It would be easy to dismiss The Pat Hobby Stories as mere fodder for magazines – cheap laughs to sell issues. Even Fitzgerald himself might’ve dismissed them as such. They were loose, quick, and always ended in a punchline. The author might have even considered himself a punchline at that point in his life. But despite everything, The Pat Hobby Stories might have concluded the fizzle of life in F. Scott Fitzgerald more accurately than any of his other writings.
You’d never think of Fitzgerald with such wit and comedy – his penchant always leaned against romance and tragedy, but, as they used to say, “tragedy + time = comedy” – and the results showed. Pat Hobby was a Hollywood screenwriter, “was” being the key term. He excelled in the silent era, even became renowned for his mastery of structure. Then the talkies came and Hobby was relegated to the old times, drinking away his misery and begging for opportunities to keep afloat. The comparisons to the stories’ author aren’t dissimilar, but we wallow in Fitzgerald’s sorrow, while we laugh at Hobby.
“He was an old timer in pictures; he had once known sumptuous living, but for the past ten years jobs had been hard to hold – harder to hold than glasses.”
– The Pat Hobby Stories
In many ways, the stories far exceed anything illuminated in The Love of the Last Tycoon. Compressed for magazine format, Fitzgerald’s prose is sharp and to-the-point, more curt than it had ever been in his career. Even so, in that brevity Fitzgerald managed to take us to a time and place of Old Hollywood – an Old Hollywood that seemed new and frustrating to him, but now charming and antiquated in retrospect.
Of all things, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been any notable attempts to update Pat Hobby for the silver screen. The potential is all there, and it evokes a kind of 1930s Curb Your Enthusiasm feeling – the fool against the world, and the mercy missions the fool is allowed to partake in. The most Pat Hobby has gotten through was in the 1980s in a television movie starring Christopher Lloyd and Colin Firth. Accurate enough and truly charming, but cinematically lacking in obvious ways.