Comic tale behind Gone With The Wind

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Christine Smith plays plays Miss Poppenguhl in Moonlight and Magnolias, the long-suffering secretary of producer David O. Selznick (Tim Fraser).

DARING, desperate and damn funny – child health nurse Christine Smith is appearing in a stage production that gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the problems encountered during the filming of Gone With The Wind.

Written by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Ron Hutchinson and directed by Carryn McLean at Limelight Theatre, Moonlight and Magnolias is loosely based on the fact that, in 1939, Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick shut down production after three weeks of filming because he was unhappy with the screenplay.

With his reputation and bank balance on the line, Selznick enlists his trusted friend Ben Hecht as a somewhat reluctant script doctor – possibly the only person in the US not to have read the novel.

New director Victor Fleming is poached from the set of The Wizard of Oz and the three are locked in Selznick’s office with nothing to eat but a stockpile of bananas and peanuts to sustain them.

What follows is a hilarious clash of egos as they try to complete the script within five days with Fleming and Selznick telling the story and acting out the roles with Hecht typing up the screenplay.

The play’s title comes from a line in Gone With The Wind when Rhett Butler says “You can drop the moonlight and magnolia, Scarlett.”.

Smith plays Miss Poppenguhl, David O. Selznick’s efficient and long-suffering secretary.

“She starts the play in a well-ordered and organised manner, ensuring his wishes are acted on even before he has requested them,” she said.

“Over five days, Miss Poppenguhl keeps David, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming supplied with bananas and peanuts for sustenance and holds the world at bay while they work feverishly to re-write the screenplay.

“During this time, she becomes increasingly more frazzled as the atmosphere becomes more desperate and frenetic.

“Miss Poppenguhl becomes so dazed and confused that, by the end of the play, she is sent home by David for a well-earned rest.

“My main challenges are keeping up an American accent throughout the play and keeping a straight face because many of the lines and actions by the three men are humorous.”

Andrew Govey, Chris Juckes, Tim Fraser and Christine Smith are appearing in Moonlight and Magnolias, which starts at Limelight Theatre on February 23.
Andrew Govey, Chris Juckes, Tim Fraser and Christine Smith are appearing in Moonlight and Magnolias, which starts at Limelight Theatre on February 23.

Smith did some acting in high school but it was only after she emigrated from the UK to Perth in 2007 that she decided to step up to the stage once again.

Mainly involved backstage, she made her acting debut in A Bedful of Foreigners in 2008 followed by Tom, Dick and Harry in 2014 and Run For Your Wife in 2016.

“In Moonlight and Magnolias, I am playing a real-life character which is something I haven’t done before.

“It’s set in Hollywood 1939, when movie blockbusters were just emerging and the sets and costumes were elaborate.

“Director Carryn Maclean has some really good ideas, particularly about the visual impact the play will have on the audience.

“Her attention to detail is meticulous and is reflected in the set, costumes and properties used in this production.

“I also love the use of language and the humour in the play – I hope the audience enjoy it, too.”

Moonlight and Magnolias plays at Limelight Theatre at 8pm on February 23, 24, 25, March 1, 2, 3 and 4 with a 2pm matinee on February 26.