Book Review: A Touch of Stardust

Gable and Lombard and the making of Gone With the Wind as seen through the eyes of an aspiring author

<i>A Touch of Stardust</i>

A Touch of Stardust

by Kate Alcott
Doubleday, 296 pp., $25

For those still mourning the departure of the Harry Ransom Center's engrossing "The Making of Gone With the Wind" exhibit, Kate Alcott's newest piece of historical fiction aims to give readers their Scarlett-and-Rhett fix at least until the Paramount Theatre screens the beloved film in September. A Touch of Stardust may not be revolutionary, but its enticing peek behind the scenes of Gone With the Wind as it's being made, seen through the eyes of the winningly naive but ambitious aspiring author Julie Crawford, makes it a delectable summer treat.

Stardust isn't exactly a scandalous tell-all. The portraits of studio heavy-hitters like Clark Gable's paramour, Carole Lombard, who takes on Julie as her personal assistant, are generous and appealing for their intimacy and humanity. Via her work for Lombard and a burgeoning romance with David O. Selznick's wry but charming assistant producer, our plucky heroine observes key moments in the GWTW production process and begins a promising career as a screenwriter. Native Midwesterner Julie hits all the expected character beats as she transforms from country mouse to city mouse, but that narrative familiarity holds a certain appeal to devotees of early Hollywood romantic comedies.

Alcott's ease with Thirties lingo and her intimate knowledge of the Old Hollywood gossip mill grounds the story's frothier elements. (She credits her late husband, Frank Mankiewicz, who grew up in Beverly Hills in a family of screenwriters and directors, with authenticating many of the book's details.) Likewise, Alcott's acknowledgment of the era's less sparkling elements – the regular humiliations endured by black actors, Gable's homophobic discomfort with director George Cukor, the anti-Semitism underlying many Americans' disinterest in engaging in a war with Hitler – elevates the novel above pure fantasia.

Reading A Touch of Stardust has the appeal of popping open a can of Sofia Champagne: It might not be top-shelf, but it gets just close enough to the glamour to make you feel extravagant and put a twinkle in your eye.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Summer reading
Getaways Far, Far Away
Getaways Far, Far Away
Summer reading recommendations that will take you out of this world

Robert Faires, June 17, 2016

Getaways Far, Far Away
Dark Run
Mike Brooks' ragtag gang on a galactic smuggling mission may seem familiar (cough, Firefly), but you'll love 'em all the same

Rosalind Faires, June 17, 2016

More Summer Fun 2015
Summer's Easy Readin'
Summer's Easy Readin'
Writers on their go-to books for when their gray cells need a vacay, too

Robert Faires, June 12, 2015

Put a Cape on It
Put a Cape on It
Donning Layers of Costumery May Reveal Layers of Secret Identities

Jessi Cape, May 15, 2015

More Arts Reviews
<i>The Year That Broke Politics</i>
The Year That Broke Politics
How the 1968 election became a preview of our modern political mayhem

Jay Trachtenberg, Oct. 27, 2023

<i>The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid</i> by Lawrence Wright
The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid
In his account of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the New Yorker writer reports the killers are off the leash

Michael King, June 4, 2021

More by Rosalind Faires
<i>Before Stonewall</i> by Edward Cohen
Before Stonewall
The short stories in this collection from Austin's Awst Press simmer with queer rage, grief, and longing

June 25, 2021

<i>One Last Stop</i> Is an Electrifying Queer Timeslip Romance
One Last Stop Is an Electrifying Queer Timeslip Romance
The author of Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston, unveils her second novel

June 4, 2021


Summer reading, Summer Fun 2015, Kate Alcott, "The Making of Gone With the Wind", Harry Ransom Center, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, David O. Selznick, George Cukor

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle