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Clever and gritty comedy about 1939 Hollywood

February 18, 2011|By James Petrillo

It’s surprising how the definition for success in Hollywood has rarely changed over the last century. Whatever their chosen method, each arriving individual yearns to one day make a big important movie that earns universal acclaim, giving them the wealth and confidence to leave their old lives behind.

Whether it’s three regular guys named David, Victor and Ben toiling away on a pilot script in some seedy valley apartment, or David O. Selznick, Victor Fleming and Ben Hecht working on the most popular film of all time at Warner Bros. Studios, their goal is identical. Create a blockbuster, win an Academy Award and forever possess the freedom to make the exact movies you want to make for the rest of your career.

Ron Hutchinson’s clever “Moonlight and Magnolias” deconstructs this Hollywood dream through the eyes of three men responsible for creating the movie version of “Gone with the Wind.” Currently running at the Colony in Burbank, the entire comedy takes place in the office of legendary producer David O. Selznick, but never feels claustrophobic. Every gritty period detail of life behind the scenes has been included, offering a historically accurate and endlessly fascinating perspective on producing the most viewed film of all time.

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The year is 1939, and Selznick (Roy Abramsohn) has temporarily halted production of his epic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's novel “Gone with the Wind.” Dozens of rewrites have failed to trim the fat from the book’s bloated narrative, nor managed to gloss over some of the more unpleasant racial overtones present in the American Civil War-set story.

Selznick replaced the film’s original director three weeks into filming and hired “Wizard of Oz” helmer Victor Fleming, who also voices his displeasure with the screenplay. Enter Ben Hecht, script doctor extraordinaire. Hecht (Matt Gottlieb) has a lengthy resume and strong belief system, and he balks at including the uglier aspects of Mitchell’s extremely dense novel in his screen version.

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