happy Tuesday girl! :D

BlueVanilla said...

Awesome story....I love stories of crazy rich people that end up in crazy houses. That happened so much back then....great read!

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stef said...

Oh my lord...sometimes reading your blog (or these stories) is akin to watching a Horror movie (that I despise!)

David L Macaulay said...

most excellent post - I am a big fan of Fitzgerald - I believe she was the inspiration for the character in Tender is the Night

Julie @ ROJ Running said...

The counselor in me is saddened to know the stories of people who suffered back then and were certainly mistreated for "treatment" and all they (she) could have been and done if treated properly.

The Julie side of me says "Ack, being burned alive is one of my greatest fears"

Kristin said...

Oh my goodness. What a tragic story!

Natassja said...

I've always been so fascinated with the Scott-Zelda relationship. I even wrote a paper on him/his home life for my American Literature class in high school. So interesting to learn about someone so unafraid to challenge the status quo, yet who still fell victim to the boundaries it creates.

Stephanie said...

Seriously Jen, you should write a book. Fill it with tragic heroines and gorgeous photos. I'd buy it.

Shannon said...

Damn, you're a great writer. It holds my attention and keeps me in suspense.

Keep it up. I love these kinds of posts.

Jessica said...

A beautiful and unique sole. Great post! I have an amazing Sonia Kashuk GIVEAWAY happening right now on my blog! Stop by and check it out:)

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Tragique, tragique, tragique. Quelle cha-cha, cette Zelda! Glad I waited for chapter 2 of your new series. Keep them coming, Jenny! :-) Veronique

Gayatri said...

Oh no! What a sad way to die. Great post Jenny. I was (stupidly) surprised that she was such a wild child. I (stupidly) believed everyone in the 20s & 30s was coy & prim & proper!!


Anonymous said...

first, I love this series.

second, this is so tragic. Wow. What a sad death.

Meri said...

I've read a few of her bios, and really enjoyed them. Even though her life ended in tragedy, she had so much spirit and I think is really inspiring. This is a great piece, as usual! Just what I was wanting after yesterday's post, too :)

Nicole✗✗ said...

This was simply fantastic to read. It was lovely to learn more about Zelda and her rather fascinating life despite her recklessness. It's sad to learn the way she died... just terrible.

Have you seen Midnight in Paris? It covers a small bit of the Fitzgerald's but in general it's a rather charming film!

Maja dahl said...

Really talented woman!

Ann said...

Another example of rich talented woman living a void life. Sad:(

This post is really great,
very interesting and informative.
I have always been a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald's works ... but am not quite familiar about his personal life.

Cafe Fashionista said...

Hooray for a Zelda feature - I will always adore her! I am so glad that ou picked up 'Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin' - I knew you would love it! I think we need to be flappers together! :P

Jo said...

I always take a piece, in fact many pieces of new knowledge whenever i visit your blog. I never knew of Zelda. I only knew of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway coz of their classic text! Thank you for this little lesson for me to take home.

Courtney Erin said...

Such a fascinating story...they're both such larger than life personalities.

xoxo ~ Courtney

Oh to Be a Muse said...

there is just so much i learn on your blog that i never would have known otherwise. why do all these women go to mental institutes? i do like that she inspired the term flapper though.

Bonnie said...

I love flappers. I think that I would be a flapper if I lived back then. I would be really good at it.
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

yiqin; said...

great post on her :)

Tights Lover said...

Amazing read. What a couple the two of them must've been. I had never heard of her but have read some Fitzgerald and a lot of Hemingway.

It sad that things ended so badly for her...

JoaNNa said...

i enjoyed reading this post so much! you're a great writer/journalist :) i didn't expect the ending had to be that tragic though. poor Zelda!

Kaatja said...

Interesting story. I like F.S. Fitzgeralds novels.

Esmeralda said...

Amazing story and what a sad and tragic ending!!!
Nice post, I really enjoyed it ;)

Emily said...

Oh my goodness, I never knew that she died in a fire! This was enlightening, thank you so much for posting it! Her life was fascinating! And I absolutely adore her style. I actually just did a post on flapper style on my blog! It's my favorite era for fashion!

Emily said...

This was such a fantastic blog post on the flapper Zelda Fitzgerald! Truly enjoyed reading all about this interesting lady. I didn't even know she had an interest in ballet or that she painted.

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Amber said...

Actually her family was not rich. Her father rented the home they lived in. They were maybe middle class at best. She was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, she was actually bipolar. She didn't put Scott's name on the byline, the editors did and she did resent it.
She didn't dance to "escape her wretched life" she danced because she was bored. She was released from the sanatorium but would go back periodically.
Scott's novels were indeed autobiographical but he also based his characters on Lois Moran, an actress.

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Latisha Nichols said...

Zelda's dad was a Supreme Court Judge. They lived in Montgomery, Alabama, and they were considered rich by most peoples standards at those times.

Also, back then, rich men could have their wives "committed" with the stoke of a pen, and often did to get rid of them. It was done by men who were raised with strict religious beliefs, and could NOT divorce their wives. Zelda clearly was disliked by close friends of Scott's, and they influenced his discisions on how their relationship developed. Scott didn't handle fame too well, and Zelda was a bipolar, attention whore, who was jealous of her husband's fame. Because his kind of fame brought with it a lot of "groupies" which is hard to handle by any women let alone a spoiled one....Locking Zelda in a "safe" place was the best way of dealing with it. Even though Scott never divorced Zelda, it was a deadly combination for a loving family unit, and ended in total tragedy. I felt bad for baby Scottie who had to grow up a witness to all that mess. Don't anyone think that the Fitzgerald's lives were a dreamy, fairy story of happiness and light. It was more like a hot bed of abuse, and the kind of self destruction controlled by booze, and selfishness.

LittleNicoBella said...

She sounds like a tramp! Bipolar my ass! Whatever happened to her little child when she was drinking or pursuing her dream in ballet? When she burned in that asylum she was burning in hell!