Every year for Purim I write a poem or Purim spiel to send with our shalach monos. Many times the container I purchase to hold the shalach monos gives me the idea for the poem. In 2003 the containers were purple and thus was born what follows.
In the spirit of Purim, we offer you a Birdseye view of what would happen if Hollywood ever met the Megillah.
Setting: The Hollywood office of Mr. Steven Playhill, noted film director. Mr. Playhill, the son of Jewish immigrants to America, displays a unique sensitivity to works of a minority nature. (Hey Stevie baby—ethnic is in. Looks like your parents changed their name when they arrived here. Why not change it back? We think Spielberg sounds more in keeping with the times. Try it on, baby.)
Maidel Aidel and Michael Yousner, talent spotters extraordinaire, have come to pitch a new movie to Mr. Playhill to be based on an original work entitled “Megillas Esther.” Present at the meeting are Aidel, Yousner, Playhill, Marvin “Anything-you-say-boss” Gofer, and Oolala Winphray, public personality.
Playhill: (pointedly looking at his watch). All right people, time is money. What have you got? (Pointing at one of the others present) Are you Aidel?
Aidel: (Suddenly beaming). Oh yes sir, I am Aidel. Maidel Aidel at your service.
Marvin: Shouldn’t that be Aidel Maidel? I could swear it was Aidel Maidel.
Aidel: (Sighing and rolling her eyes). I should know if I’m a Maidel Aidel or Aidel Maidel! (Pauses for a moment) Actually I may be an aidel maidel. Does that make me aidel maidel Maidel Aidel?
Playhill: (Points at his watch again) The idea, people, the idea.
Yousner: Stevie, we have a realllllll winner here. (He points to the book on the table in front of him) This book has everything—action, adventure, intrigue, mystery, romance, mayhem—you name it, it has it.
Oolala: Yes, but will it play in Peoria?
(Aidel and Yousner confer)
Aidel: What’s a Peoria?
Playhill: (Rolling his eyes and sighing) Just tell me the basics, people.
Aidel: Well, see, there is this King…
Playhill: (Interrupts Aidel) Kingpin? Nawww, it’s been done already.
Yousner: No, Steve, a real King. The kind who rules over 127 provinces.
Marvin: (Making furious notes) If we do the king, he has to be wearing purple, all purple. (Everyone stares at Marvin) What? Purple is for kings; everyone knows that. (Turns to Oolala) You want Michael Trans-Jordan in this picture—he would look great in all purple.
Oolala: (Sarcastically). Sure, and at his size everyone is going to end up calling him the Purple Mountain Majesty.
Marvin: (Again writing furiously). Oh my gosh, that line is great! We’re going to sell that line to someone!
Oolala: (Stares at Marvin). Oh geesh, Marvin. Next thing you’re going to tell me is that the movie should be called “The Color Purple.” (Marvin begins to think about that possibility.)
Playhill: (Once again trying to get everyone to concentrate on business) So, is this king a real absolute monarch type of person or what?
Yousner: Yup, he has absolute control of everything and everybody.
Aidel: Wellllll, not exactly. He thinks he has absolute control, but someone else is pulling the strings that make him jump.
Oolala: (Her interest is up) A woman? There is always a woman behind every man.
Aidel: No, not a woman. A man, a guy named Haman.
Playhill: (Looks upset) I don’t do that kind of picture.
(Aidel and Yousner look puzzled. They confer. They suddenly get it)
Aidel: (Blushing) No no. Not that kind of pulling the strings. This guy Haman is the King’s trusted advisor. Actually, he works himself up to be second in command.
Marvin: Hmmm, that could work. People are really into this whole manipulation thing.
Oolala: (Huffing and puffing) You can’t do that male role only kind of film anymore. It’s not PC.
Aidel: (Rushes to assure her) Hey, there are two really great roles for women in this. I mean, this king has not one but two queens. (Thinks for a quick second) You know, the queen that is the woman married to the King?
Yousner: See, the first queen is really this vain, shallow type—a real Rodeo Drive, into herself person. She doesn’t really have a great marriage—she’s kind of a trophy wife. And things come to head when her husband wants her to come to a party he is giving.
Oolala: (Sniffs haughtily) Women today have their own obligations. A man can’t expect that a woman will drop everything just to entertain his friends.
Yousner: Yah, well it wasn’t just a regular invitation. (His collar is suddenly too tight. He leans forward and lowers his voice) He wanted her to come before his guests wearing nothing but her crown.
(There is a pause while everyone digests this)
Playhill: That’s going to be a problem with the Movie Rating people.
Oolala: (She finally gets it) I don’t do naked roles!
Aidel: Yah, well neither did Queen Vashti. Of course, refusing was kind of the final straw. Haman advised her husband to get rid of her—permanently.
Yousner: So that leaves the King with a real dilemma—he has no queen.
Aidel: And then the King finds himself a better, younger wife to be Queen.
Playhill: What, he just happens to meet the perfect woman. You trying to tell me he met her at a single’s function?
(Aidel and Yousner look at each other)
Yousner: Actually, he had her kidnapped from her uncle’s house.
(Playhill, Marvin and Oolala suddenly perk up)
Playhill: So what’s this damsel-in-distress’s name?
Aidel: Her uncle calls her Hadassah….
Playhill: (shakes his head vigorously) Are you trying to tell me that someone named a girl after that old-ladies-wearing-white-gloves charity organization? (Shakes his head again) It won’t work. Marvin!!!!! (Marvin jumps into the air nervously) We need a new name Marvin. It’s got to be a one-worder, something exotic, something unique, something different….(turns to Aidel) Where did you say this girl was from?
Aidel: I didn’t, but the story takes place in Persia. (Notices the puzzled looks of Playhill, Marvin and Oolala). You know, in the Middle East?
(Yousner starts to talk but is interrupted by Marvin)
Marvin: Okay, something really easterny…Yasmin maybe? (Playhill shakes his head “no”) Yasira? (Again Playhill shakes his head “no”)
Yousner: (rushes to speak before Marvin can interrupt him again) The King actually called her Esther.
Playhill: (thinks for a long moment) Okay, I like it. So then what? Just give me the action in a nutshell.
Aidel: (Takes a deep breath and speaks at 90 miles an hour). So the queen doesn’t want anyone to know who she really is—she is incognito—and figures that she will be able to help her people, but the wicked Haman is against her people and gets really ticked off at Esther’s Uncle Mordechai and decides that he will eliminate all of Mordechai’s people—he’s Jewish, you know, so there is the anti-semitism angle—you like that angle Mr. Playhill—and he gets the king drunk, which the king is all the time anyway, and the king gives Haman permission to kill all the Jews, but Mordechai finds out about the plot and he and Esther come up with a plan to save the Jews, so Esther gives a party and invites the King and Haman to it, and instead of appetizers and grilled chicken she serves up Haman on a platter and gets the King ticked off with him and the King has Haman killed and the Jews fight their enemies and win and Mordechai gets to be Prime Minister instead of Haman and everyone more or less gets to live happily ever after.
(Playhill, Marvin and Oolala stare at Aidel in admiration)
Playhill: (Looks pensive) This could work. It could work.
Marvin: Oh man boss, think of the battle scenes. It’s going to cost a fortune in extras.
Oolala: You know, maybe we could have Esther, this young girl, leading the armies into battle against religious persecution.
(Everyone stares at her)
Marvin: It’s been done before Oolala. (Oolala looks puzzled). You know, the Maid of New Orleans?
Oolala: Where is the animal in the story?
Marvin: That’s right, animal stories are hot now.
Aidel: (Doubtfully) Well, there is a horse.
Marvin and Oolala: No horses. Horses have been done to death.
Marvin: Maybe a chinchilla. No one has ever done a chinchilla before. (Makes a note in his notebook) I’ll have to get a focus group and see how they feel about chinchillas.
Oolala: (Looks indignant) And where are the minorities? You think you can tell history and leave out the obvious contributions that minorities have made? You think that anyone is going to go see a movie about old, dead, white men?
Yousner: (Stares at Aidel and mouths the words “engantzen meshugeh”) Errrr, Oolala, Esther and Mordechai are Jewish. That’s not enough minority for you? And Haman and Achasueros are Persian. (Marvin still looks puzzled) You know, Persian, sort of like Iranian?
Marvin: (Looks horrified) You want us to make a movie about Iranians when we have been trying to decide to go to war with them now for the last two years? Are you crazy?!
Aidel: But Marvin, the Iranians are the bad guys in this story! It should work perfectly. You know, we can show how they have been the aggressors for centuries.
Marvin: (Brightens for a moment but then his face falls) Yeah, it would be great, but we can’t do it. (Notices the puzzlement on Aidel’s and Yousner’s faces). I gotta think of the foreign distribution rights, and the French won’t go for it.
Playhill: (Musing) There have to be some changes made.
Aidel and Yousner: (Speak in unison) What kinds of changes?
Playhill: Don’t sweat it. Just a few cosmetic things. Written stories don’t always translate to the screen that well. (He pauses for a moment) You know Oolala, you may have something there with that “The Color Purple” idea.
Oolala: (Her face brightening). Yeah, and we change the main character to an African. I mean, Africa is near Persia so what’s the difference. (She thinks for a moment). We gotta ditch the king, make the woman the focus. That’s going to give us more credibility.
Marvin: We have to lose the Uncle bit too—sounds too much like Uncle Tom.
Playhill: We have to move the story to America—gotta show our patriotism and have the thing made in America.
Oolala: And let’s lose the young girl thing. It’s time to make everyone realize again that age brings wisdom.
Marvin: (muttering under his breath) She can’t play a girl when she is the very wrong side of thirty.
Playhill: (Musing) I think we need at least one kid. Kids attract a younger audience. We have to think of the numbers.
(Aidel and Yousner quietly leave the room as Playhill, Marvin and Oolala put their heads together excitedly.)
THE COLOR PURPLE
Funny! You know how when you sometimes ask someone if they have a read a certain book and they tell you "no but I've seen the movie."? They can be way different.
I understand that this was originally original. This year it would never work because a real film based (vaguely) on the megilah came out last year.
If I understand correctly, the film that came out this year "Esther and the King," is a remake of a 1960 film of the same title that starred Joan Collins. The only relationship the film has to the Megillah is that three of the characters have names from it. The rest of the story is way out in left field. Given that I'd say this send-up might explain the process by which they got from the Megillah to the movie. Come to think about it, "The Color Purple" might have more relationship to the Megillah then the Esther movie does.
Well, what does a basmelech know of movies anyway... (1960 is too modern for me -- I'm still hooked on 12 Angry Men)
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