'Z' Only Hints At Zelda Fitzgerald's Tragic End

by Alaina Urquhart-White

For fans of Jazz Age glamour, Amazon's new original series, Z: The Beginning Of Everything, is truly a visual treat. The series tells the story of Zelda Fitzgerald and her life before and during her marriage to iconic novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda was known as one of the first flappers and became a symbol for the roaring twenties liberated woman. Though a socialite, author, and artist herself, Zelda's life was not completely carefree. The first season of Z: The Beginning of Everything doesn't get this far, but when Zelda Fitzgerald died, she was in a mental institution being treated for a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and the tale of the end of her life is definitely a grim one.

According to NPR, at about the age of 30, she was committed to a psychiatric facility in Asheville, North Carolina that was known to be utilized by the wealthy and practiced unique methods for coping with mental illness that strayed away from some of the more inhumane practices of other hospitals of the time. Zelda was known to check herself in and out of this facility many times throughout the next few years of her life. Scott, who was going through hard times of his own, reportedly didn't visit her very often before his death in 1940, as English professor Brian Railsback told NPR:

"They both realized that they were very upsetting to each other and it was very difficult for them — when they were both fragile — to be together for any length of time."

In recent years, historians and biographers have questioned whether Zelda actually had schizophrenia or if this was an incorrect diagnosis. Regardless, Zelda continued treatment in Asheville and according to the New York Times, was receiving insulin shock treatments during her last stay. On March 10, 1948, the institution caught fire and Zelda died at the age of 47, along with eight other female patients. According to Sally Cline's Zelda Fitzgerald: The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age's High Priestess, Zelda could only be identified by her dental records and a single slipper.

Amazon Studios

If you've already caught the pilot of Z: The Beginning Of Everything, that scenario may sound familiar, even though the first season ends in 1921. The series' opening scene shows a burned building, a pink furry slipper, and what appears to be sheet over a dead body. Christina Ricci's Zelda says in a voiceover, "Things are sweeter when they're lost." Now that you know the story of Zelda's demise, this scene is guaranteed to give you chills.

Zelda's story is equal parts fantastic and tragic. If she had been born today, I fully believe that her creativity and independence would have been more appreciated, and her tragic death may even have been prevented. But now, all we can do is appreciate her legacy and learn as much as we can about the real Zelda Fitzgerald, in addition to what Z: The Beginning Of Everything shows.