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The Great Gatsby portrays glamorous, decadent women of 1920s American society
Who were the real women of "The Great Gatsby" era?
Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher & Elizabeth Debicki tell CNN who inspired their characters
The Great Gatsby, the film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, shows the glamorous and decadent lifestyles of fashionable, high society Americans of the Roaring Twenties.
Set in the prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922, the novel portrays the so-called “flapper” culture, fun-loving young women who wore their hair and their skirts short, listened to jazz music, drank and smoked in public, and were far more sexually liberated than previous generations.
But who were the real women of the Great Gatsby era? CNN asked actresses Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki, the female stars of Baz Luhrmann’s film, to tell us who gave them inspiration for their characters.
A wealthy debutante and Fitzgerald’s first love, Ginevra King is widely believed to be the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan, James Gatsby’s love interest.
Fitzgerald met King in 1915 in his hometown of St Paul, Minnesota, when he was a 19-year-old Princeton student home for Christmas vacation and she was a 16-year-old boarding school pupil.
Though they dated for two years before both going on to marry other people, Fitzgerald never forgot his first love, who is often described as his muse.
In 2003, Princeton University acquired the letters to Fitzgerald from King’s family, allowing biographers to learn details of their relationship for the first time.
Carey Mulligan, who played Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” film, went to Princeton to study the letters while researching her character.
“The way that she writes is absolutely incredible,” Mulligan told CNN. “Her way with language is so reminiscent of the way that Daisy speaks. She came from a very wealthy family and shared so many biographical [details].”
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
Letters between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald also provided rich material for Mulligan’s research.
“One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was the time just before we started shooting when I got to look at the people who inspired Fitzgerald,” said Mulligan. “It was amazing to go to Princeton and to get to read letters between Zelda and Scott, and between Ginerva King and Scott, and see where he’d directly drawn parts of Daisy to put her together.”
Zelda, a Southern belle, met Fitzgerald at a country club dance, but was unimpressed with his wealth and status and refused to marry him until his first novel, “The Side of Paradise”, was published in 1920.
The newly-wed Fitzgeralds became a celebrity couple, known for their partying lifestyle.
However, the party was short-lived and in 1930 – with their marriage crumbling and Fitzgerald suffering from alcoholism – Zelda was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and admitted to hospital, where she wrote a semi-biographical novel, “Save Me the Waltz”.
Silent film actress Clara Bow was known as the “it” girl of the Roaring Twenties, after her most famous movie “It” of 1927. Despite a poor and unhappy childhood, Bow starred in 38 silent movies.
Bow provided inspiration for Gatsby actress Isla Fisher, for her character Myrtle, who has an extramarital affair with Daisy Buchanan’s husband, Tom.
“I was inspired by Clara Bow for Myrtle because I think that’s who she would have wanted to be,” Fisher told CNN. “Myrtle would (have) loved to have been an actress and she would never have [had] the opportunity because of her status.
“I feel like Myrtle is living in her own theatrical world where she’s the star when she is with Tom Buchanan, even though her life is so sad without him.”
Louise Brooks was another great actress of the silent movie era, best known for her films “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl”, both filmed in Germany in 1929.
Among the first to sport a bobbed haircut, it was Brooks who inspired the Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, playing “The Great Gatsby” character Jordan Baker in the film.
“She is just fierce, wonderful, intelligent, and I read a lot about her,” said Debicki. “She really typified that woman who appeared in the 1920s, completely independent and, like Gatsby, she built herself up, created the image she wanted.
“I had photos of her in my kitchen, everywhere. When I woke up in the morning I would look at Louise Brooks.”