David O. Selznick

David O. Selznick (May 10, 1902 – June 22, 1965) was an American film producer, screenwriter and film studio executive.[2] He is best known for producing Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940), each earning him an Academy Award for Best Picture.

David O. Selznick
DavidSelznick
Selznick, c. 1934
Born
David Selznick

May 10, 1902
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJune 22, 1965 (aged 63)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other namesOliver Jeffries[1]
OccupationFilm producer
Years active1923–1957
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Irene Mayer Selznick
(m. 1930; div. 1949)

Jennifer Jones(m. 1949; his death)
Children3
Parent(s)Lewis J. Selznick
Florence Sachs
RelativesMyron Selznick (brother)

Early life

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Florence Anna (Sachs) and silent movie producer and distributor Lewis J. Selznick. His parents were Lithuanian Jews, and he had four siblings. His father was born in Lithuania in 1870.[3] Selznick added the "O" to distinguish himself from an uncle with the same name.[4]

He studied at Columbia University in New York City and worked as an apprentice for his father until the elder's bankruptcy in 1923. In 1926, Selznick moved to Hollywood, and with the help of his father's connections, he gained a job as an assistant story editor at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He left MGM for Paramount Pictures in 1928, where he worked until 1931, when he joined RKO as Head of Production.

His years at RKO were fruitful, and he worked on many films, including A Bill of Divorcement (1932), What Price Hollywood? (1932), Rockabye (1932), Bird of Paradise (1932), Our Betters (1933), and King Kong (1933). While at RKO, he also gave George Cukor his directing break. In 1933 he returned to MGM where his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer, was studio CEO. Mayer established a second prestige production unit for Selznick, parallel to that of Irving Thalberg, who was in poor health. Selznick's unit output included the all star cast movie Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

Selznick International Pictures

Despite his output of successful movies at MGM, Paramount Pictures, and RKO Pictures, Selznick longed to be an independent producer with his own studio. In 1935 he realized that goal by leasing RKO Culver City Studios & back lot, formed Selznick International Pictures, and distributed his films through United Artists. His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards. Selznick also won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.

He produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca (1940), the first Hollywood production of British director Alfred Hitchcock. Selznick had brought Hitchcock over from England, launching the director's American career. Rebecca was Hitchcock's only film to win Best Picture.

Later productions

After Rebecca, Selznick closed Selznick International Pictures and took some time off. His business activities included the loan of his contracted artists to other studios, including Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh and Joan Fontaine. He formed The Selznick Studio and returned to producing pictures with Since You Went Away (1944), which he also wrote. He followed that with the Hitchcock films Spellbound (1945) and The Paradine Case (1947), as well as Portrait of Jennie (1948) with Jennifer Jones. He also developed film projects and sold the packages to other producers. Among the movies that he developed but then sold was Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). In 1949 he co-produced the Carol Reed picture The Third Man with Alexander Korda.

Gone with the Wind overshadowed the rest of Selznick's career. Later, he was convinced that he had wasted his life trying to outdo it. The closest he came to matching the film was with Duel in the Sun (1946) featuring future wife Jennifer Jones in the role of the primary character Pearl. With a huge budget, the film is known for causing moral upheaval because of the then risqué script written by Selznick. And though it was a troublesome shoot with a number of directors, the film would be a major success. The film was the second highest-grossing film of 1947 and was the first movie that Martin Scorsese saw, inspiring Scorsese's own directorial career.

"I stopped making films in 1948 because I was tired," Selznick later wrote. "I had been producing, at the time, for twenty years....Additionally it was crystal clear that the motion-picture business was in for a terrible beating from television and other new forms of entertainment, and I thought it a good time to take stock and to study objectively the obviously changing public tastes....Certainly I had no intention of staying away from production for nine years."[5] Selznick spent most of the 1950s nurturing the career of his second wife, Jennifer Jones. His last film, the big budget production A Farewell to Arms (1957) starring Jones and Rock Hudson, was ill-received. But in 1954, he ventured into television, producing a two-hour extravaganza called Light's Diamond Jubilee, which, in true Selznick fashion, made TV history by being telecast simultaneously on all four TV networks: CBS, NBC, ABC, and DuMont.

Personal life

Jennifer Jones and husband David O. Selznick in Los Angeles, 1957
Jennifer Jones and Selznick in Los Angeles, 1957.

In 1928 Selznick began an on-again off-again affair with Jean Arthur,[6] one of the actresses under contract at Paramount while he was an executive there. Simultaneously he was dating Irene Gladys Mayer, daughter of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer.

In 1930 Selznick married Mayer and after living in a series of rented houses they moved into an estate in Beverly Hills, California. It was purchased for them by Mayer’s father and designed by architect Roland Coate in 1933–1934.[7] They separated in 1945 and divorced in 1948.[8] They had two sons, Jeffrey Selznick (1932–1997) and Daniel Selznick (1936 - ).

In 1949 he married actress Jennifer Jones, whom he had discovered early in her career and mentored. They had one daughter, Mary Jennifer Selznick (1954–1976), who committed suicide by jumping from a 20th-floor window in Los Angeles on May 11, 1976.

Selznick was an amphetamine user, and would often dictate long, rambling memos to his directors, writers, investors, staff and stars.[9] The documentary Shadowing The Third Man relates that Selznick introduced The Third Man director Carol Reed to the use of amphetamines, which allowed Reed to bring the picture in below budget and on schedule by filming nearly 22 hours at a time.

Selznick was a Republican. On October 18, 1944, the Hollywood Committee, led by Selznick and Cecil B. DeMille held the Hollywood for Dewey Rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum in support of the Dewey-Bricker ticket, as well as Governor Earl Warren of California, who would be Dewey's running mate in 1948. The gathering drew 93,000, with Lionel Barrymore as the master of ceremonies, and short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney.

Death

Grave of David O. Selznick
Crypt of David O. Selznick, in the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Glendale

Selznick died in 1965 following several heart attacks, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. There he joined his older brother Myron Selznick (who had died in 1944) in the family crypt.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, David O. Selznick has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Blvd, in front of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.

Academy Awards and nominations

Year Award Title of work Result
1934 Outstanding Production Viva Villa! Nominated
1935 Outstanding Production David Copperfield Nominated
1936 Outstanding Production A Tale of Two Cities Nominated
1937 Outstanding Production A Star Is Born Nominated
1939 Outstanding Production Gone with the Wind Won
1938 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Nominated
1939 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Won
1940 Outstanding Production Rebecca Won
1944 Best Motion Picture Since You Went Away Nominated
1945 Best Motion Picture Spellbound Nominated

Footnotes

  1. ^ Sragow, Michael (2013). Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master. University Press of Kentucky. p. 220. ISBN 9780813144436.
  2. ^ "About David O. Selznick", PBS, April 16, 2005.
  3. ^ https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCFX-XKF
  4. ^ Selznick, David O. (2000). Behlmer, Rudy, ed. Memo from David O. Selznick. New York: Modern Library. p. 3. ISBN 0-375-75531-4.
  5. ^ Memo from David O. Selznick, p. 423.
  6. ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-11-03/features/9711030177_1_jean-arthur-struggle-persona
  7. ^ Pacific Coast Architecture Database: David O. Selznick House, Beverly Hills, CA
  8. ^ "Mrs. D. O. Selznick Wins Decree", The New York Times, January 10, 1948, p. 11
  9. ^ "Memo From David O. Selznick". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-12-28.

References

  • Thomson, David. Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick. New York: Knopf, 1992. ISBN 0-394-56833-8

Further reading

External links

A Farewell to Arms (1957 film)

A Farewell to Arms is a 1957 American DeLuxe Color CinemaScope drama film directed by Charles Vidor. The screenplay by Ben Hecht, based in part on a 1930 play by Laurence Stallings, was the second feature film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's 1929 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. It was the last film produced by David O. Selznick. The logo for 20th Century Fox also does not appear at the beginning, due to the movie's poor reception.

An earlier film version starred Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes.

Chinatown Nights (1929 film)

Chinatown Nights, also known as Tong War, is a 1929 film starring Wallace Beery and begun as a silent film then finished as an all-talking sound one via dubbing. Directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures, Chinatown Nights also stars Florence Vidor, former wife of director King Vidor, who did not dub her own voice and quit the movie business immediately afterward, preferring not to work in sound films; her voice in Chinatown Nights was supplied by actress Nella Walker. The supporting cast includes Warner Oland as a Chinese gangster and Jack Oakie as a stuttering reporter. The movie was based upon the story "Tong War" by Samuel Ornitz.

Dancing Lady

Dancing Lady is a 1933 American pre-Code musical film starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and featuring Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire, Robert Benchley, and Ted Healy and His Stooges (who later became the Three Stooges with Curly, Moe and Larry). The picture was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, produced by John W. Considine Jr. and David O. Selznick, and was based on the novel of the same name by James Warner Bellah, published the previous year. The movie had a hit song in "Everything I Have Is Yours" by Burton Lane and Harold Adamson.

The film features the screen debut of dancer Fred Astaire, who appears as himself, as well as the first credited film appearance of Nelson Eddy, and an early feature film appearance of the Three Stooges – Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine – in support of the leader of their act at the time, Ted Healy, whose role in the films is considerably larger than theirs. The Algonquin Round Table humorist Robert Benchley plays a supporting role.

David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures

The David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures is awarded annually by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) at the Producers Guild of America Awards ceremonies recognizing the individual's outstanding body of work in motion pictures. The award category was instituted in 1989 and first awarded at the 1st Producers Guild Awards.

Duel in the Sun (film)

Duel in the Sun is a 1946 American Technicolor epic Western film directed by King Vidor, produced and written by David O. Selznick, which tells the story of a Mestiza (half-Native American) girl who goes to live with her white relatives, becoming involved in prejudice and forbidden love. The film stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lillian Gish, and Lionel Barrymore.

Forgotten Faces (1928 film)

Forgotten Faces is a 1928 American silent drama film directed by Victor Schertzinger and starring Clive Brook, Mary Brian, and Olga Baclanova. The production was overseen by David O. Selznick, a rising young producer at the time. The film was remade by Paramount in 1936 as a sound film.

The film is preserved with copies at the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art.This film is Paramount's remake of their 1920 film Heliotrope.

Intermezzo (1939 film)

Intermezzo (also called Intermezzo: A Love Story) (1939) is a romantic film made in the US by Selznick International Pictures and nominated for two Academy Awards. It was directed by Gregory Ratoff and produced by David O. Selznick. It is a remake of the Swedish film Intermezzo (1936) and features multiple orchestrations of the Heinz Provost's piece of the same name, which won a contest associated with the original film's production. The screenplay by George O'Neil was based on the screenplay of the original film by Gösta Stevens and Gustaf Molander. The scoring by Lou Forbes was nominated for an Academy Award, and music credit was given to Robert Russell Bennett, Max Steiner, Heinz Provost, and Christian Sinding. The cinematography by Gregg Toland who replaced Harry Stradling was also nominated for an Academy Award.It stars Leslie Howard as a (married) virtuoso violinist who falls in love with his accompanist, played by Ingrid Bergman in her Hollywood debut.

Made for Each Other (1939 film)

Made for Each Other is a 1939 American romantic comedy film directed by John Cromwell, produced by David O. Selznick, and starring Carole Lombard, James Stewart, and Charles Coburn. Lombard and Stewart portray a couple who get married after only knowing each other for one day.

Nothing Sacred (film)

Nothing Sacred is an American Technicolor screwball comedy film directed in 1937 by William A. Wellman, produced by David O. Selznick, and starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March. with a supporting cast featuring Charles Winninger and Walter Connolly. Ben Hecht was credited with the screenplay based on a story by James H. Street, and an array of additional writers, including Ring Lardner Jr., Budd Schulberg, Dorothy Parker, Sidney Howard, Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman and Robert Carson made uncredited contributions.

The lush, Gershwinesque music score was by Oscar Levant, with additional music by Alfred Newman and Max Steiner and a swing number by Raymond Scott's Quintette. The film was shot in Technicolor by W. Howard Greene and edited by James E. Newcom, and was a Selznick International Pictures production distributed by United Artists.

This was Lombard's only Technicolor film. She stated that this film was one of her personal favorites.

Our Betters

Our Betters is a 1933 American pre-Code satirical comedy film directed by George Cukor. The screenplay by Jane Murfin and Harry Wagstaff Gribble is based on the 1923 play of the same title by W. Somerset Maugham.

Rebecca (1940 film)

Rebecca is a 1940 American romantic psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was Hitchcock's first American project, and his first film under contract with producer David O. Selznick. The screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, and adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan, were based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film stars Laurence Olivier as the brooding, aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the young woman who becomes his second wife, with Judith Anderson, George Sanders and Gladys Cooper in supporting roles. The film won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film is a gothic tale shot in black-and-white. Maxim de Winter's first wife Rebecca, who died before the events of the film, is never seen. Her reputation and recollections of her, however, are a constant presence in the lives of Maxim, his new wife and the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.

Rebecca won two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations. Olivier, Fontaine and Anderson also were Oscar-nominated for their respective roles as were Hitchcock and the screenwriters.

Reckless (1935 film)

Reckless (also known as Born Reckless and Hard to Handle) is a 1935 American musical film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Jean Harlow, William Powell and Franchot Tone. David O. Selznick wrote the story, using the pseudonym "Oliver Jeffries", basing it loosely on the scandal of the 1931 marriage between torch singer Libby Holman and tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds and his death by a gunshot wound to the head.

Rockabye (1932 film)

Rockabye is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Cukor. The screenplay by Jane Murfin is based on a play by Lucia Bronder.

Since You Went Away

Since You Went Away is a 1944 American drama film directed by John Cromwell for Selznick International Pictures and distributed by United Artists. It is an epic about the American home front during World War II that was adapted and produced by David O. Selznick from the 1943 novel Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife by Margaret Buell Wilder. The music score was by Max Steiner, and the cinematography by Stanley Cortez, Lee Garmes, George Barnes (uncredited), and Robert Bruce (uncredited).

The film is set in a mid-sized American town, where people with loved ones in the Armed Forces try to cope with their changed circumstances and make their own contributions to the war effort. The town is near a military base, and some of the characters are troops serving Stateside.

Though famously sentimental in places, Since You Went Away is somber at times about the effects of war on ordinary people. Some characters on the homefront are dealing with grief, loneliness, or fear for the future. Wounded and disabled troops are shown in the hospital scenes.

Street of Chance (1930 film)

Street of Chance is a 1930 American pre-Code film directed by John Cromwell and starring William Powell, Jean Arthur, Kay Francis and Regis Toomey. Howard Estabrook was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Achievement.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938 film)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a 1938 American literature adaptation produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Norman Taurog starring Tommy Kelly in the title role, with Jackie Moran and Ann Gillis. The screenplay by John V. A. Weaver was based on the classic 1876 novel of the same name by Mark Twain. The movie was the first film version of the novel to be made in color. It was remade in 1973 as a musical.

The Garden of Allah (1936 film)

The Garden of Allah is a 1936 American film made by Selznick International Pictures, directed by Richard Boleslawski and produced by David O. Selznick. The screenplay was written by William P. Lipscomb and Lynn Riggs, who based it on the 1905 novel by Robert S. Hichens. Hichens's novel had been filmed twice before, as silent films made in 1916 and 1927. This sound version stars Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer with Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Schildkraut, John Carradine, Alan Marshal, and Lucile Watson. The music score is by Max Steiner.

It was the fifth film to be photographed in Three-strip Technicolor, and (uncredited) cinematographers W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson received a special Oscar for advances in color cinematography. The filming locations were in Buttercup, California and Yuma, Arizona.

The Paradine Case

The Paradine Case is a 1947 American film noir courtroom drama film, set in England, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by David O. Selznick. The screenplay was written by Selznick and an uncredited Ben Hecht, from an adaptation by Alma Reville and James Bridie of the novel by Robert Smythe Hichens. The film stars Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Alida Valli, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore and Louis Jourdan. It tells of an English barrister who falls in love with a woman who is accused of murder, and how it affects his relationship with his wife.

The Young in Heart

The Young in Heart is a 1938 American comedy film produced by David O. Selznick, directed by Richard Wallace, and starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Paulette Goddard. The supporting cast features Roland Young and Billie Burke.

The screenplay by Paul Osborn was adapted by Charles Bennett from the serialized novel, The Gay Banditti by I. A. R. Wylie, as appearing in The Saturday Evening Post from February 26 to March 26, 1938.

Filmography of David O. Selznick

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