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 almost 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  

READ MORE
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 Teacher</i> by Michal Ben-Naftali
The Teacher
This prize-winning novel's tale of a student piecing together the hidden life of her teacher, a Holocaust survivor who killed herself, is haunting

Jay Trachtenberg, Feb. 14, 2020

<i>The Dutch House</i> by Ann Patchett
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
In her eighth novel, Ann Patchett shows that what makes a family cannot be measured by the grandness of a house

Yvette Benavides, Oct. 4, 2019

More by Rosalind Faires
<i>Horton Foote: The Road to Home</i> Takes the Writer Back to His Roots
Horton Foote: The Road to Home Takes the Writer Back to His Roots
From small town Texas to Pulitzer Prize at the Austin Film Festival

Oct. 16, 2020

<i>A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir</i> by Edie Windsor
A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir by Edie Windsor
The life of a same-sex marriage hero sparkles in this collaborative memoir

Jan. 10, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

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

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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