To a remarkable extent the filmscript of Tender is the Night, which Malcolm Lowry wrote in 1949-50 with the help of Margerie Bonner Lowry, is less an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel than an extension of Lowry's own fiction. As Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen show, Malcolm Lowry's script contains important passages which are really "cinematic" restatements of parts of Lowry's novel Lunar Caustic, and of short stories such as "Through the Panama" and "Strange Comfort Afforded by the Profession."
The editors note also the many direct and indirect allusions to elements from Lowry's master-work, Under the Volcano (1947), a novel that is regarded by many critics as one of the most "cinematic" prose works of the twentieth century. A close study of the text reveals that Lowry took on the Tender is the Night project partly as a means of reopening his Under the Volcano narrative, of re-exploring its plot and problems and its characters and themes, and of carrying as far as possible the "cinematic" style he had begun to examine in that work.
Lowry's Tender is the Night manuscript is important, then, not only as a completed, 455-page text in its own right but also as a text having a direct bearing on Lowry's own reading of Under the Volcano and of his sense of artistic direction after that work. Indeed, the editors consider the significance of the filmscript as a key - hitherto almost entirely overlooked - to understanding his projected multiple volume work, The Voyage That Never Ends.
This scholarly edition of Lowry's script presents 38 passages of varying length - from less than one page to over 100 pages - in which Lowry writes with a freedom and creativity that lead to a text narratively and stylistically quite separate and distinct from Fitzgerald's original. It excludes passages where Lowry adheres more or less slavishly, at 37 intervals, to Fitzgeralds' novel, though it provides brief narrative summaries of and comments on those omitted sections.
Lowry's achievement in his filmscript demonstrates the nature of his life-long commitment to and extensive knowledge of the international cinema from the 1910s to the 1950s and also the nature of his view of the novelist's responsibility to participate in the development of film as an art.
The script also illustrates Lowry's relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald as one in a series of literary kinships, and as the editors point out, the work becomes a criticism and analysis of both Fitzgerald's novel and of Fitzgerald himself.
Miguel Mota (editor) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Queen's University and co-editor, with Paul Tiessen, of a series of manuscripts by Lowry's friend, novelist, and radio-dramatist, Gerald Noxon. Paul Tiessen (editor) is a professor in the Department of English and the co-ordinator of communication studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is also editor of The Malcolm Lowry Review.
This volume is an important addition to the published Lowry canon, exposing a major link between his cinematically conceived masterpiece and the montage and experimentalism of his late fiction.
The screenplay is crammed with luscious detail about Paris, New York, a French freighter at sea, the beach at Antibes. Lowry's style, freshly honed on the Dantesque bulk of his greatest novel, is so visual it situates us directly in the midst of a three-dimensional whirl of activity.
Hollywood's loss is our gain. Lowry has written a movie-novel rather than a shooting script for a movie. It is breathtaking prose, a fascinating mixture of Russian montage, German expressionism, and music by Bix Beiderbecke.