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May 13, 2009

The Last Alcoholic Days of F. Scott Fitzgerald

JAMA. 2009;301(18):1939-1940. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.620

F Scott Fitzgerald dropped dead after eating a chocolate bar and reading the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine. A little after 2:00 in the afternoon of December 21, 1940, he erupted from his chair, clutched the mantelpiece of the nearby fireplace for support, and fell to the carpet with a resounding thud. A badly recovering alcoholic whose relapses were legendary, Fitzgerald drank and smoked himself into a terminal spiral of cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, angina, dyspnea, and syncopal spells. He had already sustained a mild heart attack in October 1940, outside Schwab's drugstore on Sunset Boulevard. On December 21, that last Sunday of his life, Scott was hoping for some rest and, perhaps, a bit of inspiration for the novel he was composing about Hollywood but would never complete.1