In 1924 while shooting a film in New York, actress Patsy Ruth Miller (1904-1995) developed a close friendship with author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Frequently, Fitzgerald and Patsy Ruth would go out for dinner while Zelda remained home pleading fatigue. Patsy Ruth eventually realized that Zelda’s fatigue was acute alcoholism.
Observes Patsy Ruth:
It didn’t seem to me that Scott drank more than most of the men I knew. He seemed intoxicated on words, and sometimes we would sit, our after-dinner coffee growing cold, while Scott tried to make me see some fine point of writing, or understand why an emotion had been ill or well portrayed. But often I had the feeling that he was unsure of himself as a writer, that he was afraid of that one day he’d have nothing left to say, and I also had the impression that Zelda did little to build his confidence, even sometimes, in a perverse way, seemed to enjoy his battle with self-doubt.
Fitzgerald’s agonies of self-doubt are common among writers. The fear of having nothing left to say will, inevitably, be paralyzing. And a non-supportive spouse can act as a fatal poison to a vulnerable writer. Most witnesses observe that Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker as a student in Princeton. There is no doubt that by the time he landed in Hollywood he was a hopeless drunk. It’s a measure of how common was alcoholism in early Hollywood that Patsy Ruth didn’t think Fitzgerald’s intake was all that unusual.