I think it’s fun to imagine the way Hollywood was in its glory days of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s – the days of rolled hair and perfectly drawn bowed lips lush with red lipstick. The days when stars were loyal to their movie studios and cognizant of being role models to their fans. When movies almost always had happy endings.
That’s what I liked best about All the Stars in Heaven by Adriana Trigiani. Her novel painted a picture of Hollywood as it once was, which is very different from the way Hollywood is today.
Trigiani’s books sort of run the gamut. Her Stone Gap novels take place in the mountains of Virginia. Some of her books take place mostly in Italy. She writes of family and food and romance. She has written books aimed at teens. She has written nonfiction books about eating and cooking with her large Italian family.
But as far as I know All the Stars in Heaven is the first time she’s tackled a novel about real-life people.
All the Stars in Heaven tells the story of Loretta Young and her relationship with Clark Gable. It is fact that Young had an affair with Gable while they were filming The Call of the Wild in 1935. It is also fact that Young had a child from this relationship. Since studios would have nothing to do with stars who committed adultery (or at least stars whose fan’s found out about the adultery), Young had to keep the baby a secret. She had the baby quietly, placed her in an orphanage until the baby was a year-and-a-half, and then brought the baby home, telling the world that she was adopted.
All the Stars in Heaven follows her story quite accurately, if Wikipedia is to be believed (though apparently in real life Young later said she had been date-raped by Gable and the novel makes no mention of that allegation). What the novel DOES make mention of are wonderful stories about some of the movie stars of old. It’s kind of like reading a movie magazine that was published in 1950.
I knew very little about Loretta Young, though I remember her from her television show that ran in the late 1950s and early 1960s. And I remember that she was lovely. Spectacularly beautiful, in fact. I didn’t know, for example, that she was a devout Roman Catholic her entire life. And if the novel accurately portrays Young, she also had a long-time friendship with Spencer Tracy.
See what I mean? Lots of juicy move star facts. Myrna Loy. David Niven. Carole Lombard.
Trigiani presents a fictional character – Young’s longtime secretary and friend Alda – who, in my opinion, really adds nothing to the story. I don’t quite understand why the author felt the need for this character.
All things considered, I enjoyed the book very much. It is perhaps not the best thing Trigiani has written, but it was sort of like standing in line at the grocery store and quietly paging through OK Magazine.
It was a fun read.