All the Stars in the Heavens
I am not a big movie buff, but ever since seeing Gone With the Wind, I have had a thing for Clark Gable. Never mind that that is the only movie of his I have ever seen. I love legitimately love him. So when I heard about this book, which is a fictionalized account of his love affair and secret love child with Loretta Young, I had to read it. I love historical fiction that is based on true events and real people from history.
Going into this book, I knew a fair bit about Gable’s personal life. Married quite a few times, dying when his (I think was) fifth wife was pregnant with his first child in 1960. Apparently though that wasn’t his first child.
In 1935, 21 year old Loretta Young met the older Gable on the secluded set of The Call of the Wild. Stuck together in a hotel on site for weeks on end, the naïve Loretta and the womanizer Gable fell in love. Their affair was brief, and they went in different directions once the film was wrapped. Loretta continued to pine after Gable, and then she found out she was pregnant. Unable to make their relationship work due to their egos (some may find this to be harsh as far as Loretta goes, but going solely off the book, I definitely think she could have done things differently), Loretta secretly gave birth to their daughter Judy and fought for years to keep Judy’s parentage a secret.
The idea of two film stars having an illegitimate child in 1935 is almost unheard of. It would have destroyed Loretta’s career, not to mention the ramifications on the two actors considering they both signed “morality clauses”. Loretta instead hid Judy at an orphanage for years, eventually “adopting” her.
I loved the idea of this book. The story had so much potential. On the one hand, I do think Trigiani did a great job of bringing the characters to light. I actually read another fictionalized account of Gable a year or two ago, about his marriage to Carole Lombard, that I felt was pretty poorly done in terms of fleshing out the characters. All the Stars in the Heavens didn’t have that problem, however I did feel that it should have been more focused. Trigiani chose to start the book prior to Gable and Loretta meeting, when Loretta was falling in love with Spencer Tracy. It then meandered all the way to Judy’s adulthood. There was a lot of jumping around towards the end and the direction seemed confusing. I think Trigiani should have chosen to just write about the love affair and Judy’s first few years. It would have made the story seemed much more cohesive and refined.
I found it interesting that Loretta’s daughter in law came out after her death and claimed that Gable actually date raped Loretta, resulting in her pregnancy. Obviously that puts an entirely different spin on the circumstances of Judy’s conception and birth, and it made me wonder what the true story is. Either way, I truly admire Loretta Young. She had a few options open to her, and she took what was arguably the hardest road, despite the ramifications on her professional and even personal life. It could not have been easy.
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