David O. Selznick - Writer

Producer. Nationality: American. Born: David Oliver Selznick in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 10 May 1902. Education: Attended Columbia University, New York. Family: Son of the film executive Lewis J. Selznick; brother of the producer and agent Myron Selznick; married 1) Irene Mayer (divorced); son: the producer Jeffrey Selznick;
2) the actress Jennifer Jones, 1949. Career: Worked for his father in promotion, production, and distribution; 1923—producer of short films; 1926–27—assistant story editor and associate producer, MGM; 1927–31—associate director, Paramount; 1931–33—vice president in charge of production, RKO; 1933–36—vice president and producer, MGM; 1936—formed Selznick International. Awards: Irving G. Thalberg Award, 1939; Academy Awards for Gone with the Wind , 1939; Rebecca , 1940. Died: 22 June 1965.

Films as Producer:


Will He Conquer Dempsey? (short); Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties (short)


Roulette (Taylor)

David O. Selznick
David O. Selznick


Spoilers of the West (Van Dyke)


Forgotten Faces (Schertzinger); Wyoming (Van Dyke)


The Four Feathers (Cooper, Schoedsack, and Mendes); Chinatown Nights (Wellman); The Man I Love (Wellman); The Dance of Life (Cromwell and Sutherland); Fast Company (Sutherland)


Street of Chance (Cromwell); Sarah and Son (Arzner)


A Bill of Divorcement (Cukor); Symphony of Six Million (La Cava); What Price Hollywood? (Cukor); State's Attorney (Archainbaud); Bird of Paradise (K. Vidor); Westward Passage (Milton); The Lost Squadron (Archainbaud); Roar of the Dragon (Ruggles); The Animal Kingdom ( The Woman in His House ) (Griffith); The Conqueror ( Pioneer Builders ) (Wellman); The Age of Consent (La Cava); Rockabye (Cukor); The Half-Naked Truth (La Cava)


King Kong (Cooper and Schoedsack); Our Betters (Cukor); Topaze (D'Arrast); The Great Jasper (Ruben); Dinner at Eight (Cukor); Christopher Strong (Arzner); Dancing Lady (Leonard); Night Flight (Brown); Sweepings (Cromwell); The Monkey's Paw (Ruggles); Meet the Baron (W. Lang); Little Women (Cukor)


Viva Villa! (Conway); Manhattan Melodrama (Van Dyke)


David Copperfield (Cukor); Restless (Fleming); Vanessa— Her Love Story (Howard); Anna Karenina (Brown); A Tale of Two Cities (Conway)


Little Lord Fauntleroy (Cromwell); The Garden of Allah (Boleslawsky)


A Star Is Born (Wellman); Nothing Sacred (Wellman); The Prisoner of Zenda (Cromwell)


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Taurog); The Young in Heart (Wallace)


Made for Each Other (Cromwell); Intermezzo (Ratoff); Gone with the Wind (Fleming)


Rebecca (Hitchcock)


Since You Went Away (Cromwell) (+ sc); Reward Unlimited (short)


Spellbound (Hitchcock)


Duel in the Sun (K. Vidor) (+ sc)


The Paradine Case (Hitchcock) (+ sc); Portrait of Jennie ( Jennie ) (Dieterle)


The Third Man (Reed) (co)


Gone to Earth ( The Wild Heart ) (Powell and Pressburger)


Stazione Termini ( Indiscretion of an American Wife ) (De Sica)


A Farewell to Arms (C. Vidor)


By SELZNICK: book—

Memo from David O. Selznick , edited by Rudy Behimer, New York, 1972.

By SELZNICK: article—

Cinéma (Paris), December 1985.

On SELZNICK: books—

Thomas, Bob, Selznick , New York, 1970.

Bowers, Ronald L., The Selznick Players , Stamford, 1976.

Haver, Ronald, David O. Selznick's Hollywood , New York, 1980.

Thompson, David, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick , New York, 1992.

Vertrees, Alan D., Selznick's Vision: Gone with the Wind & Hollywood Filmmaking , Austin, 1997.

Leff, Leonard J., Hitchcock & Selznick: The Rich & Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock & David O. Selznick in Hollywood , Berkeley, 1999.

Rawbin, Marcella, Yes, Mr. Selznick: Recollections of Hollywood's Golden Era , Pittsburgh, 1999.

On SELZNICK: articles—

Picturegoer (London), 15, 22, and 29 July 1950.

Films and Filming (London), January 1958.

Films in Review (New York), June-July and August-September 1963.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1965.

Zierold, Norman, in The Moguls , New York, 1969.

Journal of Screen Producers Guild (Beverly Hills, California), December 1972.

Haver, Ronald, in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1980.

Télérama (Paris), 14–20 July, 21–27 July, 28 July-3 August, and 4–10 August 1981.

Cinématographe (Paris), May 1984.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1984.

Leff, Leonard J., in Hitchcock and Selznick , New York, 1987.

Schatz, Thomas, in The Genius of the System , New York, 1988.

Journal of Film and Video (Boston, Massachusetts), vol. 41, no. 1, Spring 1989.

Edwards, Anne, in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1992.

Lyons, Donald, "David Thomson, the Movies, and the U.S.A.," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1993.

Maltby, Richard, "Overlength, Over Budget," in Sight & Sound (London), May 1993.

Fyne, Robert, in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (Abingdon), March 1995.

Light, Alison, " Rebecca ," in Sight & Sound (London), May 1996.

Thompson, David, in Esquire , September 1997.

Leff, Leonard J., in Atlantic Monthly , December 1999.

* * *

David O. Selznick will always be remembered as the producer who created the most popular feature film made during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Gone with the Wind. As such Selznick has long signified in the mind of the filmgoing public the typical movie producer of Hollywood's greatest era. Yet Selznick was not representative at all. He worked on his own, avowedly seeking to throw off the restrictions and confines of laboring for a studio. He labored long and hard to be his own boss, and because of his success "working outside the studio system" he should be remembered as one of the Hollywood's greatest independent filmmakers.This made him a pioneer, one who showed the way to the Hollywood of the latter half of the twentieth century when independents became the norm. Gone with The Wind was an exception to Hollywood practice of the 1930s, not a classic example of the studio rule.

In short David O. Selznick was always struggling to be independent and thus never came to any position of power with any degree of ease.The lone exception was his first job. This came easy for him because his father, Lewis J. Selznick, was a film industry pioneer and the head of his own production company in the late 1910s when son David began to desire to enter filmmaking himself. His father's New York City-based Selznick Pictures eventually went bankrupt, but not before his son had been tutored in all phases of industry practice. As an apprentice, David edited the company magazine, and then moved up to head of newsreel and short subjects production.

In the early 1920s David O. Selznick moved to Hollywood and through his father's connections took a job as an assistant producer at MGM. From 1928 to 1936 he moved to other studios and tried various jobs, all with little success. He simply chaffed at laboring in a studio. Yet his experience from 1928 to 1936 would prove invaluable as he learned the craft of producing feature films at three different studios. At Paramount, from 1928 to 1931, he supervised a number of significant films including The Four Feathers and The Man I Love. He then moved to RKO where from 1931 to 1933 he could not have picked a worse time to try his hand at the weakest of the major studios. Yet Selznick's experience at RKO enabled him to first gain a reputation as a producer who could produce first-rate features under severe and often straining conditions. At RKO Selznick finally moved out of the shadow of this father with films that included What Price Hollywood? , directed by George Cukor and starring Constance Bennett, A Bill of Divorcement , also directed by Cukor and starring John Barrymore and Katherine Hepburn, and one of the features most associated with RKO of the 1930s, King Kong. But Selznick knew he was headed nowhere at RKO and so moved on to the studio headed by his then father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer. At MGM Selznick helped create Dinner at Eight , directed again by Cukor and starring Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler, David Copperfield , starring W.C. Fields, and A Tale of Two Cities with Ronald Colman. No one was surprised that Selznick did not last long under the glaring eye of the domineering Mayer. In 1936 Selznick left the plush confines of MGM to form his own company to distribute films through United Artists. Contrary to the myth, the hits did not come instantly. But with the blockbuster of Gone with the Wind Selznick was set for life.

Or was he? Sadly Selznick spent the rest of his career searching for a follow up to Gone with the Wind. Only Duel in the Sun , starring Jennifer Jones and directed by King Vidor, ever matched its boxoffice clout. Money became harder and harder to find and so gradually Selznick productions emerged at a slower and slower rate. During the 1950s he fashioned but two features, ending a career that seemed so promising but a decade earlier. At the end of his life he was a celebrated "has-been," living off the wealth of his wife, actress Jennifer Jones. It was a tragic close to a career which peaked at age 37 with the single most famous Hollywood film of its day.

—Douglas Gomery

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