Here I sit on a sound boom platform, waiting for that day’s shooting to begin on The Great Gatsby. The structure behind me was part of the railroad track set, built on the lot of Pinewood Studios in England, where Paramount shot much of the film.
The sign behind me, that wreck of a sign famous to every fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, had caused an uproar. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that T.J. Eckelburg was an eye doctor. Due to some re-writing and re-typing of that particular scene, the word "oculist" was misspelled and it was those misspelled pages that were sent to the set design department, who built the sign precisely as the screenplay pages had specified. "Occulist."
The day that our director, Jack Clayton, wandered onto the finished set to inspect it before shooting, he paused in front of the sign. He gazed up at that sign for quite a long time, smoking one of his omnipresent cigarettes. Finally he spoke. "Hank," he said to Hank Moonjean, our associate producer, who was standing alongside him, "How do you spell ‘occulist?’"
That was one of Jack’s famous temper tantrums – he tended
to throw pottery, glassware, anything that could shatter – but the
sign stayed as you see it. A corrected sign would have cost $25,000 in
1971 dollars to rebuild, as well as screwing up the already screwed up
production schedule. So if you rent the video, you’ll see that T.J.
Eckelberg was an occulist, not an oculist.
Photograph by British production photographer