The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 17 - January 26, 2011


'GWTW' fans will love 'Moonlight'

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The Island Players present "Moonlight and Magnolias,"
a comedy about the making of "Gone With The Wind,"
through Feb. 6. From left are Jeannie Hudkins, as
Miss Poppenghul; Fred Zimmerman, as Ben Hecht;
Peter Ruscoe, as Victor Fleming; and Herb Stump,
as David O. Selznick.

ANNA MARIA – Should Hollywood give the people what they want or what they need?

It's a serious undercurrent in the laugh-out-loud comedy, "Moonlight and Magnolias" at The Island Players through Feb. 6.

In 1939 Hollywood, movie producer David O. Selznick fires the director of "Gone With The Wind" and suspends production to rewrite the script with director Victor Fleming, taken off the "The Wizard of Oz," and screenwriter Ben Hecht.

Selznick gives the pair only five days to turn the lengthy novel into a script, locking them and himself in his office and practically starving them by allowing only peanuts and bananas through the door. Even the peanut lady, Miss Poppenghul, played by Jeannie Hudkins, can't maintain her no-nonsense, strictly business persona under such conditions and is a wreck by the end of the week.

Selznick, played by Herb Stump, and Fleming, played by Peter Ruscoe, hilariously act out a condensed version of "GWTW," reducing complex characters to "wimpy Ashley" and "stupid Prissy," with Rhett Butler simply described as "Gable, being Gable."

The heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, is allowed more depth – a "two-timing, lying, slave driving child abuser," as Hecht sees her. The conscience of the three, Hecht, played by Fred Zimmerman, raises the issue of racism in the Civil War South, seeing similarities in how Jewish movie studio magnates were viewed in pre-World War II Hollywood.

Should Scarlett be allowed to slap her slave, Prissy, in the film? he asks.

Should films depict real history or what people want to imagine happened in history?

"If you can't pull this off, you may have to go back to newspaper writing," Fleming threatens Hecht, a former Chicago newsman, who is earning $15,000 for his five days on "GWTW."

And Fleming may have to go back to being a chauffeur, Hecht retorts.

The talented trio of the Hollywood elite finishes the script in five days, with Rhett's famous last line getting a substituted expletive in the final cut and Scarlett's final declaration left in, its profundity to be determined by history.

And, presumably, the three never go hungry again.

The Ron Hutchinson play is directed by Phyllis Elfenbein.

For tickets or more information, visit or call the box office at 778-5755 Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper