Moonlight And Magnolias

by
Ron Hutchinson
Bell, Book and Candle
Director
Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Additional Properties and Set Dressing
Scenic Artist
Production Crew
Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

Andrew Barnicle
Bruce Goodrich
Julie Keen
Paulie Jenkins
Julie Ferrin
Ritz Gray
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Red Colgrove
MacAndME
Stephen Gifford
A.C. Bradshaw, Christopher Rivera
Kathryn Horan
Heather L. Waters
Andrea Dean, Kelly L. Passinault
Ricky Vodka
Michael Lamont

CAST
(in order of appearance)

David O. Selznick
Ben Hecht
Miss Poppenghul
Victor Fleming

Roy Abramsohn
Matt Gottlieb
Emily Eiden
Brendan Ford

PLACE

A Hollywood studio lot, office of legendary producer David O. Selznick

TIME

1939


Director's Notes

The film Gone With The Wind has sold more tickets than any film in history, and received ten Academy Awards, a record which stood for twenty years. It has been comfortably placed in the "top ten films of all times" by virtually every poll since its premiere in 1939.

David O. Selznick, the young helmer of David O. Selznick Productions, was desperate to crawl out from the shadow of his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mayer had loaned him most of the money to finance the film and pushed for Clark Gable to star. Gary Cooper had been Selznick's first choice, but he was under contract to another studio. Erroll Flynn was also discussed heavily, but Mayer was not to be denied. In return for Mayer's funding, MGM received 50% of the profits and distribution credit.
David Selznick
Producer David O. Selznick on
the set of Gone with the Wind

Selznick paid $50,000 for the movie rights to Margaret Mitchell's book, a record sum for the era, just weeks before it became the highest selling novel to that time. What seemed folly to the other studios, all of whom had passed on the book, suddenly looked like a wizard deal, but the pressure on Selznick to satisfy the book's avid and countless fans was profound. In older days Hollywood made few attempts to protect the integrity of a film's source material if they thought they could improve upon it. But this book was too popular and its fans demanding. Gone With The Wind included many racy and controversial elements, and it was rife with moral and ethical ambiguity, but Selznick was determined to get them to the screen intact.

He encountered massive obstacles to getting the major roles cast and a manageable screenplay finalized. It seemed as if every actress in Hollywood and beyond did a screen test for the coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara, and some of those tests were elaborate and self-financed. While some may think Vivien Leigh could have been the only one for the role, she had various degrees of competition from Jean Arthur, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Bennett, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Frances Dee, Olivia de Havilland, Irene Dunne, Joan Fontaine, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward, Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, Ida Lupino, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret Sullavan, Lana Turner, and Loretta Young. After nearly three years of auditioning (and battling the rumor mill), there was still no Scarlett.
Fleming, Leigh
Victor Fleming (center)
directing Vivien Leigh
in Gone with the Wind


As legend has it, Selznick's brother, agent Myron Selznick had brought visiting Laurence Olivier and his lover Leigh to the studio one evening to watch Selznick set fire to the studio's excess scenery. Selznick's crew filmed the event, for use as footage for the burning of Atlanta in the movie. As the giant gates from the previous Selznick film King Kong blazed, David took one look at Vivien Leigh in the reflection of the dancing flames, and he knew he had found his Scarlett. Leigh was a relatively unknown British stage actress at the time. Hollywood lesson #1: never turn down an invitation to a fire.

The screenplay took equal amounts of effort to complete. Dozens of the most famous writers in Hollywood took whacks at it, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles MacArthur. Sydney Howard's script got final credit, but it was unwieldy and he refused to come to Hollywood during filming to make daily rewrites. With actress-friendly George Cukor directing, they started production, but after three weeks of filming Selznick pulled the plug, fired Cukor, and took Victor Fleming off of the final weeks of The Wizard of Oz to direct. Hollywood lesson #2: never hire a slow director to film a long and dense script.

Fearful that his screenplay was not filmable, and with the most expensive production in the history of Hollywood in hiatus, Selznick turned to famed screenwriter and playwright Ben Hecht to pound out a draft from Howard's screenplay that they could use to resume shooting. Fleming, Hecht, and Selznick all have noted that Selznick locked them in his office and fed them nothing but bananas and peanuts until the work was done. How long they were held there, and how much of the final screenplay they created is still open to some debate. The idea of these three mad and clever geniuses, from radically different social viewpoints and Hollywood status levels, fighting their way through to some consensus propelled Ron Hutchinson to speculate on the event in Moonlight and Magnolias.

Fleming received directing credit for both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind, two of the most famous and successful films of all time. Hecht wrote the screenplays to dozens of the most respected and touted films in Hollywood history, among them Notorious, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Wuthering Heights, and Scarface. Selznick went to extraordinary extremes to bring his vision of Margaret Mitchell's novel to the screen. The result was Gone With The Wind, forever the prototype of the Hollywood blockbuster. Some of the human toll, though, in all of its mad glory, is brought to you in Moonlightand Magnolias. Hollywood lesson #3: watch your head!

-- Andrew Barnicle


SPECIAL THANKS


Brad Brown   Brian Kite   La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Laguna Playhouse   Ray Lorme & Linoleum City   McCoy Rigby Entertainment
Phil Torf & House of Props   Wadler Data Systems   Kevin Williams