A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
Doubleday, 2015. Hardcover, 296.
A Touch of Stardust is both a story of Hollywood of a bygone era and that of one woman’s determination to succeed in a male-dominated world. Julie Crawford fled life in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a chance to follow her dreams. Unlike most women in Hollywood, Julie wants to be a writer. Her breakthrough came one day on the set of Gone with the Wind because she met two people who would help change her life. Andy Weinstein is an assistant to producer David O. Selznick and quickly becomes more than Julie’s friend. Andy is unique for men of that era because he chose to support Julie’s dreams. The other was Carole Lombard who asks Julie to be her assistant. Lombard teaches Julie to believe in herself and take charge of her life.
As Julie performs her duties for Lombard and pursues her relationship with Andy, she frequently visits the set of Gone with the Wind. Besides errands that take her there, Lombard often has Julie go to keep an eye on her temperamental lover Clark Gable. Julie observes both the filming and the gossip which is reflected in her observations and discusses with the other characters. Readers will also gain an insight to the lives of Vivian Leigh and the Mayers of MGM through their acquaintances with the movie and its producer and stars. The fact that many doubted the movie would ever be completed was masterfully depicted though showing the many crises with the stars and social customs of the era. And ever-present is Julie’s feelings of self-determination and freedom, especially from the life her well-to-do parents had chosen for her.
This is Alcott’s third book and each has been better than the last. First she addressed the Titanic (The Dressmaker), then the textile mills at Lowell (The Daring Ladies of Lowell). With this 1930s-era novel, she created her boldest female lead yet. Julie is both sincere and determined to make her own way. Her relationship with Andy is touching, yet has realistic troubles. Adding Lombard to the mix was phenomenal. She was a firecracker and her humor had me laughing out loud at various points. And Lombard was the perfect role model to shape Julie. And the it was interesting to read about how Lombard and Gable interacted-it truly seemed like the one true love as claimed in some histories; one wonders what would have happened had tragedy not struck.
On a historical note, I loved how this novel balanced the true stories behind the filming of Gone with the Wind with the charged atmosphere of the era. Not only will readers gain a sense of gossip from the golden age of Hollywood, but also the threat of pending war. By making Andy Jewish, like many others on Hollywood at the time, readers gain an insider view to how an American might feel about Hitler, America’s anti-Judaism, and having close relatives trapped in Europe.
After reading this novel, be sure to rewatch Gone with the Wind for the scenes mentioned now that you know the true story behind their creation. It will make you realize the hardships faced and the truth behind the emotions of several.
Do you think you will read A Touch of Stardust? Do you know about another novel set in Hollywood’s golden age worth reading? Or history book/biography? Would you like see a similar work using a different movie for the lens?
This review is based on a library copy. With the paperback coming out on 2/17/15, I thought this would be a good time to published this review.