Moonlight And Magnolias
By Ron Hutchinson
12 - 17 September, 2016
Hollywood, 1939, and mogul David O. Selznick has just shut down production on the most eagerly anticipated movie in history, Gone With The Wind, scrapping the script and sacking the director. Hollywood is a buzz. Determined to produce a rewrite in five days, he engages the reluctant services of ace script doctor Ben Hecht - possibly the only person in America who has not read the novel - and the movie’s new director Victor Fleming, straight from the set of The Wizard Of Oz after squabbling with the Munchkins and coming to blows with Judy Garland. With his reputation on the line, and nothing but peanuts and bananas to sustain them, Selznick locks the three collaborators in his office, and a marathon creative session begins.
As Selznick and Fleming act out the book for Hecht, the phone rings off the hook with calls from the likes of Vivien Leigh, Louis B. Mayer and Ed Sullivan. Hutchinson's play, based on historical events, is written as a comedy, but the characters also deal with serious questions about race and the fragile position of Jews fleeing pre WW2 Germany.
Gone with the Wind has sold more tickets than any other film in history, received 10 Academy Awards and figures in every poll of "the top ten films of all time".
Margaret Mitchell's epic novel was published in 1936. David O. Selznick, producer of King Kong and David Copperfield, had escaped from the controls of his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, to set up his own production company. He paid the unprecedented sum of $50,000 to secure the movie rights as soon as the book was published. What seemed folly to the other studios, was vindicated when the novel became a publishing sensation. By 1937 it was the best -selling novel of all time.
Selznick encountered massive obstacles in casting the major roles and finalising a manageable screenplay. The countless fans of the 1,037 page book had to be satisfied. Clark Gable was recognised to be the ideal Rhett Butler, but he was under contract to MGM and Mayer would only let him star if Selznick produced the film under the MGM banner. There was a two year search for the ideal actress to play the heroine, Scarlett O'Hara. A chance meeting with Laurence Olivier's wife Vivien Leigh, gave Selznick his Scarlett.
Dozens of famous writers had a crack at the screenplay. Sidney Howard's script was complete but unwieldy. Selznick started production with actress-friendly director George Cukor at the helm. Progress was slow and after three weeks of filming, Selznick fired Cukor, and switched Victor Fleming from The Wizard of Oz to direct. Fearful that the screenplay was not filmable, Selznick turned to famed screen writer Ben Hecht.
Which is where this play opens. Hecht and Fleming affirm that Selznick locked them in his office and fed them nothing but bananas and peanuts as they tried to pound out a draft. Ron Hutchinson took this true situation and wondered - How did these mad geniuses with radically different social viewpoints fight their way to a consensus that became one of the greatest movies of all time? The result is Moonlight and Magnolias, a great American comedy. Enjoy .