In 1945 Hollywood, the end of World War II, while cause for rejoicing, also ushered in the beginning of the Communist witch hunts. Ben Collier, on personal leave from the Army, stumbles into this world when he meets Continental Studio head Sol Lasner on a cross-country train ride to Los Angeles. Ben has been granted leave to visit his brother in the hospital after he fell, jumped, or was pushed from an apartment balcony. After Danny dies, Ben is left with too many unanswered questions and stays on in Hollywood, working on a war documentary for Lasner while investigating his brother’s death and fighting his attraction to his brother’s German-born widow.
Stardust is jam-packed with characters, some given short shrift, some verging on cliché (the gay former child star, the gruff studio head, the villainous Commie-hunting congressman), and the plot is overly complicated at times, but it is an undeniably tense and powerful story, expressing the helplessness of those targeted as Communists and the ambivalence of those who chose to protect themselves and be whistleblowers. Kanon even inserts some jabs at the studio system when one talented starlet is elevated above another. Ben is a driven but sympathetic character who in the end proves to be too good for Hollywood.