NEW YORK (CBS) -- On Friday, Hollywood takes another shot at "The Great Gatsby." It was F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous novel. But another part of Fitzgerald's background gets far less attention: his days at "The Saturday Evening Post."
"The Great Gatsby" defined an era; lavish displays of wealth, epic American ambition, and passion pursued to no end. It also defined F. Scott Fitzgerald's life. Post archivist Jeff Nilsson says, "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 identify with those famous Norman Rockwell covers. Nilsson says, "As far the publishing, we were the 800 pound gorilla, and there is not any that can match it. Prior to the Post there was a few magazines here and here but nothing that aim to approach all readers anywhere in America."
Fitzgerald wrote 68 stories 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 says, "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."
How did writing his short stories from the 1920's to the 1937 in the post change? Nilsson says, "He was an entertaining, humorous, romantic writer in the 20's it was very commercial which doesn't diminish his quality pretty much magazine friction. Overtime he began using more modernist tones into his material."
All of those stories are now found in the archive room of the Post in Indianapolis, Indiana 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 post went out of business following a rapid drop-off in readership. 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. Nilsson says, "Hemmingway taunted him, saying 'The Post is going to be the grave yard of your talent', but Fitzgerald said at the end of his career that he never compromised. He was always honest with his stories. I never went for a cheap formula."
Nilsson believes Fitzgerald stayed true to his readers, his boss thinks the Post can too. Servaas says, "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."