A Touch Of Stardust
By: Kate Alcott
Opening Line: “Atlanta was exploding right on schedule.”
Overall: Let me start out by saying that I am a huge Carole Lombard fan! She is my favorite “Old Hollywood” actress. I read every book about her that I can find. I also read books by and about other “Golden Age of Hollywood” stars. I love old black & white films, the 1930’s through the 1940’s are my favorite years for movies. This book was written by Kate Alcott who was actually the wife of Frank Mankiewicz, who, for those of you that don’t know, grew up in the powerful and legendary Mankiewicz “Old Hollywood” family. Therefore, the book’s stories are probably very accurate. The author talks at the beginning and the end of the book about how specific and accurate she tried to be, and how much extensive research was done for the book. Many parts of this book are based on facts, but it is also a work of historical fiction about an aspiring screenwriter named Julie Crawford from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who moves across the country to make it in Hollywood. She starts out as a gopher at Selznick International Pictures, where they are going to start filming Gone With The Wind. Julie gets a lucky break, and because they are from the same midwestern town, she gets work as Carole Lombard’s assistant. (Dream job for me! lol) Entering the glamourous world of Carole Lombard has many perks. Getting to meet Clark Gable, whom Carole is dating, is one of them. Clark is just starting work on the new epic film, Gone With The Wind. Julie spends time at the studio off and on, and gets to watch some of the filming for Gone With The Wind. That is where she meets the guy she starts dating, Andy. He is Jewish, and during this time the Nazi’s are invading Europe, but America does not want to get involved. Andy is worried about his family members overseas. Meanwhile, Julie’s parents want her to move back home. But, as Carole’s assistant, Carole is helping her get her foot in the door to become a screenwriter. She is juggling her job as Carole’s assistant, writing a script, her relationship with her boyfriend, and navigating the mystery of the Hollywood system, all while sometimes getting to watch the historic filming of Gone With The Wind.
Ovations: I love the idea for this work of fiction, that Julie is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, the same town Carole Lombard is from, so that she has a common link with Carole. Carole Lombard was known in real life for always doing everything she could to help people when they needed it. So, it would not be out of character at all for Carole to help the new-in-town Julie by giving her a job as her assistant. I know a lot about Carole Lombard, and I really enjoyed that in this book there is nothing that Carol says or does where I thought, “Carole wouldn’t do that!” I appreciated the fact that the author did her research on Carole. I also liked how easily the author wove all the very different plot lines seamlessly into the story. The parts about Julie trying to make it as a screenwriter, the parts about Andy and Julie’s new relationship, the parts about Carole and Clark’s relationship, the parts about the filming of Gone With The Wind, the parts about the Nazi’s and the war in Europe, the parts about all the behind-the-scenes Hollywood game playing and manipulations, the parts about the horrible prejudice against Jewish people and People of Color at that time, and all of this stuff is set into the beautiful backdrop of the dream of Hollywood glamour and magic. There were so many different things going on at the same time, but nothing ever seemed confusing. All the different story threads just flowed seamlessly and naturally together throughout the book.
Oh Well: The main criticism I have is that since the book was covering so many different areas happening at the same time, no one thing was covered with too much depth. It was just too much to cover. This book could have been twice as long, really, in order to be able to get into more depth about each of the character’s lives, and other events that were shortened or left out. Maybe this should have been two different books instead?
Opinion: I always love reading about the beautiful, independent, generous, talented, spitfire that was Carole Lombard. (If you are looking for movie recommendations of hers, some of my many favorites are: No Man of Her Own (1932)(Her only film with Clark Gable, though they were not a couple at the time.), Nothing Sacred (1937)(Her only film in color.), In Name Only (1939)(Her only film with Cary Grant.). This book is both entertaining and interesting. I highly recommend it if you are interested in The Golden Age of Hollywood, historical fiction from the 1930’s, Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, or Gone With The Wind. Rating 9 out of 10
Here is an actual photo of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable attending the Atlanta premier of Gone With The Wind together on December 15, 1939.