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In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan May Be a Shallow Bore But She Wore Great Jewelry

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Daisy Buchanan's headpiece and hand ornaments in "The Great Gatsby" (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures
Daisy Buchanan's headpiece and hand ornaments in "The Great Gatsby" (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

When the first reviews for Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film adaptation started filtering in and I read that among all film adaptations, this was the most faithful to the novel, I vowed to watch it primarily to see if my impression of the characters had changed. It happens. You read something when you’re young and you read it again years later, and you sometimes find a new perspective that wasn’t there before.

It’s uncanny that the same teacher who required us to read Gatsby also required us to read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native which bored me to tears. But I reread the book when I was in my 30s and it was amazing how much I enjoyed it.

So, I wanted to watch the 2013 Gatsby film that was touted to be ultra faithful to the novel. 

“The Great Gatsby”

Party scene, "The Great Gatsby" (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures
Party scene, “The Great Gatsby” (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

1922. Jay Gatsby was a mysterious millionaire who threw the most lavish (and garish) weekend parties at his beachfront home. No invitations were ever given out; everyone was welcome. And the party animals, from heiresses to gangsters, came in droves. Gatsby’s next door neighbor, Nick Carraway, was the only one to receive an invitation. He went, met the elusive Gatsby and a friendship began.

The friendship had been designed by Gatsby, as it turns out. Across the bay lived Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin, and the love of Gatsby’s life. Five years earlier, in 1917, a penniless Gatsby on his way to fight in the war met the wealthy Daisy and they fell in love. Daisy promised to wait for him but after confessing in a letter that he had no money, Daisy married the wealthy Tom Buchanan.

By 1922, Jay Gatsby had become a millionaire, had built a house worthy of Daisy and was throwing those outrageous parties hoping that, in one of them, Daisy would walk in. She never did. So Gatsby connived with Nick to invite Daisy to tea where he would happen to drop by. All went well and, in a short while, Daisy and Gatsby were having an affair. Daisy was so smitten that she wanted to run away with him and leave her philandering husband. But Gatsby had other plans — he wanted to stay and live with Daisy in that monstrous mansion he had built.

Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) in "The Great Gatsby" (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures
Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) in “The Great Gatsby” (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

In a hotel suite one sweltering summer day, Daisy, Gatsby and Tom Buchanan finally confronted each other. Gatsby wanted Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him and that she was leaving him.

While acknowledging that she loved Gatsby, Daisy said it wasn’t true that she never loved Tom. Meanwhile, Tom exposed Gatsby for the criminal that he was and told everyone present that Gatsby made his millions by bootlegging, and bootlegging was just a small part of his criminal career. Driving home from the hotel, Gatsby and Daisy ran over a woman (Myrtle, Tom’s mistress) who was instantly killed. Gatsby later inadvertently told Nick that it was Daisy who was driving but he would take the blame for the accident.

Tom and Daisy reconciled. Myrtle’s husband killed Gatsby (mistaking him for his wife’s paramour, a tale perpetrated by Tom Buchanan) with a gun before shooting himself. Tom, Daisy and their young daughter left town. Nick was the only one present at Gatsby’s funeral.

Is there anything in this adaptation, drummed up as the most faithful to the novel, that makes me change my mind about Daisy? No, there isn’t. I don’t think I failed to understand and appreciate Fitzgerald’s heroine when I was 16. I think I read her perfectly.

What I may have failed to include in the equation back then was the era during which Daisy lived. In 1917, women weren’t exactly raised to think as we do today. Family wealth was inherited by sons and daughters were married off to wealthy suitors to make sure they were provided for. It’s a consideration when trying to understand Daisy. That she lived in that generation might entitle her actions to a little sympathy but, by and large, I still find her a shallow, selfish bore. Daisy for Daisy in a world that revolved around Daisy.

Fashion in the “Roaring Twenties”

The Roaring Twenties is one period in Western history that I find captivating. I’ve always surmised that the over-the-top fashion, the jewelry and the decadent lifestyle were as much a revenge against the dreary war years as a prelude to the dawn of a new age.

The right of suffrage was granted to American women with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women entered the workforce and there were the so-called “flappers” — young women who wore dresses that showed their legs, smoked, drank and flouted social norms. 

Daisy Buchanan’s jewelry in the 2013 film

In the United States, the 1920s was a period of prosperity and the lifestyle paraded the extent of an individual’s or a family’s wealth. This was the period captured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and the 2013 film adaptation did not shy away from showing the excesses. Tiffany & Co., “the most important jeweller in New York during the Jazz Age“, was commissioned to create the jewelry for the film. There was an endless display but only a few pieces were eye-popping enough to catch my attention.

Daisy Buchanan's headpiece in "The Great Gatsby" (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures
Daisy Buchanan’s headpiece in “The Great Gatsby” (2013) | Image credit: Village Roadshow Pictures, Bazmark Productions, A&E Television, Red Wagon Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

The first, of course, is what Daisy Buchanan had around her head during the party at Jay Gatsby’s house. Elle Magazine got it right when it called the trinket a “headpiece” rather than a tiara. The description reads, in part: “The Savoy, a diamond and freshwater cultured pearl headpiece with detachable brooch, inspired by a Native American design…”

The headpiece is wound around the head with a ribbon tied at the back.

And what’s with the “inspired by a Native American design” part? The magnificent collection created by Tiffany & Co. for the film was not authentic 1920s but a hybrid between the jewelry of the period and today’s designs.

‘We didn’t want a nostalgic 1920s. We wanted a modern 1920s,’ she [Costume Designer Catherine Martin] explained. ‘So there had to be a sensibility about history, but there also had to be an actuality about it.’

The costume designer said the modernity of Tiffany made it a perfect fit for the movie. ‘Because there’s a sense of history, but also a modern company moving toward the future,’ she explained.

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The contemporary design design elements are just as evident in Daisy’s hand ornament with a daisy motif in diamonds, cultured pearls and platinum which she had on both arms and hands. Splendid, aren’t they?

Lavish, opulent and even ostentatious are the words that come to mind to describe the jewelry, and none would be inappropriate nor harsh. After all, those are the very same words to use to aptly describe the life of the ultra rich during the Roaring Twenties.