F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Maxixe: “An eccentric stepchild of the tango”

According to Daniella Thompson in her article “What F. Scott Fitzgerald Knew About the Maxixe: A Young Novelist Looks Back on a Dance Fad,” dated February 28, 2006, F. Scott Fitzgerald referenced the Maxixe in his fiction on four separate occasions.  According to Ms. Thompson, “In no fewer than four of his 1920s works, Fitzgerald points to the maxixe as an indicator of fashion, viewed in retrospect.”

Fitzgerald first mentions the Maxixe in his short story “Benedition,” which appeared in his 1920 short story collection Flappers and Philosophers.

“I want Kieth’s sister to show us what the shimmy is,” demanded one young man with a broad grin.
Lois laughed.

“I’m afraid the Father Rector would send me shimmying out the gate. Besides, I’m not an expert.”

“I’m sure it wouldn’t be best for Jimmy’s soul anyway,” said Kieth solemnly. “He’s inclined to brood about things like shimmys. They were just starting to do the—maxixe, wasn’t it, Jimmy?—when he became a monk, and it haunted him his whole first year. You’d see him when he was peeling potatoes, putting his arm around the bucket and making irreligious motions with his feet.”

There was a general laugh in which Lois joined.”

Excerpt From: F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Flappers and Philosophers.” iBooks.

In Chapter 2 his 1922 novel, The Beautiful and Damned, Fitzgerald had this to say:

“On Thursday afternoon Gloria and Anthony had tea together in the grill room at the Plaza. Her fur-trimmed suit was gray—”because with gray you have to wear a lot of paint,” she explained—and a small toque sat rakishly on her head, allowing yellow ripples of hair to wave out in jaunty glory. In the higher light it seemed to Anthony that her personality was infinitely softer—she seemed so young, scarcely eighteen; her form under the tight sheath, known then as a hobble-skirt, was amazingly supple and slender, and her hands, neither “artistic” nor stubby, were small as a child’s hands should be.

As they entered, the orchestra were sounding the preliminary whimpers to a maxixe, a tune full of castanets and facile faintly languorous violin harmonies, appropriate to the crowded winter grill teeming with an excited college crowd, high-spirited at the approach of the holidays. Carefully, Gloria considered several locations, and rather to Anthony’s annoyance paraded him circuitously to a table for two at the far side of the room. Reaching it she again considered. Would she sit on the right or on the left? Her beautiful eyes and lips were very grave as she made her choice, and Anthony thought again how naïve was her every gesture; she took all the things of life for hers to choose from and apportion, as though she were continually picking out presents for herself from an inexhaustible counter.” Goodreads

Fitzgerald also referenced the Maxixe in his famed short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” first published in 1922:

“Benjamin’s growing unhappiness at home was compensated for by his many new interests. He took up golf and made a great success of it. He went in for dancing: in 1906 he was an expert at “The Boston,” and in 1908 he was considered proficient at the “Maxixe,” while in 1909 his “Castle Walk” was the envy of every young man in town.”

Thompson notes the interesting early dates ascribed to several dances more famously associated with the later dance crazes, including the Castle Walk and the Boston, in addition to the Maxixe.

Fitzgerald’s final mention of the Maxixe, according to Ms. Thompson, occurs in his 1928 short story, “The Captured Shadow“:

““Why, I understand—” said Basil. “Why, I heard from somewhere that she’s gone up to have some kind of an appendicitis—that is—” He ran down to a pitch of inaudibility as Andy Lockheart at the piano began playing a succession of thoughtful chords, which resolved itself into the maxixe, an eccentric stepchild of the tango. Kicking back a rug and lifting her skirts a little, Evelyn fluently tapped out a circle with her heels around the floor.”


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