Considering that he's been dead for 70 years, F. Scott Fitzgerald's career is going pretty well. His short story was the inspiration for Best Picture nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Baz Luhrmann is currently preparing a big-budget version of his most famous work, The Great Gatsby and Keira Knightley will star as his wife Zelda in an upcoming biopic of the couple. Throw in Martin Scorsese's upcoming Gatsby remake starring Vincent Chase, and the movie career of this great writer has never been hotter.
"I've committed myself to the following of a grail, E."
Which is a problem, since there was one time when it should have been: 1937-1940, when he was trying to earn a living as a Hollywood scriptwriter. There had been a early stint in 1927, when United Artists paid him a $3500 advance (about $65,000,000 in 2009 money) to write an ultimately unproduced flapper comedy, but this was when he and Zelda were still the Jazz Age darlings who made bathtub gin and sat on flagpoles with Charles Lindbergh. A 1931 stay led to nothing but more arguments and rejected scripts.
When he returned to Hollywood in 1937, he really needed the work. Zelda was in the mental ward and Fitzgerald (or "F" as we like to call him) had suffered a series of "Crack-Ups," highlighted in a 1936 Joaquin Phoenixesque New York Post interview that includes the line, "His face twitched. 'Successful authors!' he cried. 'Oh, my God, successful authors!' He stumbled over to the highboy and poured himself another drink."
Seen here, in a rare moment of not-being-crazy.
Had TMZ been around in 1936, they would have been staking out his home Britney-style. Meanwhile, his record in Hollywood reads a bit like Michael Jordan's baseball stats. His IMDb credits for this period include eight "Uncredited" listings, compared with one actual screen credit for a 1938 adaptation of the novel Three Comrades (for which his dialogue was heavily rewritten). Uncredited sounds okay, but in Fitzgerald's case it's essentially a euphemism for "His script sucked, but he sure is famous." The IMDb page also doesn't list his piles of unproduced screenplays, or rejected dialogue for numerous movies, including Gone With the Wind.
The really sad part of all this? Fitzgerald was apparently working his ass off. In 2004, two thousand pages of Fitzgerald's previously unknown Hollywood notes were sold, detailing just how much effort utter failure takes. In retrospect, he could have just hung around the house and waited for somebody to invent some really convincing old-man makeup to slap on a midget.
Let's face it, except for extremely rare cases like Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson, very few stars remain at their peak level of popularity for decade after decade. There's nothing inherently depressing about falling back to earth a bit, and even a big fall means they reached great heights in the first place. Still, there are heights so great and falls so far that looking at them makes you a bit queasy, which brings us to the career of Burt Reynolds.
Burt Reynolds was riding high and driving fast during his late-70s/early-80s Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run peak. He won eight People's Choice Awards for Favorite Male Entertainer and Motion Picture Actor, and would have won another eight if there was one for Awesomest Mustache. For five straight years he was the top draw in Hollywood, tied with guys like Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks. You'll notice that neither of those guys ever ended up 13th-billed in a Uwe Boll film.
Bad career choices, expensive divorces and bankruptcy sent Reynolds spiraling in the 80s, though in the 90s he at least worked steadily on TV in Evening Shade, a decent hit despite being seen by absolutely nobody under 50 or above the Mason-Dixon Line. Then, out of nowhere, his 1997 appearance in Boogie Nights earned Reynolds his first Oscar nomination and was the comeback story of the year.
Mustache Mustache Mustache.
Or maybe not. "My being nominated this year is no comeback story because I simply refused to go away," Reynolds said. As it turns out, it was no comeback story because his career didn't come back even a tiny little bit. It didn't help that Reynolds and director Paul Thomas Anderson didn't get along, leading Reynolds to refuse to appear in Anderson's next picture, Magnolia. It would be the last time Reynolds was within shouting range of quality.
What a sneaky mustache!
IMDb shows an astounding 52 entries since Boogie Nights with only a handful you've heard of, including crappy remakes, one-shot sitcom appearances, the worst wide-release opening in movie history (that would be Delgo, which literally averaged two audience members per theater) and straight-to-video comedies with plots like: "A washed out former star in need of money has a get rich plan...start a volleyball team whose players consist of group of beautiful athletic strippers."
It's quite a comedown for a man with his own freaking museum.
Most IMDb pages tell simple tales, like the world-famous superstar with humble beginnings or the scattered small roles in unknown movies that speak of a broken dream. Some IMDb pages are mysteries, however, and none more than those with a single, lonely entry. What happened after that one shot at stardom that turned out to be the entire battle?
Such is the case with Fuad Hageb. Much like Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, immortalized in Field of Dreams for his one career major league appearance, Fuad Hageb is immortalized on IMDb for his one career film role. That movie? Ishtar, the 1987 comedy still synonymous with "Box Office Bomb" (and still unreleased on DVD in America). It's as if he had one career at-bat and used it to club the batboy to death.
Hageb played Abdul, the young, pipe-smoking tour guide who repeatedly saves Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty from certain death (a role far less appreciated by the audience as the movie progressed). It was a decent-sized part in a big-budget, albeit infamous, film. And then...silence.
So what's the story behind this enigmatically awful resume? Was that one credit enough to get him laughed out of future auditions? Was the experience so horrifying he quit the industry? Did notorious perfectionist Beatty strangle him at the wrap party for blinking at the wrong time?
Well, to solve this burning mystery we did some actual, honest-to-goodness reporting and tracked him down through his later charity work (that'll show him!). He kindly informed us that he did in fact land a follow-up role in a Broadway musical, but was attacked on-stage by a bear.
OK, that's not true. He actually bailed out of the production for family reasons and wound up becoming the Vice President of a $30 billion dollar investment management company. The company was even sold two years ago, before the whole economy went Ishtar. The fact that he did all of this rather than wind up in a Uwe Boll film, tells us the dude is just a master of getting out at the right time.
For more depressing (read: hilarious) stories about Hollywood stars, check out The 10 Most Unlikely Celeb Porn Stars. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see Fox News's depressing decline, as evidenced by us being the only people who pimp their links (just kidding, we wouldn't even stoop that low).