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Fitzgerald's Latter Years Spent in Encino

Profile: Writer, who came to the region to pen movie scripts, worked on his novel "The Last Tycoon."

March 23, 1997|SHARON BERNSTEIN

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald died in West Hollywood, but he spent the last productive period of his life in the Valley--more precisely, in a spot on Amestoy Avenue in Encino that is now taken up by the westbound lane of the Ventura Freeway near Balboa Boulevard.

The chronicler of America's Jazz Age came to Southern California, like many of his contemporaries, to write for the movies. It was in Encino that Fitzgerald wrote much of his unfinished novel, "The Last Tycoon."

He would stoke himself up on Coca-Cola to write, but often a thirst for gin would overtake him. He drank so much toward the end of his life that his secretary would gather up the bottles in a gunnysack at the end of the week, secretly disposing of them in an attempt to avoid scandal. One of the stories he wrote during that period told of a loyal secretary who dumps her hack-writer employer's gin bottles into Topanga Canyon.

The money Fitzgerald earned in Hollywood went to support his wife, Zelda, in a mental institution, and his daughter, Scottie, at college. He moved to West Hollywood shortly before his death in 1940 to be near Sheilah Graham, the gossip columnist he was seeing. Weakened by a heart condition, he moved into the ground floor of her home soon after.

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth on Sept. 24, 1896. He died in 1940 at the age of 44.

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