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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan'

Dennis King Published: May 6, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan”

With Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” set to open this week, savvy marketers are smartly piggybacking on the hype surrounding that picture by re-releasing a BBC Omnibus series production of the documentary “Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan” (due out on DVD Tuesday).

The show, produced in 2000 in celebration of the 75th anniversary of publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the Jazz Age, offers up a fascinating look at the turbulent personal life and troubled creative spirit one of America’s most celebrated 20th century authors.

In deft documentary strokes, it ranges from Fitzgerald’s turbulent college days at Princeton, through his disastrous marriage to Zelda and his contentious relationship with rival author Ernest Hemingway, and his desperate urge to compromise his writing for quick cash, which put him on a tragic path to his unhappy final days as a for-hire Hollywood screenwriter.

With narration from actress Tara Fitzgerald and talking-head contributions from the author’s granddaughter Eleanor Lanahan, plus writers Hunter S. Thompson, George Plimpton, Jay McInerney and others, the program sets out to dispel the age-old mythology that Fitzgerald’s writing created – concerning the carefree glamour of the Jazz Age and its participants’ marathon bouts of drinking.

Also included on the DVD is a bonus feature titled “Private Affairs: A Dream of Living,” which presents a play concerning the activities of Fitzgerald, Zelda and Hemingway during their time in Paris in the mid-1920s. It was that period that deeply influenced Fitzgerald’s conception of “The Great Gatsby.”

“Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan” is not rated. It’s being released by BBC Home Entertainment.

- Dennis King