How F. Scott Fitzgerald's Saturday Evening Post success helped "Gatsby" vision come to life

(CBS News) Hollywood takes another shot at "The Great Gatsby" on Friday with a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous novel. And, Gatsby might be more popular now than ever. But another part of Fitzgerald's career gets far less attention -- his writing in the iconic publication The Saturday Evening Post.

"The Great Gatsby" defined an era with lavish displays of wealth, epic American ambition and passion pursued to no end. It also defined Fitzgerald's life.

Jeff Nilsson, archivist for The Saturday Evening Post, said of Fitzgerald, "He lived about as exorbitantly as he could. He did not deny himself or Zelda much of anything."

Fitzgerald's quest for his love - Zelda - was mirrored by Jay Gatsby's pursuit of the fictional Daisy Buchanan.

To win Zelda, the Midwest-born Fitzgerald needed money. It finally arrived -- courtesy of The Saturday Evening Post, which many still identify with those famous Norman Rockwell covers.

Nilsson said, "As far the publishing, we were the 800-pound gorilla, and there's never been anything match it. Prior to the Post there was a few magazines here and here, but nothing that aimed to approach all readers anywhere in America."

Fitzgerald wrote 68 stories for the Post over the course of 17 years, earning him a total of $2 million. In today's world, that's about $20 million from one magazine.

Nilsson said, "He was earning $400 in 1920 dollars for those two pieces, and by the time they got to, at your age in 1929, it was $4,000 and he stayed there for quite a while."

Nilsson continued, "He was very much an entertaining, humorous, romantic writer in the '20s. It was very commercial, which doesn't diminish its quality, but it was very much magazine friction. Over time, he started incorporating more modernist tones into his material."

All of those stories are now found in the archive room of the Post in Indianapolis, where the magazine is still published, albeit once every two months, not once a week.

Joan Servaas' family bought the Post in 1970, after the magazine went out of business following a rapid drop-off in readership.

CBS News' Jeff Glor remarked to Servaas, "You know, there are a good number of people that don't even know The Saturday Evening Post is still published."

She replied with a laugh, "We try to keep that really a secret."

Glor asked, "When you hear that, what's your reaction?"

Servaas said, "We're working on changing that now."

Servaas wants to gain back those readers, and respect with a new generation. She knows it will not be easy. But, in a way, it's a battle for recognition that's been waged before. Even in its heyday, some regarded Fitzgerald's short magazine stories for the Post as pandering.

"Hemingway taunted him, saying 'the Post is going to be the grave yard of your talent'," Nilsson said. "But (Fitzgerald) said at the end of his career that 'I never compromised. I was always honest with those stories. 'I never went for a cheap formula'."

Nilsson believes Fitzgerald stayed true to his readers. His boss thinks the Post can, too.

Servaas said, "I look at what the Post did in the past and its history and how it chronicles America as it evolved. And I would like the see us continue to carry on those traditions."

The Saturday Evening Post is also releasing a book of the first eight short stories Fitzgerald wrote in the 1920s, called "Gatsby's Girls."

Watch Jeff Glor's report above.

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