Snow willing, the ice sculptures of Dartmouth Winter Carnival 2020 are slated to dazzle Hanoverians February 6-9th. The winter weekend celebration was at its beginning an intramural Ivy League event of only local consequence until Walter Wanger decided to bring Hollywood into the act.
Wanger flunked out of Dartmouth in 1915, but achieved notoriety in the film world. Intensely proud of his days in Hanover, burnishing his contributions to the college, he was later awarded an honorary degree and decided to reward the college enhancing his credentials via a celluloid extravaganza, “Winter Carnival.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Budd Schulberg, a recent Dartmouth graduate, both script writers for Wanger at United Artists, were hired to script the project.
Schulberg’s father, B.P. Schulberg, former head of Paramount Pictures, presented them with two bottles of champagne, unaware that Fitzgerald was a recovering alcoholic. The bon voyage gift for the cross country trip grew into a binge with additional booze bought en route. They arrived at the college howling drunk just in time for Wanger’s presentation of Fitzgerald to the literary faculty. The disaster was further amplified with staggered appearances at Psi Upsilon and Alpha Delta Phi that concluded in a screaming sidewalk confrontation of the two with Wanger in front of the Hanover Inn. Wanger and his studio crew ran them out of town on the next train out of White River Junction for Grand Central. They dried out for three days at Doctor’s Hospital in New York.
Fitzgerald never fully recovered. He suffered a fatal heart attack less than a year later while reading the Princeton Alumni Weekly at the home of his current amour, Sheila Graham, a gorgeous syndicated gossip columnist.
“The NBC Today Show” with Dave Garroway covered the 1957 Winter Carnival and interviewed me on national television after they spotted my outrageous J. Press faux raccoon coat at the slalom race at Suicide Six in Woodstock. I was compensated for my brief national celebrity with cases of sponsor Campbell’s Beef Broth that the brothers of Chi Phi promptly converted into a barrel of bull shots mixed with cheap Old Mr. Boston vodka from the New Hampshire State Liquor Store in nearby West Lebanon.
Eighty one years since its release, the “Winter Carnival” film still serves belated buncombe for a TCM post-digital generation. Jill Baxter (Ann Sheridan) remains a former Carnival Queen who finds herself back on campus with her old flame, now Professor Weldon (Richard Carlson). The “Sound Of Music” minus the Von Trapps.
It still gets hoots and hollers whenever occasionally revived during carnival time in Hanover and Scott Fitzgerald never received a screen credit for the film that eventually killed him.