In 1935 Call of the Wild began filming at Mount Baker in Washington state. It starred then Hollywood A-list actor Clark Gable and Hollywood starlet Loretta Young. Gable was less than a year away from winning the Academy Award for It Happened One Night, while Young — 23 at the time — had already been in over 50 films. She was not as big a star as Gable, but she was well on her way to becoming one.
The film, it can be said, is known more for its behind-the-scenes events than for the film itself. Its two stars became involved during the filming, with its result being one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals — the out of wedlock birth of Judy Lewis, Clark and Young’s daughter.
While rumors hounded Clark and Young throughout most of that time, neither confirmed the affair or the parentage of Judy Lewis.
Adriana Trigiani has now “filled” in those gaps for us with her latest novel, All the Stars in the Heavens. She leads us into the depths of a life that one is rarely privy to. We get introduced to Young through Alda — a novice who leaves the church and becomes Young’s personal secretary. Like the reader, Alda is also an outsider, new to the world of acting and fame.
All the Stars in the Heavens feels like an homage to Loretta Young. Her trials, her accolades, the good, and the bad. Trigiani does a brilliant job of laying Young’s life bare for us. It is quite a journey she goes through, and one that is fascinating to uncover. Her doubts and insecurities are just like that of any other women, and yet her status as a “star” sets her apart to the point of feeling lonely in a sea of people. A strange paradox that no doubt many can relate to.
Brilliant in detail and addictive to read, Trigiani weaved an elaborate story, somewhat reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, and created an enticing saga during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is well and romantically written, I only wish I had enjoyed reading it more.
The thing is, it’s come to light that in Young’s later years she revealed that the “relationship” between her and Gable was actually date rape. In fact, it was Young’s daughter-in-law who has come forth with this news. Given the “standards” women were expected to follow in the 1930s it comes to no surprise that Young never came forth with this, and that she hid her daughter’s real parentage for so many years.
It’s because of that, what really happened, that made me feel both sad and uncomfortable reading it. Clark and Young’s story wasn’t romantic, or star-crossed — it was date rape. I don’t know what research Trigiani made or whom she may have talked to, or perhaps she wanted to give a sad story a more pleasant spin. Whatever the case may be, it is still worth looking into and reading.
You can make your own opinions on the matter once you do, and trust me, you will have some. All the Stars in the Heavens is available in bookstores now.