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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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May 10th, 2013
07:20 PM ET

'The Great Gatsby' is back

A beloved 20th century novel, 'The Great Gatsby,' is getting a fresh coat of paint. Director Baz Luhrmann brings his trademark Ritalin-addled style and 'Cuisinart' editing technique to the new movie version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, opening across the country Friday.

"Surely you know Gatsby!" a character from the film cries in the new 3D movie.

Of course we know Gatsby, the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 classic.

"Gatsby is the seminal American novel, it sort of defines America in the 1920s," said Leonardo DiCaprio. "And at the center figure, is this very complex, mysterious, existential character known as Great Gatsby."

DiCaprio is not the first to play the opulent icon. Robert Redford played Gatsby in the 1974 film version, Alan Ladd in 1949, and Toby Stephens in 2000.

"I think everybody's got a little Gatsby in them," said DiCaprio.

It seems so, old sport. There have been at least five film adaptations of the story. The newest ups the party factor with a musical score by rapper Jay-Z. You could say it's a slightly different sound than the silent version of the film that debuted just a year after the novel's publication.

Fast-forward several decades, and we find Gatsby butler-hopping for gold in a computer game.

So, what is it about this guy that keeps studios beating on, borne back ceaselessly into the past?

"It has never been done perfectly, or even maybe arguably well, before... So in each new generation there's some talented, ambitious director who says, 'I can, I can finally get it right,'" said radio host Kurt Andersen, who has explored the legacy of Fitzgerald's tale in depth. He said the moral of the story is especially striking now.

"We've just been through a period of spend, spend, spend, party, party, party, leading up the Great Recession. So I think with the Great Recession, it's more of a perfect time to go see this story, and think about its implications," said Andersen.

Not to be deterred by the anti-decadence theme, advertisers are hoping Gatsby tie-ins will inspire more spending. Brooks Brothers' Gatsby collection boasts snazzy separates, like a party-ready jacket for about $800. And for modern day Daisies, Tiffany and Co. has a film-inspired headband for a mere $200,000. We hear it's the cat's meow!

So re-read your high school copy, and get dolled up in your flapper finest because "The Great Gatsby" hits theaters today, and probably again, in a few years - that green light still shining, drawing us back every time.

And remember, you don't get invited to Gatsby. You just go.

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