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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

All the Stars in the Heavens

1. What made the Golden Age of Hollywood and the films it produced so alluring? Why were the films particularly popular during the Great Depression?

2. What qualities does Gladys Belzer --- the mother of Loretta and her three sisters --- have that make her such a successful matriarch?

3. Loretta is drawn to the movies at the age of four when she first appears in one. What compels her to such work? What characteristics make her such a successful actress even well beyond the age when women usually struggled to work in Hollywood, make her “more than the sum total of her beauty”? In what ways is Loretta the “modern woman” Alda believes her to be?

4. Why was there such a double standard in Hollywood that allowed men like Clark Gable to continue to appear in films well into his 50s but women --- even a star like Loretta --- were considered done long before 40? Why might such a double standard still exist?

5. Examine the powerful and extensive relationship between Loretta and Clark Gable. What is each drawn to in the other? In what ways is their romance typical of or different from many in Hollywood at the time? What limits the relationship? What might explain the longevity despite these limits?

6. Chemistry is said to be essential in relationships both on screen and off. What is chemistry between two people? What might Loretta mean when she thinks that, “it’s in the bubble of vulnerability that chemistry is born”?

7. Of what symbolic significance to Loretta’s relationship with Clark is the film The Call of the Wild?

8. Loretta believes romantic love requires surrender, blind faith, and that it is “something a woman has to ‘get through,’ as though it’s an illness, not something that enriches a life and sustains life over time,” as Alda does. What might explain why each feels this way? In what ways is each correct about the nature of love?

9. Gladys, Loretta and even Judy end up “unlucky in love” and divorced. How does each explain this? What might explain the phenomenon of being attracted to someone who causes disappointment or even heartbreak?

10. How is each of the men significant to Loretta --- Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, David Nivens --- similar or different? Why are there so few good husbands and fathers among the men of Hollywood?

11. How do Alda’s challenging times, first in Padua and then in the convent, prepare her or not for her experience working for Loretta Young in Hollywood? What of value does she eventually take from each profound and very different part of her life?

12. In what ways does Alda’s relationship with Luca differ from many romances in Hollywood at the time, including that between Loretta and Clark Gable? What important changes must Luca make to prove his love to Alda?

13. Considering Clark Gable, Loretta believes “a man’s relationship with his mother determine[s] his point of view about women.” In what ways might this be true or not?

14. Luca introduces Alda to the experience of art and she finds that it “changed everything: mood, climate, perception,” and feels like “total freedom.” How does it do this?

15. Consider the complex and often hypocritical morality of major film studios, one that often overlooked or even whitewashed bad behavior but also referred to the Hays Code to banish people. What other factors played a part in such permissive and condemning behavior?

16. In what ways are religion and a spiritual life important to Loretta? To Alda? What particular challenges did their lives in Hollywood pose to such a dedicated faith?

17. After years in the business, Alda observes that often, for actors, “their working world of heightened emotion and perfection was an illusion that fed their unworthiness.” In what ways might this be true? What other professions are similarly challenging?

18. What’s the nature of being a fan of a movie star? What does such a relationship provide despite its one-sided nature? At what point might being a fan be unhealthy?

19. What’s the nature of gossip that makes it so compelling to hear or pass along and yet so often harmful?

20. Considering Loretta’s long, successful career, how are the mediums of film, radio and then television different for both the actor and the fan?

21. Why is fame so compelling to so many? In what ways is this healthy or not? Of what particular significance is it in the contemporary, technological world of Alda’s great niece Roxanne Chetta?

All the Stars in the Heavens
by Adriana Trigiani

  • Publication Date: July 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062319205
  • ISBN-13: 9780062319203