by J. Rosalyn
In his second “Garden of Allah” novel, “The Trouble with Scarlett,” Martin Turnbull takes us back to the late 1930s where our three friends, Kathryn, Marcus, and Gwendolyn are a little older, much wiser, and still living at Hollywood’s Garden of Allah Hotel.
As Turnbull takes the gloves off, we begin to see the nastier side of old Hollywood. Louella Parsons and Kathryn go head to head (Louella shows us her claws, as she dumps a chicken fricassee dinner on Kathryn). Hedda Hopper shows up, and Kathryn proves there is more than enough Hollywood gossip for the three of them.
In this second installment, Turnbull provides us with a wonderful, front row seat to 1938-39, probably the most glorious two years for film making in Hollywood history. Along the way, we learn that Talulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, and Paulette Goddard all were considered for the role of Scarlett in “Gone with the Wind,” and that Vivian Leigh was the long shot because she was British. We also learn a few secrets concerning the making of “The Women” (my favorite film), and the “The Wizard of Oz.”
In one breathtaking scene that takes place during the filming of “Gone with the Wind,” we wilt with Marcus as he sweats in the heat in an old, wool, confederate uniform. Joining hundreds of extras, he moans and slowly “dies” as Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wanders through their midst. Off camera, a still prostrate Marcus delivers a message to Leigh from George Cukor, who has been ousted as director since Clark Gable, apparently, refused to be directed by a “fairy.”
We also meet F. Scott Fitzgerald as he takes up temporary residence at the Garden of Allah. As he works on screen plays, he falls on and off the wagon; and off the wagon, he is not a pretty sight. Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley move in, providing the kind of advice only they could offer (along with many authentic “Parkerisms” such as when Dorothy tells Gwendolyn that her Scarlett O’Hara-type dress “flounce per ounce ratio is just right”).
It truly does not get better than this if you are a film buff and you love to “time travel” while reading. I loved Turnbull’s first Garden of Allah novel, “The Trouble on Sunset,” and I love this second novel. Thankfully, he has three more in print, and four more promised after that.