The Secret Jewish History of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'

Meyer Wolfsheim Is Jewish. But What About Gatsby Himself?

Pipe Dreamer: The first film version of ‘Great Gatsby’ featured Neil Hamilton in the role of Nick Carraway. The silent movie was made by the Jewish production team of Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky.
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Pipe Dreamer: The first film version of ‘Great Gatsby’ featured Neil Hamilton in the role of Nick Carraway. The silent movie was made by the Jewish production team of Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky.

By Seth Rogovoy

Published May 09, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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And Da Silva doesn’t sport conspicuously hairy nostrils that “luxuriated” out of a “flat nose,” although hae does flaunt the strange cufflinks made out of human molars.

Luhrmann has raised eyebrows by casting Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan as Wolfsheim. The new film also stars Isla Fisher as Tom Buchanan’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson (played by Karen Black in the 1974 version). In real life, Fisher is married to Sacha Baron Cohen, and underwent a rigorous course of study to convert to Judaism before the two wed.

But here’s the perennial question at the heart of “The Great Gatsby” that Luhrmann, like all the others before him, attempts to address: Who is the real Jay Gatsby? Fitzgerald left only a few clues. We learn at the end of the book that he was born James Gatz and grew up in a hardscrabble town in North Dakota, the son of Henry C. Gatz, whom we meet briefly at the end of the novel.

We know that he had a short flirtation or relationship with Daisy before heading off to war, and that when he returned he set about to reinvent himself in a style and fashion more suited to her wealthy, socialite background.

It has been variously speculated that the real reason James Gatz and Daisy Buchanan didn’t consummate their relationship initially was that James harbored an even deeper secret than that of merely being from a relatively impoverished background: namely, that he was black, Jewish or gay.

Critics have found enough hints in Fitzgerald’s text to justify any of those readings, but so far, the filmmakers who cast Ladd, Redford and now German-Italian-American actor Leonardo DiCaprio (reportedly a practitioner of Krav Maga, an Israeli martial arts form, and former longtime boyfriend of the Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli) haven’t seen fit to go down any of those roads.


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