Q&A

Q: I love the book "The Great Gatsby," and I thought Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job playing him. I know that was a remake of an earlier film -- who played Gatsby in the original?

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Author: 
Adam Thomlison / TV Media

Technically, Leo DiCaprio was reprising the role pioneered by silent-film great Warner Baxter, who died 23 years before DiCaprio was born, but that's probably not the version you're thinking of.

DiCaprio's "Great Gatsby" was actually the fourth film version of the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The first, Baxter's, was released in 1926. It was remade in 1949 with legendary tough-guy actor Alan Ladd in the role.

The version you're probably thinking of came in 1974, starring the even-more-legendary screen great Robert Redford in the title role.

His was considered the definitive screen version, at least until DiCaprio's version came out in 2013. Whether that one will eclipse Redford's in the cultural memory remains to be seen -- five years does not a classic make.

DiCaprio's version was certainly made on a grander scale, though. Its budget was more than $100 million and it earned $350 million in global revenue.

Redford's looks modest by comparison. It was made for $6.5 million, which in today's dollars would be about $35 million -- still only a third of DiCaprio's budget. However, the 1974 version's return on investment was a little better, percentage-wise -- it earned $27 million at the box office, which would be about $150 million today.

In terms of acclaim, the two are about tied. Both won two Oscars, but none of those statues went to the stars -- the 1974 version won for its music and costumes, while 2013's won for its production design and, again, for its costumes. 

 

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