Arts & Culture

The New Age of Zelda

Southern flapper and writer Zelda Fitzgerald feels the love from Hollywood

photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Z: The Beginning of Everything will officially premiere on January 27.

Dust off your feathered headbands and drop-waist dresses—2017 will herald the return of the flapper. Or rather, one Jazz Age icon in particular: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. Three new Hollywood projects will vie to tell the tale of the Alabama-born wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the literary toast of the twenties.

Renewed interest in Zelda centers on fleshing out the “first American flapper”—so dubbed by her husband—beyond her image as a gin-soaked good-time girl. That includes giving due to Zelda’s own considerable skill as a wordsmith, a talent often overshadowed or squashed by F. Scott’s popularity and personality. He heavily edited her only published novel, Save Me the Waltz, and called her writing “third-rate.” But the author of The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise often “borrowed” from Zelda’s life and journals for his own works; in a playful New York Tribune review of F. Scott’s novel The Beautiful and Damned—a thinly veiled account of their marriage—Zelda wrote, “Mr. Fitzgerald … seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”

photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

David Hoflin and Christina Ricci as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in Amazon Studios’s new series Z: The Beginning of Everything.

You’ll see much of the couple’s tempestuous dynamic in Amazon Studios’s original series Z: The Beginning of Everything, starring Christina Ricci, which premieres on Friday, January 27 (the first episode is already available to watch for free online). Based on Raleigh resident Therese Anne Fowler’s 2013 best-selling novel, Z, the show spends its first few episodes in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, where the flirtatious daughter of a judge met F. Scott, a young soldier at nearby Camp Sheridan during World War I, at a country club dance.

Two films also are slated to begin competing productions this year, with an eye to debut in 2018: the Ron Howard–developed Zelda, set to star Jennifer Lawrence, and the Scarlett Johansson–led The Beautiful and the Damned, an adaptation of F. Scott’s second novel. The Fitzgerald estate is collaborating on the latter film, which will incorporate transcripts Zelda wrote while confined to a sanatorium. After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, she died in 1948 during a fire at one such mental-health facility in Asheville.

It was a sad and dramatic end to an often sad and dramatic life—one that will see yet another bit of drama this year.