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David O. Selznick
Selznick, c. 1934
David Selznick

(1902-05-10)May 10, 1902
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died June 22, 1965(1965-06-22) (aged 63)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other names Oliver Jeffries
Occupation Film producer
Years active 1923–1957
Political party Republican
Irene Mayer Selznick
(m. 1930; div. 1949)

Jennifer Jones(m. 1949; his death)
Children 3
Parent(s) Lewis J. Selznick
Florence Sachs
Relatives Myron Selznick (brother)

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

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. Selznick added the "O" to distinguish himself from an uncle with the same name.

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.

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, 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. They separated in 1945 and divorced in 1948. 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 died in Los Angeles on May 11, 1976.

Selznick was a Republican.


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
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