Sticking to her formula of situating imaginary characters in historical events (The Daring Ladies of Lowell, 2014, etc.), Alcott sends her feisty heroine to observe the filming of Gone With the Wind.
At first, it looks as though Julie Crawford will be packing her bags to go back to Fort Wayne, Indiana; she’s delayed as she hurries to the burning of Atlanta to deliver a message from the studio to David Selznick, and the producer fires her on the spot. Fortunately, Julie has caught the eye of assistant producer Andy Weinstein, who introduces her to a fellow Fort Wayne refugee: screwball comedy queen Carole Lombard, whose open affair with still-married GWTW star Clark Gable is making Selznick very nervous. Soon Julie is Lombard’s personal assistant and having regular dinners with handsome, intense Andy. The fact that she’s dating a Jew, Julie is well-aware, would appall her parents, who are already unhappy that she’s dumped her high school sweetheart to pursue a career as a screenwriter. Alcott makes good use of her research to portray the turbulent GWTW shoot, Lombard’s earthy personality and genuine love for the equally no-BS Gable, and Julie’s introduction via Andy to the more intellectual side of Hollywood culture (a Herman Mankiewicz dinner party; a meeting with her idol, pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion). Julie and Andy’s tender but bumpy affair is also nicely depicted. Consumed with anxiety for his grandparents in Nazi Berlin, furious when he confronts anti-Semitism in America, he plans to leave Hollywood’s dream factory; he’s supportive of Julie’s ambitions but unsure that she’s got the backbone to stand by him or to stand up to her parents about their relationship. Their ups and downs are slightly contrived, but Alcott’s canny blend of Hollywood lore and a strong personal story is ultimately effective.
Well-crafted commercial fiction displaying intelligence and nuance as Julie ponders Hollywood’s dizzying fantasy/reality disconnect.