Fictional character Julie Crawford is new to Hollywood and is pursuing a career as a screenwriter. A female screenwriter is a rare thing in 1938 Hollywood so she gets a job working at Selznick International studios to earn some money. Julie’s first day on the job is the first day of filming Gone With the Wind. The first scene of GWTW that was filmed was the burning of Atlanta. Producer David O. Selznick decided to burn down old movie sets in order to make room for the new GWTW sets. At this point in time, Selznick had not cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara. The front runner for the role, Paulette Goddard, has not been able to convince Selznick that she is right for the part. Julie has been given a message to give to Mr. Selznick but she cannot get near him due to the crowds and the fire department keeping her away. When she finally finds David Selznick, he promptly fires Julie for giving him the message too late. The note told him that actress Vivien Leigh would be visiting the set and that she was interested in playing the lead, Scarlett O’Hara. Selznick had been talking to Vivien Leigh for the past hour.
Actress Carole Lombard takes pity on Julie and hires her as her personal assistant. Julie now has a front seat to the developing romantic relationship between Carole Lombard and actor Clark Gable, who stars in Gone With the Wind as Rhett Butler. Julie is constantly in Carole’s movie set trailer signing autographs for the actress or at Carole’s house helping her with a project. Carole Lombard becomes a true friend to Julie. She advises Julie on life and the way that Hollywood works. Carole and Clark even invite Julie to dinner at their home. Julie also spends a lot of time with David O. Selznick’s fictional assistant, Andy. Andy invites Julie to come on set and watch scenes being filmed. She witnesses Vivien Leigh’s first day on set, the siege of Atlanta and the desolation of Tara among other scenes.
Another aspect of the story is the growing tension in Europe. The film industry was trying to ignore the growing war overseas. Some people in Hollywood believed that the war should be addressed while others thought that a war movie would bomb at the box office. Julie’s boyfriend Andy is Jewish. He has family in Germany that he worries about. Julie’s parents would not want her dating Andy because he is Jewish which is a source of tension between the pair. Along with that tension, the African American community has reservations about the making of the movie GWTW.
A Touch of Stardust is a coming of age novel about friendship and relationships centered around the filming of Gone With the Wind. Author Kate Alcott’s late husband, Frank Mankiewicz, grew up in a film family (his father was a screenwriter and his uncle was a director) and shared many stories about Old Hollywood with Alcott. Included in the novel are stories about what it was like on the movie set and working for David O. Selznick.