Thursday, August 27, 2015

Louise Brooks and F. Scott Fitzgerald - a connection

I recently came across a review of an intriguing book, The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King, His First Love, by James L.W. West III. The book was published by Random House in 2005. The review, by Fitzgerald scholar/biographer Scott Donaldson, reveals what The Perfect Hour only hinted at --  a previously unknown link between actress Louise Brooks and author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The publisher description of The Perfect Hour summarizes the book this way: "In The Perfect Hour, biographer James L. W. West III reveals the never-before told story of the romance between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his first love, Ginevra King. They met in January 1915, when Scott was nineteen, a Princeton student, and sixteen-year-old Ginevra, socially poised and confident, was a sophomore at Westover School. Their romance flourished in heartfelt letters and quickly ran its course–but Scott never forgot it. Ginevra became the inspiration for Isabelle Borgé in This Side of Paradise and the model for Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. Scott also wrote short stories inspired by her–including “Babes in the Woods” and “Winter Dreams,” which, along with Ginevra’s own story featuring Scott are reprinted in this volume. With access to Ginevra’s personal diary, love letters, photographs, and Scott’s own scrapbook, West tells the beguiling story of youthful passion that shaped Scott Fitzgerald’s life as a writer. For Scott and Ginevra, “the perfect hour” was private code for a fleeting time they almost shared and then yearned after for the rest of their lives. Now West brings that perfect hour back to life in all its freshness, delicacy, and poignant brevity."

Being something of a F. Scott Fitzgerald devotee, I purchased a copy of The Perfect Hour and read it and liked it. If you like reading about Fitzgerald, you should too!

Deering Davis, 1926
What West reveals is that in the mid-Teens, while being courted by Fitzgerald, Ginerva King was infatuated with a "Chicago boy" by the name of Deering Davis, with the two suitors aware of one another. What Scott Donaldson reveals is that Deering Davis is the same Chicago boy / Chicago playboy who married Brooks in 1933.

Of course, it is known that Brooks had met Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at a Hollywood party. Brooks described meeting the Fitzgeralds at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles in 1927. “They were sitting close together on a sofa, like a comedy team, and the first thing that struck me was how small they were.” Brooks “had come to see the genius writer,” adding, “but what dominated the room was the blazing intelligence of Zelda’s profile… the profile of a witch.”

What we don't know is whether or not Deering Davis (Brooks' second husband) ever revealed his earlier courtship of Fitzgerald's "first love" to Brooks. I suppose it's unlikely, as the Davis-King romance was one of youth and had taken place nearly 20 years earlier.

It has always been a mystery to me as to what Brooks saw in Davis. Was it the fact he was tall, dark, and handsome? I am just a straight guy and no judge of men. But to me, Fitzgerald is handsome, Davis not so. I don't think Davis photographed all that well, and he always seemed to have dark rings under his eyes. Ginerva King thought him a very good dancer, as did Brooks, who formed a dance team with Davis for a short time in the early 1930s.

What we do know is that Davis had a reputation as a Chicago playboy, and romanced many women. Evidently, he had what it took. Below is a little known clipping depicting Deering Davis and Louise Brooks.

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