Latest Great Gatsby movie has Louisville connections - News, Weather & Sports

Latest Great Gatsby movie has Louisville connections

The 2013 film version of The Great Gatsby will hit the silver screen Friday. The 2013 film version of The Great Gatsby will hit the silver screen Friday.
Larry Johnson Larry Johnson
Al Capone Al Capone
F. Scott Fitzgerald F. Scott Fitzgerald

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The much anticipated Hollywood movie "The Great Gatsby" hits theatres Friday, but did you know the city of Louisville has quite a cameo in both the book and the movie?

In the new version of the film, Leonardo DiCaprio is surrounded by the glitz of 1920's New York but the spotlight is also shining on one of the most glamorous locations in the River City.

There's a buzz on South Fourth Street.  The most asked questions? Was any of it shot here? What do you know about it?

A secret:  Before filming, Director Baz Luhrmann came to the Seelbach Hotel to meet with concierge and resident historian Larry Johnson.

"The director, when he was here," Johnson recalled, "I showed him around and I showed him the Grand Ballroom and I told him all about F. Scott Fitzgerald."

In 1918, Fitzgerald served as an army officer at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald was stationed there," Johnson said, "And on several occasions on the weekend, when all the soldiers wanted to blow off steam, he would venture into the Rathskeller which was the home of the USO."

Little known to most patrons, the Rathskeller, a former men's club where business was conducted, is a gorgeous room in the hotel's basement.  The room built for $30,000 is now priceless with the world's largest collection of Rookwood tiles.

The colors are different, but Johnson's wife noticed the room's dome shapes in the movie trailer. "She said, did you see that?" Johnson remembered, "And I said what? She said, that looked like the Rathskeller."

Al Capone was also a fan of the Rathskeller, the lowest spot in the hotel where the beer stayed cold. And, let's just say, it's where F. Scott liked to party.

Johnson explained, "He would get a little inebriated or as Kentuckians like to call it, drunk."  So hammered, on many occasions, he would be asked to leave.

Johnson explained of Fitzgerald, "He had fond memories of his days in Louisville, so he portrayed Tom and Daisy Buchanan getting married in the Grand Ballroom of the Seelbach hotel."

The Grand Ballroom is the scene setter for Chapter 4. "In my opinion, it was the most exciting chapter in the book, " Johnson laughed.

The mention has meant a great deal to the hotel over the years, filling guests imaginations, "We get a lot of people wondering if Tom and Daisy actually spent their honeymoon here," Johnson smiled.

While U.S. Presidents and even Elvis have checked into the hotel, The Great Gatsby connection is still the most talked about.

High school classes take annual tours of the Seelbach Hotel to learn about the Great Gatsby connection.  Despite rumors about the book's napkin beginnings, Johnson believes Fitzgerald didn't actually write the novel until after 1925, when he lived in Paris.

None of the movie scenes were shot in Louisville, it was all filmed in Australia.

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