By Alan Davies
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
“FRANKLY, my dear, I don’t give a damn” is perhaps the most famous line from movie classic Gone With The Wind. The story behind the 1939 film’s script can be seen on stage at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.
LEGENDARY producer David O. Selznick has just suspended filming of the most eagerly anticipated movie of all time, Gone With The Wind, scrapping the script and sacking its director in the process.
He drafts in script doctor Ben Hecht to rewrite it. However, Hecht happens to be the only man in the country who’s not read the novel.
Along with director Victor Fleming, who has been poached from the set of The Wizard of Oz, they have just five days to rescue the film.
The Barn Theatre’s next production, comedy Moonlight and Magnolias, reaches down into the Hollywood archives, and comes up with one of the funniest plays to appear this century.
The author, Ron Hutchinson, is an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter, known for nearly a dozen film scripts, as well as 25 TV films and mini-series.
He has also created more than 20 stage and radio plays, with one of them, Moonlight and Magnolias, opening at the Barn Theatre on Friday, March 22.
It tells the story of how Margaret Mitchell’s 1,000-plus page novel Gone With The Wind, which won the Pulitzer Prize and swept the world, came to be filmed in 1938.
The film is set in the 19th-century American South, stars Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, and depicts the disintegration of the American South’s way of life after the Civil War. Against all advice, producer David O. Selznick, of Selznick International Pictures, bought the film rights.
But he rejected the original screenplay because it was too long, and fired the director, George Cukor, thus stopping production after only three weeks.
He pinched Victor Fleming from The Wizard of Oz as his new director, and brought in Ben Hecht to rewrite the entire screenplay.
Selznick literally locked himself, Fleming and Hecht in his office for five days – with just bananas and peanuts to sustain them – to completely re-do the script, and Moonlight and Magnolias is those five manic days.
The play shows the growing desperation and exhaustion of the three men as Selznick and Fleming act out the entire story of the book for the benefit of Hecht, who, it transpires, has never read it.
Based on this true incident, the play is clever, articulate and hilariously funny.
Jack Wood, who directs at the Barn, said: “The play demands four experienced actors: the producer, the director and the re-write man – these three are on stage together throughout the play – and a clever actress to play Selznick’s secretary, who pops in and out, and will probably get a laugh every time she appears.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to cast three strong actors who have worked wonderfully together as a close-knit team, and a very experienced actress who makes the most of the comparatively few lines she has to say.
“After many very intensive and productive rehearsals, it’s still making me laugh, and I do urge your readers to buy a ticket quickly – they won’t regret it!”
Moonlight and Magnolias plays at the Barn Theatre, in Handside Lane, from Friday, March 22 to Saturday, March 30 at 8pm.
There’s also a matinee in addition to the evening performance on Saturday, March 30 at 2.30pm.
Tickets cost £10 and are available online from www.barntheatre.co.uk