Glen David Gold
Knopf, May 5 2009, $26.95
In 1916, while Europe is overwhelmed with the devastating war, Hollywood silent movie star Charlie Chaplin is seen in over eight-hundred different locations at the approximate same time. Chaplin struggles with making Sunnyside, a picture he believes worthy of his skills but the studios prefer to repeat the same success until they drain every bloody cent from the public. He also has issues with the war as he wants America to stay out of the hostilities across the Atlantic. Finally he has his usual female problems with lovers and the most daunting woman of all, his demanding mom.
As Chaplin is spotted everywhere, Leland Wheeler goes to California with dreams of being a movie star although he calls himself Leland Duncan; instead of Hollywood he is soon heading to the western front as his status as the son of the last Wild West star offers him no solace from the German armies even though the Kaiser enjoyed the Buffalo Bill shows. Finally aristocratic Hugo Black volunteers to leave Detroit to fight under General Edmund Ironside who leads an expeditionary force into Russia just after Lenin takes power. Soon all will converge.
Packed with many real persona from the War that ends all wars era, SUNNYSIDE is a complex historical fiction that sub-genre fans will need plenty of time to read. The story line contains seemingly a cast that only Cecil Demille and Glen David Gold could keep track of as there are a multitude of subplots even more than the three prime themes above. The profound kaleidoscope ultimately comes together as Hollywood goes to war with a celebrity cast; who for the most part never ventures outside Southern California, but are true patriots; as Chaplin, Wheeler and Black know first hand.